HARTFORD – Archbishop Leonard P. Blair presided Aug. 29 at the Consecration and Profession of the Evangelical Counsels by which Blaise Falbo became a hermit, professed for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
A hermit, or eremitic, is recognized in canon law as one dedicated to God in a consecrated life if he or she publicly professes the three evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity and obedience); is confirmed by a vow or other sacred bond in the hands of the diocesan bishop; and observes his or her own plan of life under the bishop’s direction.
The ceremony took place in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the Cathedral of St. Joseph before a small assembly of family and well-wishers.
Recalling a few moments alone with Archbishop Blair after the Mass, Mr. Falbo said he will cherish a few words in particular that the archbishop uttered with a direct gaze and firm embrace: “Now we have a powerhouse of prayer in the archdiocese.”
The word “hermit,” from the Greek erēmos, “wilderness,” calls to mind the early Christian desert fathers and mothers and for many conjures up thoughts of sackcloth and foraging. Throughout the church’s history, men and women hermits have, in fact, sought the solitary lifestyle in pursuit of religious goals.
As a hermit of the 21st century and within the archdiocese, Mr. Falbo is not affiliated with any religious community and therefore will continue to be known by his given name only.
His daily life, however, will follow a regimen not unlike that of men or women living in a monastery or convent setting. And he will be under the spiritual auspices of Sister Mariette Moan, the Apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus who serves as vicar for religious of the Archdiocese of Hartford and with whom he worked closely in his discernment and formation. It was also with Sister Mariette that he developed the rule-of-life plan by which his days will now be guided in prayer and penance while living in the world, but not of it, in many ways.
His home, in which he has and will continue to live alone, is called his “hermitage.” There, he will retreat within a sparse oratory that will facilitate solitary contemplation, silence, penance and continuous prayer in the evangelical counsel vows.
The evangelical counsels were drawn upon by Archbishop Blair in his homily, which focused on how one’s circumstances in life direct one’s fulfillment of the call to poverty, chastity and obedience. “A way of life is a sign,” he said, “a summons to follow Jesus completely for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Like the acts of faith by John the Baptist and Jesus in his passion and in his death,” said the archbishop, “we will know God to the extent that we are set free from ourselves.
“We’re all called to live the radical demands of the Gospel according to our circumstances,” the archbishop concluded before continuing with the rites of consecration and profession.
The liturgy included the presentation of the insignia of profession, during which a short, brown, hooded habit was blessed by the archbishop, who, along with Sister Mariette, vested Mr. Falbo in this simple garment and then blessed and presented him with a crucifix and the sacred Scriptures, symbols of his forthcoming life of solitude, prayer and penance and upon which public profession was made.
Very Rev. James A. Shanley, episcopal vicar and rector of the cathedral, concelebrated the Mass, and Father Ryan M. Lerner, vice chancellor and secretary to the archbishop, was master of ceremonies.
Mr. Falbo, a 69-year-old retiree and Vietnam veteran who served as a photographer during the war, is a lifelong Catholic and by no means a recent convert to a life of service and reflection.
He attends daily Mass at St. Mary Church in Windsor Locks, where he has participated in Bible study.
A self-proclaimed “ponderer,” he has worked with troubled youth and served with an inner-city street ministry, after which he obtained a counseling degree and worked at a Veterans Administration hospital.
A soft-spoken man with kind eyes, Mr. Falbo also has worked with both veterans and senior citizens as a Tai Chi instructor.
According to his sister Marie Groves, who attended the ceremony with her husband Bill, the eremitical vocation is consistent with the life plan she said her brother has talked about with her for several years.
“This is right up his alley,” she said of his decision to pursue the consecrated life.
Mrs. Groves recalled that after her brother began his discernment and formation with Sister Mariette, he mentioned it to her.
“You’re going to be a what? A canonical diocesan eremitical hermit?” she recalled saying. “I Googled it.”
In his faith journey over the last 15 years, Mr. Falbo visited abbeys in Arizona and Virginia and most recently St. Joseph’s Cistercian Abbey in Spencer, Mass.
Several people from Spencer attended the Mass and consecration to share the occasion.
A beaming Mr. Falbo described himself as “joy-filled” after his public profession.
According to Sister Mariette, who will continue to be Mr. Falbo’s spiritual advisor, his life as a hermit does not mean he can’t go out. “Of course he can,” she said, but all of his choices will be in keeping with what is going to nurture and allow him to be faithful to this specific vocation.
Sister Mariette said that Mr. Falbo will be called upon to offer prayer for the intentions of Archbishop Blair, especially in meeting long-term goals of pastoral planning. She said she is confident that from within his hermitage, Mr. Falbo will support the archdiocese in all of its institutions and in all of its people.