Following is the prepared text from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s homily for Fr. Eugene Mary of the Trinity’s Temporary Vows to Eremetic Life as a Diocesan Hermit
December 1, 2018
“Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
For a person whom Christ calls to be a hermit, these words are repeated with joy and confident expectation. And a hermit who faithfully lives his vocation gives courage to the rest of us to say those same words. But listening to God does not come easy when surrounded by a culture of noise, when iPhones and iPads constantly interrupt. There are people, too, for whom listening does not seem important.
For example, Martha, the sister of Lazarus and Mary, thought listening to Jesus was far less important than cooking tacos and preparing cappuccino. But Jesus told her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:42). Today Fr. Eugene Florea is publicly choosing the “better part,” answering God’s call to follow the example of Mary. From this day forward, he will be a diocesan hermit in the Carmelite tradition. He is answering Jesus’ call to a stricter withdrawal from the world to live a contemplative life of prayer, solitude, and silence. His discernment of this vocation has not been done hastily, but over a series of years in conversation with spiritual directors, brother priests, bishops, and other hermits who have preceded him in the eremitical Carmelite tradition.
Fr. Eugene will continue to be a priest of the Diocese of Phoenix, to serve as Director of the Merciful Heart House of Prayer for Priests and to offer sacramental assistance, on a limited basis, to St. Philip Benizi Mission in Black Canyon City. He will also continue serving as Director of Spiritual Formation for the Office of the Permanent Diaconate. What is new, from this day forward, is his public consecration to the eremitical life of prayer which “manifests to everyone the interior aspect of the mystery of the Church, that is, [it reminds us of God’s call to] personal intimacy with Christ” (CCC 920).
Jesus never ceases to extend this invitation: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Many do not know that Jesus is offering them this gift. Others, being too occupied with earthly things, have forgotten that God created us for one purpose: to know and love and serve Him here in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven. A hermit who faithfully listens to the Lord reminds us of Jesus’ words. He also fulfills a vital mission in the Church’s battle against Satan by the primacy of prayer and penance in his life. Some evils, Jesus said, can be driven out only by prayer and fasting. At a time when spiritual reform within the clergy is badly needed, when reparation for sins of clerical sexual abuse is urgent, God is calling Fr. Eugene to this ascetical way of life and to the ministry of strengthening the interior lives of priests by offering spiritual direction and individually directed silent retreats.
Father Eugene’s vocation is not a withdrawal from the spiritual battle in which all the rest of Jesus’ disciples are engaged. Just the opposite! By vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, he is saying “Yes” to Jesus’ call to deeper freedom through sacrifice. He is proclaiming, too, an energetic “Yes” to the exhortation I issued to the men of our diocese three years ago:
“Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you, the battle that is wounding our children and families, the battle that is distorting the dignity of both women and men. This battle is often hidden but the battle is real. It is primarily spiritual, but it is progressively killing the remaining Christian ethos in our society and culture, and even in our own homes. The world is under attack by Satan, as our Lord said it would be.” (Read Into the Breach here.)
As with any Christian vocation, Father Eugene’s contemplative call will entail a deeper share in the mystery of the Cross. As Our Lord said, “…unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (John 12:24).
Fr. Eugene’s Religious Consecration as a hermit today inspires all the rest of us to find our identity in Christ Crucified. It emboldens us to heed St. Paul’s words to the Colossians (3:1ff), “Brothers and sisters, if you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For…your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
May this Sacred Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Profession of the Evangelical Counsels remind the rest of us that we, too, are called to holiness. Since Baptism is the gateway to life in the Spirit, it would be a contradiction for a disciple of Jesus to settle for a life of mediocrity, with superficial moral and religious practices. Here and now, Father of Mercy, ignite our hearts to seek you with every fiber of our being, to love those whom you give us to love and transform us into the image of your Beloved Son.