1) Br. Rex, thanks for taking time to speak with us today! Tell us a bit about yourself and your early formation — are you a convert?
Thank you. It’s good to chat with you. Yes, I am a convert. I was baptized in the United Presbyterian Church but left the practice of Christianity as a teenager. I had a spiritual awakening in my early twenties and returned to the practice of Christianity. By the grace of God and out of a deep love for Jesus Christ, I “came home” to the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil in 2000.
2) Tell us a bit about your conversion process — what was it that drew you to the Church?
My attraction to Catholicism began in the late 80s or early 90s when I began to long for I-knew-not-what. There was something missing in my experience as a disciple of Jesus Christ, so I began to search in earnest for what was missing. By the grace of God, through the study of Church history, reading the Scriptures, and daily prayer, I eventually discovered that the “something missing” was an encounter with the Person of Jesus Christ in His Eucharistic Presence within the community of the visible Church He established.
3) So what is a hermit, anyway? How did that all come about, and how did your family feel about it?
A hermit is an individual whom God calls to live a life of prayer and penance in the silence of solitude for God’s glory, the good of His Church, and the salvation of souls. In my case, the Bishop of the Diocese of Portland, Maine has recognized my vocation as a part of consecrated life in accordance with Canon 603 of the Code of Canon Law.
Like every vocation, the call to eremitic life is a great mystery. God calls, we respond: to the single life, to marriage, to some form of consecrated life, or to the priesthood. From my initial return to Christianity and my eventual entrance into the Catholic Church, I have kept saying “yes” to Jesus as best I can, one day at a time. I have kept putting one foot in front of the other, albeit falteringly at times, as the mystery that is my vocation has unfolded.
Members of my family of origin are a bit baffled, I think, by my vocation, even though it has been thirteen years since I began my life as a Solitary. From a Protestant perspective they have no category (except maybe “He’s off his rocker!”) in which to place me.
4) What does a hermit do all day? What’s the purpose of an eremitic vocation, and how do you live it out?
The primary focus of life in the hermitage is conscious awareness of God, the needs of His Church and His world and to pray accordingly. In other words, the vocation to which I have been called is to love. To that end, in whatever I do — preparing my meals, washing the dishes, reading the sacred Scriptures, spending time in Eucharistic Adoration, or praying the Divine Office — I endeavor to be open to God in Christ and to pray for people and situations as the Holy Spirit leads. It isn’t easy, this vocation to live and love God and others through prayer in the silence of solitude. I must admit that I often fail miserably. Thankfully, our God is an awesome God full of mercy and grace. As often as I fall, He helps me to regain my footing and continue the journey.
5) Don’t you live in Maine? How did you get connected with CHNetwork?
Yes, I do live in Maine but I am originally from Ohio. I became associated with CHNetwork years ago through the Defending the Faith Conferences at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. I attended several conferences, met a number of the staff members, and learned that the headquarters for CHNetwork is located close to my parents’ home. I began to drop into the CHNetwork office when I would travel to Ohio to see my family. A couple of years ago, Marcus phoned to ask me if I would be interested in partnering with the CHNetwork ministry team. I would provide ongoing intercessory prayer for the Network and its members, and spiritual companionship/direction on an “as needed” basis for individuals coming home to the Catholic Church. I prayed about it, asked the permission of my Bishop to do it, and here we are!
6) How do you serve our members?
I have been blessed with the extraordinary gift of having permission from the Bishop to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in the hermitage chapel. I make a Holy Hour daily to pray for the intentions of the people affiliated with CHNetwork — be they staff members, individuals who have come home to the Catholic Church, or people still on the journey home. I also provide spiritual direction, encouragement, and support via email and phone conversations when asked to do so by the Network.
7) What gives you the greatest sense of satisfaction in working with clergy on the journey or who are new to the Church?
My greatest sense of satisfaction comes from helping individuals deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior in the context of full sacramental communion with Him in His Church.
8) You spend a ton of time praying for other people — how can we pray for you?
Thank you for offering to pray for me. Pray that I will be given the grace to live faithfully the vows I have made because of my desire to love God, His Church, and His world: evangelical poverty; life-giving celibate chastity; and whole-hearted obedience to Christ and His Church.