Anyone wishing to experience the life of a Bethlehem Hermit for five days or a week is welcome as long as one has made a silent retreat. An atmosphere of prayer is our gift to our guests. The prayer of silence of solitude becomes an effective door to the healing presence of God in this physical and spiritual environment.
Solitude means being alone, with the Alone, but only in silence can solitude be maintained. This solitude begins as soon as the guest is left in their hermitage.
Silence is maintained throughout the retreat, In the spirit of the desert both the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the opportunity for spiritual direction are provided only once during the retreat, when the Desert Father is available.
God speaks to us: “I will allure you, I will lead you into the desert and speak to your heart…” (Hosea 2:16).
In the Biblical sense, “desert” is a term used to designate a place of solitude where God leads a person when s/he wishes to enter into close relationship with Him.
The hermitages of Bethlehem are designed to provide an experience of this desert-like solitude. With a minimum of distractions, in the silence and the beauty of the woodland area, the heart can be free to meet the Lord in a deeper way.
In keeping with the spirit of Bethlehem, we ask that you abide by the following guidelines:
1. We strongly emphasize the reading of Scripture to the absolute exclusion of any other literature. The Bible is the only book to be brought into the hermitage (no other reading material, no tapes, records, radios, T.V., musical instruments, cell phones or Ipads etc.)
2. The core of the hermitage experience IS the daily participation in Eucharistic Sacrifice and Adoration, nourished on the Scriptures (“Bread of the Word”). Guests are expected to attend Lauds on Sunday, daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration daily and Solemn Vespers on Saturday.
3. God is encountered in silence, and Bethlehem provides this atmosphere. Guests are asked to repect this solitude and silence at all times. Visiting of the hermitages is not permitted. All guests should come directly to the Central House on arrival.
4. No correspondence by mail or phone. (Emergency calls can be handled by one of the hermits.)
5. Meals are simple: meatless meals are served frequently. All meals are taken in the solitude of the hermitage. No eating or drinking is permitted outside.
6. Wednesday is a day of reclusion – a day of prayer and fasting (bread and water, or tea or coffee) in complete solitude.
The hermitage experience is not an escape from problems, nor an attempt to solve problems, nor a place to “get away” for a vacation; neither is it a time for letter writing or catching up on paper work. Rather, it is a selective environment of silence and solitude where one is invited to a deeper conversion and a change of heart. It is a time to encounter self; a time for deepening one’s faith, hope and love in prayerful listening and reflecting on Sacred Scripture which speaks when one is open in a prayerful disposition.
We feel that the Bethlehem hermitage experience is unique, and therefore one should enter into it with a yearning for intense solitary prayer.