Bethel is an anointed place, a singular gift of God in the Church and for the Church. It is in this place of solitude that a colony of solitaries live their vocation of oneness with God through prayer and silence.
It is also a place for those who feel the stirrings to live a life of solitude — even if for a few days — so that they may participate in the spiritual milieu of a company of hermits
It is a place where, like the story of Jacob, we take time to rest for a while in the journey of life, and be surprised with the realization that God has always been with us in our sojourn through life.
And with Jacob, we utter the words,
“Truly God is in this place...”
The vocation to the eremitical life flows in two streams: some are called to live this vocation in complete and total
isolation. Some are called to be solitaries witnessing to the spirit of communion.
The hermits of Bethel are solitaries who are called to live a life of prayer, silence and solitude in the spirit of communion in order to incarnate concretely the eremitical vocation’s connectedness to the Mystical Body of Christ.
Among Eastern Christians, such solitaries live in what they call a Laura, a cluster of cells where hermits live, mostly with a church at the center of this cluster.
Bethel is a Laura or Lavra. It is a Greek word Λαύρα which means “passage” or "pathway.” A Laura not only suggests that hermitages are solitary paths that meet at the center like the chapel but it is also a testimony that each separate vocation in the Church finds its unity in Christ. In Bethel, we seek to live the concrete life of solitude with the spirit of communion. We live our life as solitaries, dwelling in our respective hermitages, but witnessing to communion through the common celebration of the Eucharist.
As Hermits of Bethel, we submit ourselves to the Church as persons consecrated in charity to the praise of God and the salvation of the world by our life of prayer, silence and solitude. In the hands of the bishop, we publicly profess to live the evangelical counsels, by a vow or some other sacred bond. Under the guidance of the diocesan bishop and the pastoral care of our Servant-Leader, we live our Plan of Life in loving harmony with this Institutum in the knowledge that in doing so we totally dedicate ourselves to God, contribute to the sanctification of others, and find meaning in our life.
WHAT WE DO
As hermits, love is our echoing prayer, love is the silent language we speak, and love is our constant companion in solitude. In the lights and shadows that constitute permanent elements of human existence, our religious compass is the conviction that “Love never fails” (I Cor 13: 8).
In Bethel, hermits dwell together in prayer, silence and solitude primarily conforming their lives in accordance with the unwritten rule of Charity. As the word "Bethel" means the dwelling-place of God (see Gen 28: 16), and as God is love, so shall love permeate this community of solitaries.
“The solitary sits alone, listening and speaking to Christ.”
- St. Aelred of Rievaulx
Each hermit dwells in one’s own cell called a hermitage. In each hermitage—furnished with all things needed, and none of the excess—the solitary lives his or her threefold vocation of prayer, silence and solitude.
In the hermit’s passionate separation from the world, the hermitage becomes one’s immediate world where his or her own sanctification starts, continues and finds fruition. The hermitage should not be a sign of severance or withdrawal from the created world in as much as it should be a sign of one’s intimate union of solitariness with God, and santifying connectedness with the world.
The hermitage should cater to the flourishing of one’s total wellbeing. It should attend to one’s body by provision of proper nourishment, sleeping area and comfort room; it should attend to one’s soul by having its own area, with sufficient relevant books, for lectio divina and other studies; and it should attend to one’s spirit by having its own oratory or prayer area. In this way, a hermitage becomes a home where cura personalis is achieved.
As the chapel unites solitaries in the spirit of communion, the variety of hermitages is a singular sign that Bethel is a unity in diversity: We are women and men, cleric, religious and lay, young and old who discerned that in our life, God calls us to consecrate ourselves to Him as solitaries.
CHAPEL OF OUR LADY OF THE WAY
“Only in daily, confidential relationship with the Lord in the tabernacle can one forget self,
become free of all one’s own wishes and pretensions,
and have a heart open to all the needs and wants of others.”
- St. Edith Stein
The heart of Bethel is the chapel where the salvific sacrifice of Christ is both remembered and celebrated in the Holy Eucharist. Our solitary paths converge in the one person of Christ who is the Way (see Jn 14:6).
In the celebration of the Divine Liturgy we recall our engagement to live the eremitic life to offer unceasing prayer, to listen to God’s voice in silence, and to unite ourselves to the world in solitude. On both sides of the small chapel are two oratories dedicated to Our Lady who reminds us constantly to unite our will to God: fiat voluntas tua, and St. Joseph who reminds us that God is our Providence.
The small chapel is a simple sanctuary dedicated to the Holy Family. As each member of this family sanctified one another through one’s presence, so we seek to sanctify our solitary lives through each one’s eremitic presence. This holy presence we seek to extend to anyone who wishes to spend desert days with us.
PRAY WITH US
Life is a journey, and meaning is the character that this journey takes as we travel through life meeting people, seeing new places, being involved in events, and ultimately encountering God in each step of the way. Like Jacob who encountered God in a dream, may we wake from rest with the realization that in all the events of life, the good and the bad, all things happen to draw us closer to God. ... and with Jacob, we utter the words, “Truly God is in this place...” (Gen 28:16).