05/19/2020, 12.58
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Indian bishop chooses the life of a hermit

by Biju Veticad

Mgr Jacob Muricken, auxiliary bishop of Palai, has decided to spend his life “in prayer, meditation, Bible studies and writing”. His decision “is not hating the world, but teaching men to look at the world in the right way, fixing our eyes only on God.”

Palai (AsiaNews) – For the first time in the history of the Indian Church, a serving bishop has expressed the firm desire to pursue a deeper spiritual life like the hermits of the ancient Church.

Mgr Jacob Muricken was ordained auxiliary bishop of Palai in 2012. He felt an inner calling in 2017 to live alone, to lead an ascetic life abandoned to God. The following year, he wrote to the Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church, which is led by Card George Alencherry, and to his Bishop Mar Joseph Kallarangattu.

Bishop Muricken has led a very simple life since the beginning of his priesthood and in 2016 he decided to donate one of his kidneys to a 31-year-old man from a poor Hindu family.

He said that he felt a calling to lead the ascetic life of a hermit, a practice that was common in the ancient Church that somehow stopped. "I have been called to resume this hermitic lifestyle,” said the bishop. “This will strengthen the Church more".

“The hermit is a person who contemplates God and lives completely in union with nature, using only what is essential for life.” The latter “will be spent in prayer, meditation, Bible studies and writing, which would allow the person to lead a life of silence.”

Such an existence entails “only one meal a day, exclusively vegetarian. I will cook alone and use a wooden and stone bed and chair.”

In his view, this “is not hating the world, but teaching men to look at the world in the right way, fixing our eyes only on God.”

Asked if he will have the opportunity to be in contact with the faithful, Bishop Jacob said that people will be able to visit him once a month, in a controlled manner.

For him, the calling to live as a hermit is for everyone and will bear fruit for all the faithful and even the world.

In a recent interview with Deepika, a regional Catholic newspaper in Kerala, the prelate noted that his life will be one of contemplation before the Tabernacle.

As to where he will live, his bishop, Mgr Kallarangattu suggested somewhere in his diocese.

Since hermit life is not possible among known people, Bishop Jacob wants to spend his life as a hermit on the top of Nallathanni hill, Idukki district, at an existing monastery, Mar Thoma Sleeha.

This humble bishop is not reluctant to say service is important, not people. “If I leave my responsibility in the diocese, God will pick the most suitable man for that position. My prayers will contribute more power and spirit to our Church.

“Saint Francis of Assisi is the saint who influenced me most in my life. My calling to the hermitage is a call to the highest level of conversion and holiness.”

Bishop Jacob is still waiting for the approval by Card Alencherry, the senior archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, and Synod of Syro-Malabar bishops. Once made, their decision will be communicated to the Congregation of Oriental Churches.

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