Soon after Michael’s arrival at New Camaldoli Hermitage, transferring from the Redemptorists in South Africa, Michael was asked to take charge of the community’s lay associates called oblates. This appointment coincided with a renewed interest in monastic spirituality in the US, resulting in an increased membership of oblates connected with most American monasteries including New Camaldoli Hermitage, where numbers quickly grew from a small group to over 600 men and women, all over the world, living a modified Camaldolese rule.
It was while ministering to the oblates Michael was motivated to make monasticism and Christian spirituality more available to men and women living and working in the world.
Michael began looking for a new language to express and explain ancient truths and mysteries making them more accessible to modern seekers. After 6 years as an oblate chaplain Michael became involved with the formation of the men interested in Camaldolese life and discerning a vocation at the Hermitage. These years became an incubation period during which, through reading, engaging prospective candidates and offering spiritual direction as well as contact with the “New Monasticism” of the Evangelical Churches, Michael experienced a renewed awakening of the desire to work with lay people who were searching for a relevant spirituality.
In 2009 Michael asked permission to give retreats at various centers in the country and to have extra time for solitude and reflection. The combination of ministry and solitude worked so well for him that he again petitioned permission to spend a year living in solitude while offering spiritual direction and retreats.
Michael began the year of experimentation in 2010 by walking the 800Km pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostello in Spain which turned out to be a foundational experience, consolidating in him something of the call and charism of the founder of the Camaldolese Congregation St. Romuald who, a thousand years ago, spent much of him life criss-crossing Europe moving from solitude to preaching and back to solitude again.
The 2010 experience of balancing solitude and ministry has given Michael first hand experience of the challenges and obstacles men and women to-day experience when trying to live a vibrant and valid spirituality in the world.
Michael with the assistance of contemporary writing and teachers, especially Thomas Merton, continues to develop the notion of “the inner monk,” “the hermit in the world” and how to live a monastic rhythm in the world.
To this end Michael offers retreats on:
• Contemplative ways of being,
• Discovering the “Inner Monk’.
• Spirituality of Thomas Merton,
• Spirituality of Journey.
Michael continues to live in solitude as well as spending time at New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, his monastic community.
On the Portuguese Camino
In May 2012, Michael trekked across Portugal and Spain en route to the Santiago de Compostela. Click here to access photos documenting his travels or here to go to sketches of his journey made by a friend and fellow traveller, albeit in charcoal rather than steps.