James Rada, Jr.
Nearly a decade ago, Brother Pascale O’Brien of Divine Mercy should have been dead four times over.
“I had the Last Rites given to me four times, and my younger brother was told to have me prepare a living will,” O’Brien said.
He had blood clots in his system that the doctors thought would kill him. O’Brien’s health remained precarious. When he finally recovered, his doctor told him that his survival had been nothing less than miraculous.
“I started thinking what I could do to repay the Lord for saving my life,” O’Brien said.
He decided to take the vows of a hermit.
While you might imagine a hermit as a bearded old man living in seclusion in the woods, cut off from society, Catholic hermits are men, and sometimes women, who have dedicated their lives to the Lord. O’Brien, who turned seventy this year, is retired from the dietary department with Daughters of Charity. He had no children, and he has never been married.
He applied to be a hermit through the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The process not only included interviews, but also a psychological evaluation. The evaluation took years, but he finally took his final vows in the Immaculate Conception Chapel at Mount St. Mary’s University on October 1, 2017. O’Brien said that the Mass was a “bigger event” than he thought it would be.
“My life is now dedicated to the Lord,” O’Brien said. “My life is about how God can use me as a vessel in the lives of other people.”
His days are now spent performing spiritual exercises, studying the Bible, and praying for the church and families who are in need.
Although some hermits live on their own in hermitages, O’Brien lives on his own and conducts his exercises in the privacy of his apartment. He wears a brother’s collar, habit, and ring to show that he is celibate.
“I am no better than anyone else, but I am striving to become better and more holy,” O’Brien said.
As he works toward this goal, his life is quiet unless he is listening to spiritual music or watching a church sermon. He does not interact much with the world unless it is needed. His time and attention are instead focused on growing closer to his God.
“I feel blessed,” O’Brien said. “I feel fulfilled, and I feel like I have a purpose in life.”
Brother Pascale O’Brien is shown on the day he took his final vows to become a hermit on October 1, 2017.