Ring Some Bells!

The latest guest post in aid of Friends of Little Portion Hermitage (“FLPH”) today comes from the lovely Sarah Reinhard, whom I suspect many of my fellow Catholics read on a regular basis. Now full disclosure, Mrs. Reinhard disputes my categorizing her as “lovely”, but I’m going to do it anyway because this is my blog and not hers. So there you are.

I’m truly grateful Sarah was able to contribute a guest post in aid of our effort, talking about how the significant ringing of different kinds of bells has marked her daily life and called her to prayer and to take action.  We have more guest posts coming in the weeks ahead from Catholic writers and speakers you know, to add to those already so generously contributed by Teresa Tomeo, Mike Aquilina, Shane Kapler, and Matthew Leonard. You can go back and read all of the guest posts so far on the FLPH site.

While you’re there, please consider donating whatever you can toward getting Brother Rex a permanent home. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s looking increasingly likely that the small place he is renting is going to be sold out from under him in the coming weeks, leaving him literally nowhere to go.  This prayer warrior asks for so little, and we have so much.

To date we’ve had over 31,000 people visit the FLPH site to learn more about Brother Rex, this project, read both his posts and the guest posts, and leave prayer requests for Brother Rex regarding intentions they have. That is a tremendous blessing for sharing the good work of prayer that he does.  We would so like to move on to the task of finding Brother Rex a place to live, but we really do need your prayers and your financial generosity to make that happen!

When you heard the bells rung again at Mass after the weeks of silence during Lent, both by the acolytes and up in the bell tower of your local church, didn’t you feel just a little spiritual joy in recalling the Resurrection of Christ? Please consider sharing a little of that Easter joy, to help give our friend the hermit – who has given up everything to follow Christ – a home for living out his vocation.  Ring some bells in Heaven through your charitable prayers and, yes, donations, to make sure this prayer warrior can continue his life of prayer and self-sacrifice on behalf of all of us.

Detail of "The Homage of a Simple Man" by Giotto (c. 1300) Upper Basilica, Assisi

Detail of “The Homage of a Simple Man” by Giotto (c. 1300)
Upper Basilica, Assisi

 

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Home for a Hermit: Announcing “Friends of Little Portion Hermitage”

I’m honored to announce that I’m now serving on the board of directors for a new charitable organization, Friends of Little Portion Hermitage or “FLPH” for short.  A few months ago, Kevin Lowry and Jon Marc Grodi from The Coming Home Network International approached me about setting up a non-profit, with the goal of establishing a permanent hermitage for Franciscan hermit Brother Rex Anthony Norris, and whoever eventually succeeds him in the eremitic life in the Diocese of Portland, Maine.  Brother Rex is a blogger and prayer warrior who may already be known to some of my readers; if you do not know of him yet, you soon will.

In his blog post below which you can also read on his site, Kevin lays out who Brother Rex is, what he does, and our goals for establishing a permanent hermitage.  There are also links at the end of the post to interviews with Brother Rex, so you can read some of his own words as he describes his spiritual journey, and why he chose to become a hermit.  I can say from personal experience that over the past few years, Brother Rex has been an outstanding source of inspiration and encouragement for me personally, through his prayers, his good humor, and his encouragement.

On Monday, April 7th, Brother Rex will appear as a guest on “The Journey Home” on EWTN, sharing his conversion story, why he chose to live the life of a hermit, and what his life as a hermit entails.  FLPH will follow up on this appearance through social media, beginning with an exciting collaborative project which will include a number of individuals likely well-known to those of you in the Catholic world.  In the meantime, please visit and bookmark our site, LittlePortionHermitage.org, both to see Brother Rex’ regular blog posts, and to keep up to date with what he and FLPH are up to.

I am honored and deeply humbled to have been asked to be a part of FLPH.  Anyone who loves Church history knows that down the centuries, it has been ordinary Christians like you and me who have looked after the very basic, temporal needs of those in the eremitic life.  We may not all be called to follow the exact path that Brother Rex is on, but everyone is called upon to draw into closer union with God, through prayer and self-denial.  The life of the hermit is a profound imitation of the life of Christ, and one which is worthy of our support.

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Home for a Hermit

March 17, 2014

by Kevin Lowry

Br Rex This is Brother Rex Anthony Norris, or Br. Rex for short. He’s a hermit.

Yes, a real, live hermit.

So what does a hermit do? Well, suffice it to say that what is referred to as the eremitic life is a vocation, and has to do with what the Church calls assiduous prayer.

He prays. A lot.

Br. Rex is something of a walking contradiction. You might reasonably think that a hermit experiences some level of solitude as part of his (or her) vocation (yes, there are women hermits too). And you would be correct.

What doesn’t show up on paper, though, is that the guy is a total crack up. He’s hysterically funny, with a tremendous sense of humor and thoroughly infectious laugh. Simultaneously, he’s a deeply committed prayer warrior, who spends countless hours in intercessory prayer and takes his vocation extremely seriously.

You definitely want to be on this guy’s prayer list.

In knowing Br. Rex for the past couple years, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called when things were rough, knowing he would take my prayer requests to his daily Holy Hour and hold them before our Lord. In fact, my debt of gratitude became so great, that a couple friends (the esteemed Jon Marc Grodi and Billy Newton) and I started a non-profit organization called Friends of Little Portion Hermitage to “support the worship of God, the eremitic life, Christ-centered solitude, contemplative silence, intercessory prayer and the spiritual works of mercy.”

Br Rex 1

Our vision is very much in line with the above: “Through the generosity of our donors, Friends of Little Portion Hermitage seeks to provide for the temporal needs of Little Portion Hermitage and the hermit who resides there. We believe consecrated life to be essential to the spiritual well-being of the Body of Christ, most especially the witness of those in consecrated life whose lives give first place to prayer for the glory of God, the good of the Church and the salvation of the world.”

So here’s where you come in. Br. Rex was lamenting to me the other day that he hasn’t received many prayer requests through the website we set up, littleportionhermitage.org – and that’s an opportunity.

At the same time, Friends of Little Portion Hermitage would like to purchase a modest hermitage for Br. Rex and his successors. Thankfully, he lives in a part of Maine where land and buildings are inexpensive, but we still need at least $50,000 to make things livable – even for a hermit.

Would you help us? Please stop by littleportionhermitage.org and send Br. Rex your prayer requests. It will make him happy, and these intentions will be treated with the utmost respect and confidence.

Also, if you can afford to make a donation towards the home for a hermit project, we would appreciate it ever so much. Let’s keep Br. Rex in prayer – and facilitate his prayers for us. Thank you for your support!

Special note: We’re happy to announce that Br. Rex will be appearing on EWTN’s The Journey Home program on Monday, April 7 at 8:00 p.m. EST. Hear the story of Br. Rex’s conversion to Christ and His Church!

For more information on Br. Rex, please see:

http://chnetwork.org/2014/02/interview-with-brother-rex/ and

http://gratefulconvert.com/hangin-with-a-hermit/

The Man Behind the Avatar

Recently I have been thinking a great deal about those engaged in social media, particularly those who feel hurt or isolated in some way.  Some of these people turn to social media for an outlet, to make connections to help them with their troubles, and some turn that hurt into motivations to attack others.  So yesterday I posted a question to my Twitter followers, asking whether they would follow or befriend someone on social media out of a sense of charity.  I was surprised to receive a huge range of responses, and these generally fell into two camps.

The overwhelming majority of those who responded said they would not connect with someone, such as following them on Twitter or befriending them on Facebook, simply because they seemed a bit out of place and had few connections.  To do so was described, among other things, as potentially patronizing, or encouraging stalker behavior, particularly because the more active one becomes in social media, the more often one does not actually know all of the people with whom one interacts online in real life.  These respondents indicated that while they might be willing to interact with someone who appears to be alone or friendless, a feeling of empathy alone was viewed as too transitory a basis for creating a relationship that in the end could not hope to be real.

The other, much smaller group of respondents, suggested that connecting with someone who seemed shy, lonely, or non-adept when it came to using social media, was a good thing, but needed to be considered on a case-by-case basis.  Pity was not seen as a legitimate reason to establish an online relationship with someone else, in this view, but it was however legitimate to consider whether a great deal of good could be done to encourage someone else by making such a connection, provided there were other commonalities.  Apart from celebrities, of course, most people get their start on social media platforms with few connections, and so as was rightly pointed out, everyone has to start somewhere.

In the end though the single best response I received was one which does not answer the question I began with, but which goes to the heart of the matter: we have to remember that each of these accounts is run by a human being.  Whether the person is famous and has thousands of friends or followers, or whether they have no friends or followers at all, or even if they are a troll, i.e. someone attacking others online for whatever reason, these are all our brethren, with souls and consciences, thoughts and feelings, needs and wants.  After a fashion, this even includes the infamous Twitter spambots, i.e. those accounts set up to automatically send links to how one can get a cheap mortgage from some bank in Vietnam or how one can purchase a bride from Russia.  Even if those spam-sending accounts are automated, they were of course set up by human beings.

Unless one feels a compelling need to go out and minister online to those who are lonely, in sorrow, and so on – and I know some who in fact do this – most of us are not called upon to befriend, follow, or connect with everyone online who happens to reach out and connect with us in some way.  That would be decidedly odd, and ultimately unsustainable.  However it is also decidedly too easy, through the anonymity of the internet, to treat each other as though we were androids.

None of us are going to achieve perfection on social media – whatever that might look like – any more than we are in real life.  We do not have to always accept social media connections out of charity, any more than we always have to sit idly by and allow someone to spout untruths or insults at us without responding to them.  Whatever your problem is, if you bring it to me online in social media, the way that you bring it to me is going to determine, at least to some extent, how I respond to you.  Hopefully I do so with charity, or where necessary with some aspect of restraint, but let’s face it: both of those can be difficult, at times.

That being said, recalling the fact that behind each of these accounts is an individual, ought to give us at least a moment’s pause.  We ought all, this scrivener included, to take a bit more time for the sake of civility to try to think of a measured response, whether we are expressing support or criticism.  This is not a responsibility to be taken lightly, because if each of us active on social media is, in effect, a creative contributor, then we ought equally to be aware that what we put out into the world has consequences.  Sometimes the consequences can include drawing people to do us, and sometimes the exact opposite.

Being aware of this fact, then we must also be aware that if the medium drags down the culture, because it is not being well-used by ourselves and others, then surely it is our job to try to pull it back up again.  Perhaps a kind word to the fellow with 5 followers, or a restrained word to the fellow with 10,000 who is spouting garbage, may be a far better response than either ignoring or simply blindly attacking. These are not simply avatars who type, but human beings just like ourselves.

Baucis

“Baucis’ Landscape” by René Magritte (1966)
Menil Collection, Houston