A good friend recently shared with me the disturbing words of exorcist Father Chad Ripperger, that we are living in such a state of darkness in this world, that not even exorcisms are working. What is an anchorite (hermit)? Many may be thinking “why is it necessary- can’t one simply seek seclusion in a cloistered monastery?” According to Sister Mary Catherine (celebrating her 30 year anniversary as an anchorite- see interview below), certain souls are called to be hermits during times of great crisis within the very heart of the Catholic Church. Mary Magdalene was the saint, Our Lady chose specifically, to open my own heart to this precious vocation, as I have mentioned in several of my former posts. Her life of seclusion is hardly ever mentioned. NO, she was not the spouse of Christ in the “earthly” sense, as protestants so heretically proclaim. She was however, His chaste virgin bride; this is a state of being that is a “always and forever”(heaven AND earth). What ultimately led her to live the rest of her life in a cave, known as Sainte-Baume, near a town in France called Saint Maximin to live a life of true seclusion, after Our Lord’s death and resurrection? Her life as a contemplative is one of true heroism in my book; it was Love (with a capital L) and Love alone, that guided the Magdalene to leave all and give her life totally and completely to her One True Bridegroom: in an underrated, misunderstood, radical, beautiful and most intense way possible. What did Our Lord say in her defense, however, when her own sister rebuked her? “Leave her alone, Mary has chosen the better portion, which will not be taken from her”. Many can say Christ was referring to something else, but I think it was a direct reference to her future vocation as an anchorite (anchoress).
When there was tumult in the Church after the great persecutions around the year 300, [causing] the first wave [of eremitical vocations], and again around the year 1000, [causing] the second wave, lay people and monks guided by the Holy Ghost left their homes and monasteries to seek out solitary places in the desert to pray and regain their solemnity and fervor. And so, eremitical life was born.
And as Pope Pius XI so elegantly stated,
If in the past ages, the Church had to rely on her anchorites, we need more than ever today that they should exist and prosper.
Interview taken from LifeSiteNews below:
HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, March 29, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Sister Mary Catherine Rose Giacobbe is often asked what kind of sister she is. Sometimes, when she tells enquirers that she is a hermit, they don’t understand. Often, they have never heard of hermits before.
“Many do not know we exist,” Sister Mary Catherine Rose told LifeSiteNews.
In the interview below, she explains that hermits withdraw from the world to devote themselves entirely to the praise of God and “the salvation of the world through the silence of solitude and through constant prayer and penance.” They go out to Mass but their days are mostly devoted to a personalized schedule of prayer, reading, and praise.
“One might think that the life of a hermit must be dull, uneventful, and boring, but that is the furthest from the truth,” Sister Mary Catherine Rose said.
“It is full of love, joy, peace, and excitement, to say the very least,” she added. “How, I would ask myself, could being alone with the Great Alone ever be dull?”
Interestingly, Sister Mary Catherine Rose found her calling to the ancient vocation after a period of distance from her family’s Catholic faith. This estrangement ended when she encountered St. Catherine of Siena herself while on a tourist’s jaunt to the Vatican. After going home and making “a most wonderful confession,” the future hermit found a spiritual director who discerned the young lady’s vocation. At first astonished, Sister Mary Catherine Rose accepted the call and was filled with joy and peace.
Hermits live subject to a bishop, but they are not supported by funds from their dioceses. In the interview, Sister Mary Catherine Rose explains that hermits “depend on God’s divine providence.” They do such paid work as they can that does not interfere with their vocation, but traditionally, they have been “beggars,” relying on the donations of others.
“It is through the goodness of our brothers and sisters in Christ who keep us going with monetary support to our vocation, providing us with our study books, a spiritual retreat once a year and the expenses and upkeep of the hermitage and more,” she revealed.
“This allows our brothers and sisters to become partakers of our vocations and receive graces from God through their act of selflessness,” she continued. “God loves a generous giver.”
Sister Mary Catherine Rose says that vocations to the eremitical (hermit’s) life are driven by tumultuous times in the Church, and thus she is witnessing another great — and necessary — wave of them. Her interview, therefore, is also an invitation to participate, in one way or another, in the ancient form of Christian life.
What is a hermit?
Sister Mary Catherine Rose: People have approached me on occasions after Mass, wanting to know, “What kind of a sister are you?” When I respond I am a consecrated hermit, they say, “What is a hermit? I have never heard of them.” Many do not know we exist. The Church recognizes the life of hermits in which Christ’s faithful withdraw further from the world and devote their lives to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through the silence of solitude and through constant prayer and penance.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (921) states it this way:
They manifest to everyone the interior aspect of the mystery of the Church, that is, personal intimacy with Christ. Hidden from the eyes of men, the life of the hermit is a silent preaching of the Lord, to whom they have surrendered their life simply because He is everything to them. Here is a particular call to find in the desert, in the thick of spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified One.
How did hermits come about?
SMCR: When there was tumult in the Church after the great persecutions around the year 300, [causing] the first wave [of eremitical vocations], and again around the year 1000, [causing] the second wave, lay people and monks guided by the Holy Ghost left their homes and monasteries to seek out solitary places in the desert to pray and regain their solemnity and fervor. And so, eremitical life was born. Later, some of the hermits were called out of the vocation to form religious orders.
We have many saints who lived as hermits, such as Saint Anthony of the Desert, one of the Desert Fathers; St. Francis of Assisi; and St. Benedict [of Nursia], just to name a few. Saint Mary of Clopas was at the foot of the cross with Saint John and our Mother Mary; after the death of Jesus, she left to travel with her brother to find a place to settle in. She was called by God to live as a hermit. Her dwelling place was a single room attached to a church in Assisi. She lived a very holy life with God in deep prayer and contemplation for forty years until her death.
What is their role today?
SMCR: God is still calling His hermits to follow Him; we are so needed, just as [the earlier hermits] were in their time. I consider this the third wave; persecutions of Christians have not stopped. God continues to call ordinary people from all walks of life to be hermits. Even though the people themselves may be commonplace, the vocation is not. God places a desire in the heart of a person, and only solitary prayer will satisfy this desire to be alone with God in the silence and solitude of the hermitage within. In that solitude hermits make themselves vulnerable to temptations from the devil, and this becomes an opportunity for God to battle Satan through us. Satan cannot directly attack God, so we become the front liners, like the Marines, so to speak. Satan is attracted to our intimacy with God. We become the battleground. We become soldiers of Christ, and it is God who gives us the strength to endure.
How do they live today?
SMCR: The Code of Canon Law was revised and promulgated in 1983. We have our own Canon Law. We are recognized by the Church [as devoting] our lives to the praise and glory of God and the salvation of the world with a stricter separation from the world in a life of silence, solitude, and penance. We are not cloistered; we are in the world but not of it. Hermits do their own shopping, go to doctors, and attend Holy Mass daily.
One might think that the life of a hermit must be dull, uneventful, and boring, but that is the furthest from the truth. It is full of love, joy, peace, and excitement, to say the very least. How, I would ask myself, could being alone with the Great Alone ever be dull? To be loved by LOVE Himself, to grow and learn within the depths of your heart and soul where the Trinity dwells, to hear the silent whispers, day or night, to see yourself as God sees you, to become little, to hopefully become a beautiful flower in the garden that Saint Therese spoke of, and most importantly to make reparation for our sins and the sins of the whole world in love and charity: that is what it is all about. God chooses you and says, “Come my little one, come be my bride; I await you.”
Each hermit has her own plan of life, inspired by the Holy Ghost, which is uniquely her own. It allows the Holy Spirit to work with each of us based on who we are. One can say that this is our road map, our journey — in a word, our “Yes.” This plan of life then needs the approval of the bishop. When we profess our vows at the altar, at Holy Mass, it is signed by the hermit, the vicar of religious, and the bishop.
We have a full prayer life chanting the Liturgy of the Hours along with Holy Mother Church; we have our devotions with our Mother Mary, spiritual reading, and continued study within our hermitages. We study the history of the Church, the Desert Fathers, the saints. We partake in the holy sacraments of the Church and attend daily Mass. We have a monthly private Mass in our own hermitage chapel to refresh Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament on our altar. It is also important that we live a well-balanced life of prayer, work, and recreation.
How are you supported financially?
SMCR: Hermits depend on God’s divine providence. We are not financially supported by the Church and must have a way to sustain ourselves and bring in income: by the work of [our] hands, Social Security, or using the gifts God gave us. We are to have no impediments that interfere with our spiritual prayer life and [must] be debt free.
Some hermits have non-profit corporations that help in the promotion of the vocation while taking care of the needs of the hermitage through our website donations. We cannot and do not do it alone. Hermits were always known as “beggars.” It is through the goodness of our brothers and sisters in Christ who keep us going with monetary support to our vocation, providing us with our study books, a spiritual retreat once a year, and the expenses and upkeep of the hermitage and more. This allows our brothers and sisters to become partakers of our vocations and receive graces from God through their act of selflessness. God loves a generous giver.
We hermits live our lives, through the grace of God, with an interior detachment from the world: [we are for] God and God alone. Our lives are literally made up of assiduous prayer, sacrifice, and suffering for our sins and the salvation of the world. To be united with our Brothers and Sisters in Christ in their sufferings and to bring them before our Lord in prayer is a great joy and privilege from God, which is so needed today.
As I mentioned before, hermits are canonically approved by Holy Mother Church under Canon Law 603; we make our public consecration at Holy Mass into the hands of our local bishop. I am a consecrated Hermit Sister. I made my public profession at Holy Mass into the hands of our local bishop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on the feast of the Assumption, 1991.
Could you describe your journey to eremitical life?
SMCR: I was a cradle Catholic and attended Catholic schools most of my life. I was a survivor right from the cradle. I was a premature baby and weighed in at 2 ½ lbs. when I was born two months early. God had work for me to do for the Kingdom, unbeknownst to me. I graduated in the medical and dental field and worked in the local hospital, with doctors and in dental practices. I am an extrovert and always thought of myself as the most unlikely hermit, but all things are possible with God. Everything is a grace. Unfortunately, there was a time in my life when I left God and my Catholic faith behind. That lasted ten years, but God had another plan and did not let go of me. My dear family was so disappointed, and I know they never stopped praying. One summer my family invited me to visit my father who was living in Italy for part of the year. I said yes, but did not really want to go, for I knew no one and could not speak or understand the language. I did it for them, not knowing what God had in store. Of course, you don’t go to Italy without visiting the Vatican, and so it happened. While standing before a bust of Saint Peter on the wall, I had an interior spiritual experience with Saint Catherine of Siena. The result was an instant conversion, like Saint Paul’s. The rest is history. Interesting to mention, my birthday is [St. Catherine’s] feast day. I took the name of Catherine when I professed vows and even made it legal in court, thanking God for sending her to help me come home to the Holy Catholic Church. Saint Catherine and I have been traveling together ever since. I thank and praise God and my family who never stopped praying — my Mom and Aunt Katie, for sure. I returned home and ran to the first Catholic church I could find and had a most wonderful confession. I came home indeed. I grew deep in love with our Lord and knew He was my God, my all. Only in God is my soul at rest. Some years later came “the Call.” As I explored religious life, I somehow knew I was being called, but to what? I found a spiritual director. I began to seriously and prayerfully discern what God was asking of me.
One day Father called me on the phone and asked me to come to see him; he knew what God was asking of me. This was after at least one year of prayer and discernment. I had no idea what was coming next, and when we met, he said, “You are being called to be a hermit.” A hermit! What is a hermit? I did not have a clue. I knew within my heart I wanted to give my life to God, unconditionally, no matter what or where. Father told me that it is a beautiful life alone with God, praying with Him, and bringing Him glory here on earth. Wow, I thought to myself. Oh yes, I can do that with the grace of God, if He asks it. My heart overflowed with so much joy and peace. It was a beautiful and profound moment. And so my journey began. On August 15th of this year, 2021, I will celebrate my 30th anniversary as a consecrated Hermit Sister in the diocese of Harrisburg, and under the guidance of Bishop Ronald Gainer. All things are possible with God; we need only to cooperate with His graces. We are living in very evil times; therefore, the hermit vocation is growing by leaps and bounds in many dioceses across the country. It was always this way, even in the early Church. When there was tumult in the Church, the hermits were called by God to fight the spiritual battle between good and evil. Our time has arrived indeed. History repeats itself. We become His soldiers because our prayers are powerful. We pray without ceasing before our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament in our private chapels. Satan does not like us, he causes much spiritual warfare trying to stop us, and he knows he is defeated. God is indeed greater and we are His marines on the front lines. Hermits need to be in their own hermitages, alone with God, to experience the true and full life of a hermit and intimacy with God.
For the full interview, you can visit this link: Celebrating 30 years of serving God, a modern-day hermit invites others to try her vocation | News | Lifesitenews in order to read more about Sister. and to pray for her.
From this post, moving forward, I will be removing my like button. PLEASE do not take it personal if you don’t see me reading your posts (to my fellow wordpress followers who have their own blogs) or liking them, as I am in the process of “withdrawing” from the social media platforms. Know that I love and pray for all my dear followers, and I sincerely thank you for all the support you have shown me. I am in the middle of seeking this very same bishop approval, as a Carmelite Hermitess, and these posts on Mary’s Secretary will be part of my own personal charism-so to speak- but I will be withdrawing little by little from the internet. Once (God-willing) I gain my own longed for approval, I will only be using internet for this blog and my etsy shop, as writing and art will be my own means for sustainable living. At that point I will only be answering emails for pressing matters and for those who wish to become apart of my lowly mission, by donations of ten dollars or more a month, through paypal.
I will not be available for “chit chat”; I say this with so much love, but it is not the vocation of a hermit to converse with the world, but to pray for it. We are indeed in the midst of very dark, dark, dark, and as sister said, “evil times”, seen inside the Catholic Church AND in this great nation of the United States of America (a country I love with all my heart). Archbishop Vigano said having a great love and patriotism, for one’s homeland, is a gift from the Holy Ghost. Like Sister Catherine Rose, it has taken a while for my own heart to be opened to such a rare and unique calling, but alas- I finally desire nothing more than to give myself over totally and completely, with an undivided heart, to the direct service to Christ as His bride and Mary as Her little slave of love: “to no longer converse with men, but with angels”. If we are blessed, I pray with all of my being that we are living in the time of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary; this is what I live for. So my friends, let us be saints and martyrs for the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Christ the King and Our Lady of Fatima: FOR THIS IS THE AGE OF MARY!
We all have a part to play in the Body of Christ; let us work together to hasten this glorious triumph, by doing all Mary asked for at Fatima, and may we not for a single moment ignore this good and tender Mother, Who so desperately wishes to be Queen of our hearts.
*God reward my good friend and brother James Draxler for passing on this interview to me!*