A Simplified Life: A Contemporary Hermit’s Experience of Solitude and Silence
by Verena Schiller (Canterbury Press, Norwich, 2010).
Reviewed by Margaret E
Verena Schiller is a member of the Anglican Community of the Holy Name who for twenty five years has been permitted to follow a call to solitude in a remote corner of the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales.
This beautiful, but challenging and thought provoking book would seem to have much to say to those considering, or pursuing a vocation to the Single Consecrated Life, whether or not their expression of this follows the same contemplative and solitary path as the author. The chapters pursue three strands which interweave to give an account of the influence of the landscape and history of a remote and sacred place on the movement of one person’s journey into God in solitude, silence and openness to the spirit of that place, already touched and permeated by the lives of the seekers who had gone before and who had been committed to the same spiritual quest.
The confrontation with the self with all its fluctuations and the deviousness common to all of us as we hide from the truth about ourselves and the demands of love is thrown into sharp relief against this background.
However, it is the affirmation of hope that the one who calls also enables and transforms which echoes most strongly throughout.
To quote the author: 'Questing, seeking, has its roots in hope: hope that the quest is not just for oneself but is intrinsic also to the ongoing life of the whole world and somehow helping to bring about change for good in however small a way' (p.189).
This for me has become a place of hope. Hope is born and reborn through doubt and questioning and times both of despondency and blessing, through disappointments and wrong turnings taken, through times of peace and beauty. God is both the call and the response, the one who transforms'