“The Hermit of Bethlehem lives an eremitical way of life according to the new Code of Canon Law (c. 603), which deals specifically with hermits. The bishop of a diocese receives the consecration of a hermit with the hermit’s plan of life. Bishop Frank J. Rodimer has approved the Plan of Life of the Hermits of Bethlehem and has received the perpetual public vows of each hermit. The bishop has also stated that the Hermits of Bethlehem represent a new charism in the Church today, restoring the ancient tradition of the early desert fathers.
In this eremitical way of life, the only occasions the hermits of the laura regularly come together are the following:
- for daily Eucharist
- for Solemn Vespers on Saturday and the vigil of Solemnities
- for Lauds and Eucharist on Sundays and Solemnities
- also on Sundays and Solemnities, for a common meal and sharing in the spirit of the desert fathers.
All other times of prayer, work and meals are in total solitude. Each hermit lives, prays and works alone” to maintain the solitary spirit.” (Extracts from the Plan of Life of the Hermits of Bethlehem by Rev. Eugene Romano, page XXXVIII).
Any person called to the eremitical vocation is drawn by the Holy Spirit to dedicate his/her life to God in the silence and solitude of the desert, both interior and exterior desert. Bishop Rodimes expressed in the following words: “The prophet Jeremiah idealized the desert experience of the Israelites. For him, it was not their worst time but their best. He expressed it in poetic terms:
I remember the devotion of your youth,
how you loved me as a bride.
Following me in the desert,
In a land unknown. (Jeremiah 2:2)
Not that he or other inspired writers neglected to point out the contrast between verdant pastures and gardens, on the one hand, and arid wastelands and solitude, on the other. In fact, it was solitude and the absence of distractions that gave the desert its distinct beauty. It was there that God alone mattered. It was into the desert that the Lord would allure His beloved. “I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.” (Hosea 2:16).