The Courtier Recommends: Help The Spirit Of The Season Take Root In West Africa

As we approach Christmastide, people’s thoughts always turn to helping others. I’ve been fortunate over the last several years to see how a spirit of generosity in this country can directly impact for good the lives of people far away, and change the world for the better. So I’m taking a step back from the usual art world chatter to ask you to consider a group of people who really need your help, where you be able to actually see the good that you do as it quite literally takes root.


Over the past dozen years, Father Bill Ryan has done unbelievable work on behalf of the people in a remote part of Togo in West Africa, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet him several times, when he comes to my parish of St. Stephen’s in DC to ask for our support. In addition to providing for their spiritual needs, Father Bill and those helping at the mission have created the area’s first primary health care clinic; dug eleven fresh water wells in the local villages (where previously only muddy and bacteria-ridden river water was available); opened six primary schools and one middle school; obtained farming equipment for the local subsistence farmers to process their own flour and oil; and much more.

You can read all about this on the mission’s website, which includes written reports, photos, video, and links showing the remarkable changes that have been wrought for these very poor people. I mean, these grade school kids who had never been able to attend school before are really, really cute. And when is the last time that you were filled with such joy because you had clean water to drink?


I hope you’ll join me this Christmas in supporting a new project that the mission is undertaking to provide a sustainable source of income for the local people. They’re seeking to plant a teak tree farm, which will provide renewable resources in the form of teak lumber: that super-hard, durable wood used to build quality outdoor furniture or that you see covering the floors and walls of high-end homes and hotels. A single teak tree seedling costs only $1, but a farm full of teak trees – which regrow from their roots after the trunks are harvested – should help to sustain these people for generations, whatever may happen to their other crops.

For more information and to donate, please visit this site.  If you aren’t in a position to help out financially yourself, please do me a favor and share this post via social media and email with anyone whom you think may be interested in lending a hand. And above all, please keep the mission in your prayers. Thank You!



Giving Tuesday Letter to Readers: Please Support Little Portion Hermitage

Dear Readers:

The newish tradition of Giving Tuesday, coming after the consumer shopping over-indulgences of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is a fitting way to take a step back from all of the seasonal excess and let others know about needs that are close to one’s heart. In this case, I’m asking for your support for the Friends of Little Portion Hermitage (FLPH), a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization which I have been honored to be a part of for several years now. I personally want to invite and encourage my readers to take a look at the Giving Tuesday post on the FLPH Facebook page, or on the FLPH website, to see how you can get involved. I also encourage you to share this post, whether it comes to you via email subscription or if you read it online, with anyone whom you think may be interested or in a position to help.

The overall goal of FLPH is to promote the eremitic life inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, Christ-centered solitude, contemplative silence, intercessory prayer and the spiritual works of mercy. Our more specific goal is to establish a permanent Little Portion Hermitage, named for the spot where the Franciscan movement began, with the help of our hermit friend Brother Rex Anthony Norris, a consecrated Franciscan hermit who is under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Portland, Maine.  A dear friend and wise counsel to me and to many others, Brother Rex provides encouragement, insight, and prayer to those who seek him out [he also welcomes your prayer requests and inquiries via the FLPH website.] Brother Rex lives his spiritual vocation every day in a way that most of us, caught up in the demands and distractions of the everyday, material world, cannot.

So in the spirit of St. Francis, I beg you to consider if you’re able to help out materially if possible, and through prayer for the success of this campaign regardless of your means. Your deductions are tax-deductible, and you can donate through Facebook, via the FLPH website, or the traditional pen-and-paper way by sending your check made out to “Friends of Little Portion Hermitage” to:

Friends of Little Portion Hermitage

Post Office Box 15

Auburn ME, 04210

 Thank you, dear readers, and many blessings to you and yours.

Kind regards,

The Courtier




An Urgent Call: Helping The Hermit

I have something of a pressing need for your help, gentle reader:

Regular readers know that I’m part of a non-profit group trying to raise funds to establish a permanent hermitage up in Maine, where Brother Rex Anthony Norris is serving his vocation as a Franciscan hermit.  You can read more about what we’re trying to do over on the Friends of Little Portion Hermitage site, and you can also follow Brother Rex’s daily postings on the FLPH Twitter account and Facebook page. We recently received 501(c)(3) status, so any donations you make are tax-deductible.

However we have a more immediate concern, which is that Brother Rex is about to lose his home.  He has been renting an apartment in a house which is going up for sale very soon.  He hasn’t received an eviction notice yet, but it could come any day now, and he is having difficulty finding new rental accommodation that he can afford in the Portland area, where he must stay because he is under the canonical jurisdiction of that Diocese.  Of course, if any of my readers are in so fortunate a position as to have a small fortune sitting around in search of a worthy project such as this, please let me know.  For most of us average folk however, meeting Brother Rex’ immediate need is a better way to go.

If any of you are in the Portland area and in a position to rent an apartment, little house, or chicken coop to Brother Rex and his kitty Clare, please get in touch with me using the Contact form on this site.  If you can’t help but know someone who might be able to, or who might know someone who could, please share this blog post with them and let them know that I would be glad to put them in touch with Brother Rex.  Time is really of the essence in this situation, and since Brother Rex spends most of his day in prayer, those of us who care about him are left to try to help with many of the mundane things which we lay people can often do much more easily, given our resources.

Thank you for your charity, and God bless!

Detail of St. Clare and St. Francis from a processional banner from Assisi by Niccolo Alunno (c. 1470) Der Priesterhaus, Kevelaer, Germany

Detail of St. Clare and St. Francis from a processional banner from Assisi by Niccolo Alunno (c. 1470)
Der Priesterhaus, Kevelaer, Germany