Last night on the Radio Four there was a short programme in which Chris Watson a wildlife sound recordist recalls his ascent of Skellig Michael, a precipitous island rock in the Atlantic. One summer when I was on holiday in Ireland, I stayed with friends near the Skellig’s. It is best known for its Gaelic monastery, founded between the 6th and 8th centuries. The Island is only accessible during the Summer months and was designated a UNESCO World heritage Site in 1996. I was intrigued that men would dedicate their live to prayer on this isolated and often inhospitable Island.
In Sussex we have St Hugh’s Charterhouse which is a community of Carthusian Hermits, living a solitary life. In the prologue to their rule it says, “To seek God more ardently, to find him more quickly and to possess him more wholly. Thus, by God’s grace, we may be enabled to attain to perfect love, which is the aim of our profession, as of all monastic life, and which will lead us to eternal beatitude.” On their website they say “It is in solitude that the heart is deepened and inhabited.”
The hermitage is above all a place of communion with God and, paradoxically, with man. The monk is “never less alone than when alone.” Little by little his heart is enlarged to the dimensions of Christ’s love encompassing everything and every person in Heaven and on earth. Separated from all, he is united to all.”
There is part of me finds this way of life very attractive, but I know realistically that although we all need some solitude, I am not able to live such solitary life. It is good that we have these places of deep prayer which sustain us and encourage us. The challenge is for us is to find a way of contemplation in our active life.