Mar 18

Home for a Hermit – Introducing “Friends of the Little Portion Hermitage”

Kevin Lowry, William Newton and I have started a non-profit organization to raise money to buy/build a hermitage to house my good friend, colleague, and mentor, Brother Rex Anthony Norris, and others who may succeed him in this vocation. Our organization is entitled “Friends of the Little Portion Hermitage”. Please take a moment to read the following blog post from our president, Kevin Lowry:

Br Rex This is Brother Rex Anthony Norris, or Br. Rex for short. He’s a hermit.

Yes, a real, live hermit.

So what does a hermit do? Well, suffice it to say that what is referred to as the eremitic life is a vocation, and has to do with what the Church calls assiduous prayer.

He prays. A lot.

Br. Rex is something of a walking contradiction. You might reasonably think that a hermit experiences some level of solitude as part of his (or her) vocation (yes, there are women hermits too). And you would be correct.

What doesn’t show up on paper, though, is that the guy is a total crack up. He’s hysterically funny, with a tremendous sense of humor and thoroughly infectious laugh. Simultaneously, he’s a deeply committed prayer warrior, who spends countless hours in intercessory prayer and takes his vocation extremely seriously.

You definitely want to be on this guy’s prayer list.

In knowing Br. Rex for the past couple years, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called when things were rough, knowing he would take my prayer requests to his daily Holy Hour and hold them before our Lord. In fact, my debt of gratitude became so great, that a couple friends (the esteemed Jon Marc Grodi and Billy Newton) and I started a non-profit organization called Friends of Little Portion Hermitage to “support the worship of God, the eremitic life, Christ-centered solitude, contemplative silence, intercessory prayer and the spiritual works of mercy.”

Br Rex 1

Our vision is very much in line with the above: “Through the generosity of our donors, Friends of Little Portion Hermitage seeks to provide for the temporal needs of Little Portion Hermitage and the hermit who resides there. We believe consecrated life to be essential to the spiritual well-being of the Body of Christ, most especially the witness of those in consecrated life whose lives give first place to prayer for the glory of God, the good of the Church and the salvation of the world.”

So here’s where you come in. Br. Rex was lamenting to me the other day that he hasn’t received many prayer requests through the website we set up, – and that’s an opportunity.

At the same time, Friends of Little Portion Hermitage would like to purchase a modest hermitage for Br. Rex and his successors. Thankfully, he lives in a part of Maine where land and buildings are inexpensive, but we still need at least $50,000 to make things livable – even for a hermit.

Would you help us? Please stop by and send Br. Rex your prayer requests. It will make him happy, and these intentions will be treated with the utmost respect and confidence.

Also, if you can afford to make a donation towards the home for a hermit project, we would appreciate it ever so much. Let’s keep Br. Rex in prayer – and facilitate his prayers for us. Thank you for your support!

Special note: We’re happy to announce that Br. Rex will be appearing on EWTN’s The Journey Home program on Monday, April 7 at 8:00 p.m. EST. Hear the story of Br. Rex’s conversion to Christ and His Church!

For more information on Br. Rex, please see: and


Sep 10

You Have Nothing Better To Do

In my recent post “Discernment and the Hard, Long, Right Road Beneath Your Feet” I pointed out that as we discern what to do with our lives, since God never intends us to reach some good end via evil means, we can rule out options, however attractive, which seem to necessitate blameworthy shortcuts. Either we have been deceived (from within or without) about the actual goodness of the good we have in mind, or it is indeed a good, but not one we are being called to do, or perhaps we are and we just have to be patient. With this in mind, I concluded by talking a bit about this very challenging notion that, thus, in some sense, the road we are on is the road we are meant to be on. It doesn’t mean God doesn’t have something better in mind for us and it doesn’t mean that if we are in dire straits we are meant to stay there, but it does mean that the next step is most likely somewhere within 2-3 feet from where we are standing (give or take a bit, depending on the length of your legs).

With this in mind, here is an interesting question: Is the familiar colloquialism “I have better things to do” ever really true? When we say, merely mutter, or mentally muse “I have better things to do,” we assert that the present frustration or inanity is keeping us from something more important – something “better”. But is this really the case? What does “better” mean here?

Sure, in the general, abstract, objective sense there may be higher goods than are attainable in the long line at the grocery store, or when faced with the third poopy diaper in the span of 10 minutes, or when having to go help with breakfast whilst one’s magnum opus lies unfinished on the computer screen (alas!). However, the good/best (or evil/worst) actions are also contextual:

…the morality of every human act is determined by the object, the circumstances and the intention. If any one of the three is evil, then the human act in question is evil and should be avoided.  - What Makes Human Acts Good or Bad? by Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J.

As we can only ascertain the “better” in light of the “best,” and since the “best” actions (in a moral sense) must not only be good objectively but also good in relation to our circumstances and the state of our heart, I find the conclusion rather inescapable: There is never a moment in which I really have “better things to do” than those right in front of me, as frustrating, humbling, or inane as they may be.

Whatever situation I am currently in is the one which I am (now) called to embrace with heroic virtue. No matter where we are going, to whatever more exciting or glamorous goods we are impatient to get started on, our next step is right in front of us and it is that step, first (temporally) and foremost (eternally) that we must seek to live out as perfectly as we can.

So, wait patiently in that grocery store line and be sure to give the cashier a smile. Change that poopy diaper whilst singing “Bingo,” and be prepared for a fourth barrage. And go ahead and hit save on that magnum opus because…

*yells* “I’m coming down, sweetheart!”

… you really have nothing better to do.

(Click here to read more of my musings on holiness in the now: One Day Holy)

Mar 28

“Read C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy”

We actually had a custom bumper sticker made displaying the above exhortation and the names of the three books: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength.

My wife and I love the Space Trilogy and Archbishop Chaput does true! It makes the list in his article: “Ten ways to deepen our relationship with God.”

“By the way, if you do nothing else in 2014, read Tolkien’s wonderful short story, Leaf by Niggle.  It will take you less than an hour, but it will stay with you for a lifetime.  And then read C.S. Lewis’ great religious science-fiction trilogy — Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.  You’ll never look at our world in quite the same way again.” –  ARCHBISHOP CHARLES J. CHAPUT, O.F.M. CAP.

Nov 07

Hug your tax collector

Had a great chat with Tom Grossman and Eric Neubauer of whom I met at the Catholic New Media Conference in Boston.

Sep 02

Storck Brings Great Insight on NFP

Thomas Storck has an excellent article on Natural Family Planning over at Crisis Magazine entitled “The Curious Controversy Over Natural Family Planning” . In the article he makes a very strong case for the legitimacy of NFP and shows the problems with much of the suspicion and unnecessary criticism that comes from fellow Catholics.

I’ll let you head over to read his excellent article in its entirety at, and just add one followup thought that I had in response to the article.

Near the end of the article, Storck mentioned one of the usual suspicions about NFP

No doubt someone will point out to me that NFP can be misused.  Truly so, just as any other legitimate human activity can.  But how often is it in fact misused?  NFP users tend to have larger families than the American Catholic norm, even if they do not have families of the size that the critics of NFP think they should have.

I was just thinking about the NFP controversy this morning and recalling analogous arguments I have had with protestants and atheists on the potential abuse of the confessional via the “sin of presumption”. In brief, the accusation is that Catholics will (or do) justify any sin because they’ll just be able to go to confession afterwards.

What such individuals cannot see, from the outside, is that it is very, very difficult to maintain both the sin of presumption and the practice of baring your soul to a priest (and saying the act of contrition). If you are really set on continuing to sin, you’ll much more likely just quit confession altogether.

I have found NFP to be similar in my experience and in the experiences of other couples that my wife and I are close to. Yes, one could imagine NFP being used with the “contraceptive mindset”, at least by some at the start of their marriage. But it is/would be very difficult to keep up both the contraceptive mindset and the communication, sensitivity, and self-discipline that are necessary for the practice of NFP.

In both cases – confession and NFP – there is the potential for abuse but there is also the very real presence of grace, always threatening to break through, always challenging us to make a choice between any internal contradictions we might be trying to maintain.

Having seen and experienced this reality, I just fail to get too worried any more about the “contraceptive mindset” in the relationships of NFP couples. The practice is largely self-corrective via the action of God’s grace working through our feeble efforts. I suspect that those who worry about NFP would be surprised how big a breach in our defense against grace this one act of obedience can constitute.

Aug 26

One Day Holy

“In the end, life offers only one tragedy: not to have been a saint.” – Leon Bloy

I have long been fascinated by the thought of the importance of the here and now and our being more engaged in it. The present moment, since it is the only moment within which we can act (as opposed to a moment in the past or future), is thus the only moment we are really responsible for. Additionally, as my good friend Brother Rex commented:

it is also the only moment in which we can actually experience God’s Presence. The name He revealed to Moses was I AM, present tense. We can reflect upon His Presence in the past; with blessed assurance we can hope for His Presence in the future. But we can only encounter His Presence in this present moment.

If by God’s grace I wake up tomorrow morning to another day I will be grateful for it and live it as best I can, but until then today is the only day I have been entrusted with for sure – the only day during which I can encounter the presence of God.

This is encouraging as it breaks this giant project of living a good, holy life into bite sized pieces that we needn’t (and in fact can’t) eat more than one at a time. But it is also very challenging and humbling when we consider how many precious moments/days we take for granted.

Think about this: If I, by God’s grace, were to give %100 of today – my time, my talents, my best effort, my most heroic attempts at virtue, and my sincerest repentance whenever I fail – I will have given Him everything, for today was all I had.

But what If I fail to give today to God? What If I hold today back for myself? What If I continue to say “Tomorrow! Tomorrow I’ll begin praying! Tomorrow I’ll break my bad habit!”

If I don’t give God today, I will have given Him….nothing.

It’s true. I haven’t squandered one day of many; I have squandered the only day I actually had to give in the first place.

Thus, the transcendent purpose and goal of our lives that we look towards with hope – being one day holy - is accessible to us only in the most immanent here and now: doing our best to be just one day holy.

We tend to overwhelm and discourage ourselves thinking about the daunting task of living a (whole) holy life, but we are overestimating what has actually been asked of us. What about living just one day holy, specifically the one and only day that has yet been given to usCould we be faithful and obedient to Christ for just one day? 

Well, ready or not, this is the day (… the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it! – Psalm 118:24).

We have one day to walk with Christ – a very finite number of hours between now and whenever it is that we go to bed tonight. Let us seize this moment of grace. Let us, you and I, focus on the task at hand. For today, just today, let us love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.

One day holy.

The clock is ticking.

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