Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Thursday, February 8, 2018

On hermits and priesthood.

Monks who are bound by the obligation of choir in the Carthusian Order, almost from its beginning, have been priests, or religious who are preparing themselves to receive sacred orders. There are those today who are of the opinion that this is not fitting that cenobites or hermits, who are never going to exercise the sacred ministry, should be raised to the priesthood. As we have already said elsewhere (Cfr. AAS 58 (1966) p.1181) this opinion certainly lacks a firm foundation. For many Saints and very many religious have combined the profession of the monastic or indeed the eremitcal life with the priesthood because they have had a sound perspective of the fitting relationship between both consecrations, that proper to the priest, and that proper to the monk. Indeed, solitude, the absolute loss of the goods of this world, the abnegation of one's own will: things that are undertaken by those who enclose themselves within the bounds of the monastery, most singularly prepare the soul of the priest to be devoutly and ardently offered up for the eucharistic sacrifice which is "the source and summit of the whole Christian life". Furthermore, when that full self-giving, to which the religious devotes himself, is added to the priesthood, he is configured in a special way to Christ who is at the same time priest and victim.
When the second Vatican Council treated in a special document about priests and their duties, it rightly laid down that those duties include the care of the people of God. However, this care is carried out by yourselves in celebrating the eucharistic sacrifice as you are accustomed to do every day. This celebration most often takes place in your eremitcal oratories, that is to say, in a devout recess, where the soul of the monk, fixed on the things of above, drinks in more richly the Spirit of love and light. Therefore the vocation of the Carthusian, when it is faithfully adhered to, brings it about that the universal intention, which is present in the eucharistic sacrifice, becomes the intention of each monk who is carrying out the sacred rites. The Vatican Council itself declared this fullness of eucharistic charity in these significant words: "In the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which priests fulfil their office most especially, the work of our redemption is continually carried out, and therefore its daily offering is warmly commended. Even if the presence of the faithful is not possible, this offering is an act of Christ and the Church." (Presbyterorum Ordinis 13)
*Pope Paul VI in 1971 to Fr Andrew Poisson, the Minister General of the Carthusians. The text (in Latin) can be found in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis 1971, volume 63 pages 447-450.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Solzhenitsyn Speech.

If humanism were right in declaring that man is born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President's performance be reduced to the question how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism.
It would be retrogression to attach oneself today to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Social dogmatism leaves us completely helpless in front of the trials of our times. Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man's life and society's activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?
If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge: We shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.
This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but -- upward.

Saturday, January 6, 2018


If you,
outside of a perceived action,
supply the meaning of what is seen,
then include that in your pontifications,
that is controlling judgement
outside of real relationship.

But if you can enter into a relationship,
where the action can be found,
to give the Charity, given to you by God
irrespective of your judgement, 
you have become a conduit of 
God's Grace. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


There are many people who do great things for God and are very successful at what they do. We hear about their stories on the news and read about them. They advance the kingdom of God on earth. What is our vocation as hermits compared to them? What do we have to show for all our efforts and sufferings? Ours is the most foolish of all vocations. We specialize in failure, that is our mark in the world. But we may have the most important job of all. There are always those who will be willing to move mountains for God but very few who are willing to explore the depths of their own poverty. This poverty is shared by all humanity.

We enter this life full of hope of finding the One Great Love. As time passes all we find is our own poverty and through God's mercy we will be ever plunged deeper into this poverty. It is enough for us just to stay alive. Our lives are made up of the most mundane preoccupations and even in these we need God's mercy and constant help to carry them out.

In time all pretenses of prayer slips away and we are left alone with our thoughts which snap at the heels of our consciousness like little dogs. At one point we find that we are just empty tin-cans. This is the starting point. In this state we find that God loves this little empty space that we used to call "me" with an infinite love.

It is as if, in creating us, God took a part of emptiness and gave it the parameters which we call a human being. God looks on this little nothing and loves it dearly. At the center we are empty, nothing and this is the unknowable image of God planted in us. It is only through utter poverty/humility that we come to this blessed place of rest. Here nothing can disturb us for nothing can enter. We rest in this emptiness with the God of love, the God who is our Love.

Even in this state we do not see what is going on. The only thing we have is an unshakeable conviction that God is Love. This Love that purifies. We become a living temple of Love and we do not know it, we cannot know it; it is not for us to know. I cannot speak of what happens next or how God uses us for I do not know.

An open letter from a hermit.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Conversation on the Benedict Option

Mr. Ascik: Rod Dreher in The Benedict Option says that Christendom is over. What do you say?
Mr. Pearce: It obviously depends upon how you’re defining the word Christendom. For me, Christendom is the Church Militant; it’s the Body of Christ in the world. And of course, in this sense, Christendom is never over until the end of time, but that’s how I define Christendom. I think he’s defining it in a different way, and that’s fine, but I will continue to use the word Christendom in a positive sense and a living sense because I think it’s still very much alive.
What about Christendom as a social force, as a force organized in society, as its being the culture or the custom of society?
The first thing we have to clarify is that there’s never been a golden age. The more you understand history, the more you understand, in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, that history is the long defeat with only occasional glimpses of final victory. In that sense, when the Church is being persecuted, she’s also being purified. When she is living in times of comfort, she often becomes corrupt.
In that sense, we have to understand history as an ongoing struggle against the forces of darkness, against the fabric of sin which is woven into the very fabric of the Fallen cosmos in which we live. There’s a certain type of progressive who makes the mistake of thinking that there’s a golden age in the future. There isn’t. But a certain type of traditionalist or conservative sees there being a golden age in the past, which there hasn’t been. Such conservatives are in danger of thinking that everything was better in the past and that things will inexorably get worse in the future. This very easily leads to despair.
One of the things we have to avoid is the sort of thinking that leads to the belief that we’ve lost. The belief that we’ve got to batten down the hatches and try to salvage the remnant that’s left of Christian civilization. We haven’t lost. It’s an ongoing fight, which in terms of the world is a long defeat, but in terms of final victory is assured. For each of us, of course, our part in the fight is our proverbial three score years and ten, and then we’re going to meet our reward. If we fought well, we get a good reward, an eternal one. In this sense, the end of the world, for each of us as individuals, is very near indeed. The world ends when we die. It is this “end time” that we need to keep in mind, not some doom-laden apocalypse, the latter of which is wholly in the hands of God and is, therefore, in the safest hands imaginable.
As recently as the 1950s, wasn’t Christian sexual morality the norm or at least was regarded as the norm in society?
I think we have to differentiate between the norm and the regarded norm. I think that actions outside of the Christian norm of morality were not spoken about in the past or were brushed under the carpet but they were still there. I think that keeping such immoral behaviour out of polite conversation, maintaining the existence, so to speak, of taboos, is healthy for society. I think a healthy society has to preserve and protect the family, the raising of children in healthy environments. Once you lose that sense of the decorum due to virtue, the society begins to decay and unravel which is what we’re seeing now.
Or is it more than the decorum? I mean, if you take in this country the divorce rate for instance, it’s dramatically different today than it was in 1960. The change in the culture’s sexual morality is marked, you’re saying that it’s not really as big as Rod Dreher says?
What I’m saying is that things were not as golden in the past as we might be tempted to believe. I think that such nostalgia is an oversimplification of the past, but I do think there’s a major collapse in an understanding of objective morality. That’s due to the rise of relativism and all the manifestations that arise from that. But one thing we need to get clear here is that relativism, or as St. John Paul II preferred to call it, the culture of death, is non-sustainable. It’s not something that can survive of itself; it’s a parasite and it’s not going to triumph. What’s going to happen is we’re going to see the collapse of it.
Of course, what it’s doing in the process of its collapse is destroying people’s lives, many people’s lives. I’m going to stop short of saying it’s sending people to Hell because I’m not going to judge anybody. But it’s certainly destroying many people’s lives. There’s that element of what might be called a disaster, but it’s not the end because, at the end of the day, what is sustainable is virtue. Sin is self-destructive, and a culture based upon sin is self-destructive.
What we’re seeing is the slow suicide of the death culture, and I think we’ve now got to the stage in the suicide where the acceleration is setting in. I say this from the perspective of its rate of decline, because things are getting worse very quickly. The fact is that the whole thing is in the process of collapse, a fact that should neither surprise us or concern us. The collapse of the culture of death is not our concern, except insofar as we might celebrate its demise while sympathizing for those who are impacted by it.
Where I do agree with Rod Dreher is that we need to make sure that we as Christians are true to the Church Militant, that we are able to fight, that we are able to sustain our own culture, our own sub-culture within the culture of death. And in that, I agree with him. The question that’s being framed will make it sound as if I’m disagreeing with his thesis. I don’t disagree with the Benedict Option, but I do think we need to clarify what we mean by it.
Mr. Dreher tries to focus his book on the need for Christians to make a decision, which he calls the Benedict Option. He says something needs to be done, and he proposes this way of living based on the role of St. Benedict, adapted to laymen. It doesn’t propose that everyone goes into a monastery. I think that’s his question: What needs to be done to preserve the Faith? We want to prevent as many people being corrupted as possible, right?
Yes, we need to try to prevent our own people from becoming corrupt but we also have to evangelize. That’s the challenge. The Church Militant needs to be a fortress, we need to be a fortress, but we also need to go out and engage the culture. We need to engage the culture. It’s not a question of either/or, it’s a question of both/and. How we achieve that both/and is the question we need to be addressing.
Mr. Dreher seems to be saying that it can’t be done in a mass way. He’s absolutely for evangelization and affecting the culture. But he is also saying that the troops need to be better prepared. For instance, he says that Christian politics, the moral majority, is over and that it failed because the Democratic Party is not built on Christian principles, and nor is the Republican Party. I guess his major point is that it has to be done on a smaller scale, one-by-one evangelizing rather than Catholic Masses on the media, evangelical pastors on the media. 
I think we have to differentiate. We can say that on a macro level, the American political system is corrupt, it’s undemocratic, it’s a plutocracy, and that both major parties are a disaster and betray Christianity; I have no problem with that. I completely agree with that. We can also say that we need to begin from the grassroots up. I wrote a book called Small Is Still Beautiful, so I’m very much a believer in grassroots localism as the way that we should be acting economically, politically, evangelically. I’m completely at one with that.
But do I think, for instance, that EWTN is a bad thing? No, I think EWTN is a good thing. I write books, so does Mr. Dreher. When you write a book, you’re not going one-on-one, you’re going on one-to-many people. There’s nothing at all wrong with disseminating, planting seeds as widely as we’re able to do it. Again, it’s both/and; it’s not either/or.
I don’t think Mr. Dreher is addressing his book to people like you and himself. He’s addressing it to the ordinary Christian family and what they do in their parish or their local worship.
Let’s take the family as a very good place to start. In fact, it’s the best place to start. Personally, in my own family, we have chosen to homeschool our children, but it seems to me that a Christian family has to choose the best strategy to ensure that the Faith, authentically understood, is passed on to their children. That is one of the primary jobs that parents have: to ensure that their children are able to take the path to heaven. If they fail in that, and insofar as they are culpable, they fail as parents. Yes, we have to address that.
We personally choose to homeschool, but apart from the rise of the homeschooling movement, which has been phenomenal in both Protestant and Catholic circles in the last thirty to forty years, and which is a great source of encouragement, there’s also the rise of a whole new generation of independent Catholic and Christian schools that are breaking away from those so-called Catholic and Christian schools that have lost touch with the authentic nature of Christian education. These are examples of regeneration which are very encouraging. I would also say that they are examples or manifestations of what we would call the Benedict Option. People are seeing that the mainstream has become polluted and are choosing to swim in different streams.
I’ve had the pleasure and the privilege of speaking at dozens of these new independent schools and colleges in the last fifteen years, and it’s been very encouraging. Years ago, when the mainstream Catholic colleges and universities completely bailed out of any realistic, authentic Catholicism, there was nothing, and seemingly nowhere to go. Then Thomas Aquinas College and Christendom College both started up in the 1970s. They were the only two. Today, we have the Cardinal Newman Society which publishes a Guide to authentic Catholic colleges, and I think there are now twenty-seven schools that pass the criteria necessary to be nominated and acknowledged by the Cardinal Newman Society as being authentically Catholic. So from none to only two, and then, in the last twenty years, a multitude of new and good schools have sprung up. Several of those schools are older institutions that have turned themselves around, returning to authentic Catholic education, but for the most part, they are completely new enterprises. And what is true at the college level is also true at the K-12 level. I agree with the Benedict Option, as I understand it, but I think it’s actually happening.