Tag Archives: Holy Souls Hermitage

Day Off: Goodbye Holy Souls Hermitage: Keys of the Kingdom handed over.

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After doing the usual thing of providing the sacraments across Western North Carolina with hundreds of miles put on Sassy the Subaru, I arrived at the hermitage, where there was blinding fog. That’s the way it was, 24/7 non-stop, for months on end, when I first arrived years previous. The area is classified officially as a rain forest, having, in fact, twice the average rain fall as a rain forest.

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I handed the key over. Apparently, a buyer has appeared and wants the key, entirely enthralled with the hermitage. So, I gave over the key:


Of course, this means no gun range either. I dismantled the bits and pieces I had there. This was was already gone:

That one above, starting with the far bucket: ABCBA low ready three seconds. The one below is to be shot in half. This is with 9mm FMJ which goes right through without snapping it, meaning it takes quite a few hits in the same spot to get it done, with each hit keeping the movement going. This is 1″ x 1″ by three feet.

All things you can’t do at a National Forest range or even LEO range. All gone. Now where am I going to get some firearms recreation?

I had to say goodbye to “The Barn” that was a home for this Donkey-Priest until I got the hermitage built enough to keep out some weather:

The window space had been set up as a gorgeous ad orientem altar. I used to sleep on the floor behind where you see the live trap for the raccoons and the mason jar boxes. I’m a bit rough and tumble. I got a picture also of a bit of yellow-jacket nest, as that brings back memories of just how bad they were, a plague really. Within some weeks that year, I killed some 135 queen yellow-jackets (which represents untold numbers of furiously stinging workers). It was the Violin Spiders I didn’t like. I was bit some 25 times through the years but had an ingenious way (thanks to the neighbor) to get rid of the poison and heal the rotting wound before any amputations had to be done.

None of that put me off in the least. I told Jesus I wanted to be a hermit for a while so as to write about His good mom. He arranged everything within hours. I did write on Jesus’ good mom. I’m very happy with that result. But that doesn’t mean Jesus was going to make it easy. I’m sure, though, that He directed my guardian angel to make the extra effort so that I wouldn’t actually get killed despite for all the dangers I would encounter in building the hermitage, in getting shot at, in somersaulting down little cliffs with a running chain saw in hand, on and on. The memories.


I collected a bunch of rocks from the path up to the hermitage so as to make a little grotto for our Lady, kind of a reminder of my time in Lourdes, but also as a reminder of where I had been going at the time, to become a chaplain at the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, also teaching at the Franciscanum in the Old City, and then heading up their pilgrimage site on Mount Nebo in Jordan way above the far side of the Dead Sea. The bishop told me to make the hermitage my Holy Sepulcher to pray for priests. Great memories, all.

After all was said and done, and the very second I got back to the rectory, texting messages started to make my phone sing. It was late in the evening, and the town board was in the midst of conducting a closed meeting with yours truly being on the agenda. A unanimous decision was made about the fate of this donkey priest in time to come. I am humbled. More on that later.

All this happened January 14, 2020, the long standing Feast of Jackasses. I like that a lot. More on that later.


Filed under Father Byers Autobiography

Holy Souls Hermitage (update)

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Someone I know says that he has never seen a picture of Holy Souls Hermitage rising up above the forest floor at the top of a ridge in these Blue Mountains, these Smoky Mountains. In the above slideshow we are, of course, looking due East.

Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is no longer there. No tabernacle, no altar, no angels, all gone. In October 2019, I will have been in the parish here for six years. There was urgent movement being made on selling the property underneath the hermitage for quite a while. It’s a little less urgent right now. Off the market, in fact.

I still go out to the hermitage every week for a “day off”, even if only for minutes, so that I can tell my Vicar Forane that, yes, I’m taking care of myself, taking a “Day Off.” He likes when the priests in his vicariate in the diocese get a bit of a change of pace, a change of scenery, some recreation. I often end up doing lots of “priest stuff” as I mysteriously call it, driving the curious batty as they try to figure out what “priest stuff” is. But the hermitage is a welcome refuge.

What happens at the hermitage for those minutes or hours? Target practice with timers are variously placed and sized targets, sometimes moving targets on ropes or whatever, takes up some of the time. The Vicar and I just spoke, in fact, about what kind of ammo I got yesterday. Just boring ammo: Federal brass 9mm FMJ 115 grain target practice ammo.

Sometimes it’s reading some complex email communications. Sometimes some more complex phone calls are made. Sometimes just a bit of quiet with the Lord. Always the Angelus many times for the bishop and priests of the diocese.

Always I try to look around for flowers for the Immaculate Conception. The joyful appreciation of Jesus’ good creation with the end of having the joy of giving Jesus’ good mom a flower is, how to say it, a simple joy, always, every time.

If I have enough time, today I plan to read Pope Francis’ letter to priests. The best laid plans of mice and men and donkeys like me are often laughed at by the Lord. But, we will see what happens. There may be other “priest stuff” to do today. But I would really like to get to this letter. It may be that a return letter, a response, equally public, may be in order. Have you read that letter? Any ideas on that?

/////////// Later… I made it to the hermitage. Some prayers were said. Some target practice was accomplished. First thing, 25 feet out, 7″ pie plate, six rounds in 1.74 seconds, and accurate. Later, two to the body, one to the head in 1.27 seconds. Both flukes, though. I’m not that good. Far from it.

Here’s what the window looks like now:

2:30 pm… I read up to paragraph 8 of the Pope’s letter to priests and had to stop. This may take more exegesis than I can do on my phone. Anyone with comments on paragraph 8?

A bit more target practice. Then it’s off to visit a few people, check the UPS store, and then do some priest stuff….


Filed under Day Off