What is a Hermitage Experience?

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 he/she 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 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 you to 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, etc.)

2. The core of the hermitage experience IS the daily participation in Eucharistic Sacrifice and Adoration, nourished on the Scripture (“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 respect this solitude and silence at all times. Visiting of the hermitages is not permitted. ALl guests should come directly to the Common 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 for 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.

“Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God…” (Psalm 42:1)