I’ve always had a huge devotion to hermit saints. The desert fathers, St Mary of Egypt (who is one of my favourites!), Discalced Carmelites, St Charbel Maklouf, St Simon Stylite, etc. I totally get their asceticism and am very drawn to their example.
Don’t worry, I’m not about to go live on the top of a very tall pillar for the rest of my days.
But I am drawn to their mortification. For me, this mortification is only interior though. Like custody of the eyes, not allowing myself to refuse forgiveness, not allowing myself to dwell on unholy things, stuff like that. No bodily penances beyond the regular fasting that all Catholics are bound to do.
But I also have an intense admiration for Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati. Such an awesome person! For those who aren’t aware of him, he was an Italian born in 1901 into a veeerry wealthy family. His parents were atheists and he was expected to grow up and marry a rich girl and take over his father’s news paper business. While he was a teenager/young adult he would secretly use his allowance to buy food/medicine for the poor. He still went to parties with his friends and was known to be very fun, goofy, etc but he was also known to never drink more than one drink at a party whereas others were drinking too much. When he wanted to say grace before meals, instead of shaming his atheist parents he would pause before entering the dining room and say grace privately by himself, then go in and join his family for the meal. He would go on hiking/skiing trips with friends and would pay a priest to come along so he would never miss Mass, and if a priest couldn’t be found to come then he simply would not go on the trip. He would wake up reaaally early to go to daily Mass without his parents noticing, and when he would play games with his friends he would say that if they won he would give them money and if he won they would have to go to Adoration with him. He ended up catching polio from one of the impoverished persons he visited and died at the age of 24.
So Bl Pier Giorgio and the hermit saints are very different. In my mind, all these saints are so cool but I’m wondering which way of living is better. Or maybe thinking of one way as better is wrong, because what is best for a person is simply what God calls him to and so one way of living is not necessarily better than another in itself. I realize that God lead’s souls down different paths because we all have different backgrounds, gifts, capabilities, etc but the way Bl PG and the hermit saints were lead are so very different!