A Word from Tom Cashman -Hermits

Community of Aidan and Hilda, USA
Newsletter – Nov, 2020.

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During the latest gathering of the Northwest Community, Tom Cashman wrote and shared a poignant reflection that his group felt strongly should be shared. I couldn’t agree more … and since this speaks to now, it should be heard now rather than waiting until August for our next edition. Tom is Soulfriend Advisor and Community Soulfriend living in Kent, Washington (USA).


During these days of Covid Captivity we have given up many activities that nurture us – both creature comforts and the joys of interaction with friends and family. We have taken on much of the lifestyle of the hermit.
Most of us live with a partner or family and so are not totally isolated. But we have had to strip down our daily routines to a spartan few and are indeed isolated from friends and extended family. For such a time as this, we are hermits — let’s call ourselves Celtic hermits — at least to a degree.
One favorite metaphor I use from time to time in spiritual direction is that of the hermit crab. This metaphor doesn’t work as well in Minnesota or Montana as it does here on the West coast. But we here know that the little hermit crab we find in tide pools is unique in that it has no shell of its own. It lives in the abandoned shells of other critters. Sometimes the fit is awkward and that is what is different, unique and fascinating about the hermit crab. Pretty obvious why it was named “hermit.”

This housing arrangement works well for the hermit crab until it outgrows the shell. At that point it must abandon the old shell and go out naked and unprotected in search of a new larger shell. During this dangerous liminal time some of these little guys get eaten. But many survive and find a new shell and resume the cycle of life again.

We are all getting a crash course in liminal time – a term we have heard about so often. This is it. In this strange liminal time we have left the world we have known and are in transition to a new (normal?) world we do not yet know.

We don’t know and can’t know how this will end. Let me extend the metaphor to the Celtic monks who set off in flimsy coracles to “find the place of their resurrection.” How’s that for serious liminal time!
The risk is real. The promise of new life, perhaps a resurrected life on the other side, is also real. The presence of Christ with us on the journey is also real and assuring as we risk travel through dangerous times.
Actually, there is really no other choice for us as pilgrims.


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