Sydney Martha Associates
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
A regular meeting of the Sydney Martha Associates was held October 11, 2017. After a check in and a beautiful prayer, we welcomed our special guest for the evening, Sheila O’Handley. Sheila has made a commitment to live within the Diocese of Antigonish as a Hermit.
And what does that mean? Sheila enlightened us greatly!! A Hermit, according to Canon Law, is one who lives an Arametical Life, a person who lives alone, reads, reflects and helps people. A Hermit is not necessarily one who lives out in the desert, wears odd clothing and does not interact with others!! Although in the early 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries, Hermits may have gone to the woods. They went there in search of God, they went there to purify themselves because often they had a very negative image of God. They wanted to understand God, but God is mystery, we cannot understand God.
This is not what we understand a hermit to be today. Sheila explained that she exists out of love. She experiences herself as being loved by God unconditionally. She experiences this not in her head, but in her heart. The purpose of the Hermit is to live in solitude, not loneliness, and to exist for God’s love and to proclaim that by her life.
The call to be a hermit is a vocation within the Church. Sheila had to be received by the Bishop (Brian Dunn). She made a public commitment of her vows at a Eucharistic Celebration. Answering the call to be a hermit takes much reflection and discernment. Within Canon law, a person must be at least 30 years of age. This ensures there has been some experience of life and feeling loved. Yet the process still takes a very long time.
Part of the vocation of a hermit is to live Hospitality, to receive God and to give that gift back out again. A Hermit lives a simple lifestyle. Sheila eats simply, reads, writes poetry, gardens, makes preserves. She is responsible for herself financially. She receives people in offering Spiritual Direction and counselling.
Sheila held us spellbound with her talk, simple yet profound!! There was an absolute peace and joy which flowed from her. We were delighted to have Sheila with us and we felt deep gratitude for her generous sharing.