was a time in my life, when in my very earnest search for
God, I considered becoming either a priest, or a solitary
contemplative, or both.
was returning to my Catholic roots, and was very much in
love with the mystical and poetic parts of the Catholic
faith. I loved them so very much, and still do. I appreciated
and was comforted by the beautiful mystical quality of the
angels, the saints, the Blessed Mother, the great festivals
of the church, its devotional tradition, its beautiful cathedrals,
frescoes, statues, and stained glass windows.
how I loved all of it, and still do in so many ways!
was a very lonely time in my life, and the church, with
its monastic traditions, eremitic traditions, contemplative
tradition, prayer life, sacramentals, great saints and contemplatives
appealed to me very much.
am now, after much prayer and discernment, on a broader,
more universal spiritual path, and decidedly not a solitary
one. And yet, I feel that the journals I recorded during
this period are of value to me and to those who might be
on their own journey, wrestling with a possible life of
contemplation, eremeticism, prayer or priesthood.
so, I offer them humbly, to serve whatever positive purpose
they might offer to seekers.
course, you will find them highly influenced by Thomas Merton,
for I had read, during this period in my life, his Seven
Story Mountain, and other books by and about him. I
made a trip to Gethsemene Monastery, where he lived and
had his hermitage, which I was blessed to see and visit.
wish you, dear reader, all the fruit that your journey into
the life of the spirit might offer. I bless and affirm your
spiritual process. I know for you that it will create a
life of peace, service and fulfillment, if you do your wrestling,
praying, contemplating and growing, as all seekers must
In truth, all humans must do this, for whether we are aware
of it or not, we are all seekers.
and love to each of you. "All shall be well,"
as the famous mystic has said.
with God, as you experience and perceive of God.
January 25th, 1996
More and more I feel called to solitude as well as action
in the world. I have found myself contemplating the possibility
of a Hermitage for myself, praying for it, imagining it,
how it would look, and what I would do in it. I am praying
for God to teach me how to pray, to teach me how to make
my life a prayer. I would like simple work, simple being,
and simple living.
and more I want less and less. I have given up television
for Lent and find this a gift. I am attempting to make weekends
a time of solitude, meditation and prayer. My boss, hounding
me to come into work over the weekend (even though I was
sick, and despite our agreement that I will not work on
weekends) has prompted me to consider turning off the phone
and answering machine over the weekend.
of course, am greatly inspired by the large Merton biography
I am reading. This is an influence in that I am feeling
called more and more to solitude, though I have felt this
call before. I think back to my visit to the House of Prayer
Retreat House at the Tipton convent, where I first read
Carlo Caretto's Letters to the Desert. I think of Caretto's
call to solitude and his eventual decision to be solitary
part of the year and activist part of the year. Perhaps
I am to do this during the course of a week: four intensive
days of work and prayer, three days of solitude and prayer?
asked the Holy Spirit to give me some wisdom on this subject
in Merton's No Man is an Island. The spirit gave me, amazingly,
chapter 7, page 117, "Being and Doing," all about
the balance of activity and non-activity, and how necessary
both are. It spoke of the importance of silence, rest and
non-activity. With these things in our lives, our work and
our activity both become blessed.
also think of what I read last night in the new little Merton
biography. What I gleaned from it is that in being a hermit
is difficult and must be done well, or it will destroy a
what are you are calling me to do:
to be a priest, a religious, a religious hermit,
a priest who is also a hermit,
or a secular hermit?
or to continue my current work/ministry
and be a hermit part of the week?
am unsure, but I think I am sensing the right possibilities
it clear, God. And say it loudly, please. I'm at rather
hard of hearing sometimes, as you know!
Photos © 2003 Michael D. Purvis, all original or public
February 29th, 1996
I realized in the last few days that my current desire for
a hermitage and solitude in my life not only goes back to
when I went to the House of Prayer ten years ago and read
Letters from the Desert by Father Carlo Carretto, but to
the vision of a house I have been picturing and dreaming
of. It has a garden (as Merton had a Zen Garden at his monastery)
and is appropriate for solitude.
saw such a house and boarded up on a wooded lot today. What
a contrast this would be to my current home in the middle
of the city, surrounded by concrete and apartment buildings.
I do enjoy of the wonderful 1920s ambiance of my apartment!
I love opening its leaded glass windows and looking across
the city-scape to see the beautiful old cathedral which
sits across the street and frames itself beautifully in
my living room window. 0n cloudy days the church looks like
a ghost ship moored in a foggy sea, and at night, lit up
against the midnight blue sky it is incredibly beautiful.
here on the third floor, at the top of the building in its
corner, facing the church, my apartment is a kind of retreat.
The oriental rugs, the comfortable furniture, the statues
I have painted, the antique icons and religious portraits
I have collected make it a beautiful space to relax, meditate
and pray in. It is rather like praying and living at the
suppose its not very hermit-like! It's not a model of austerity
or simplicity, but we have to start somewhere, right?!?
Apartment, which I have jokingly called "The Bishop's
a beautiful space to relax, meditate and pray in.)
© 2003 Michael D. Purvis, all original or public domain
the view of the cathedral from my apartment window on Meridian
Street in Indianapolis. Middle: Some of the devotional,
sacred statues which I painted. Bottom: My French antique
print of the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Sorrows)
© 2003 Michael D. Purvis, all original or public domain
Michael D. Purvis