Michael Fish, OSB CAM.
Michael came to the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California in 1997, transferring from the Redemptorists in his native South Africa. Not long after his arrival, he 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 United States. Membership of oblates connected with most American monasteries increased dramatically, including at the Hermitage. Numbers at the Hermitage grew quickly, from a small local group, to over 600 men and women the world over, who chose to live by a modified Camaldolese rule.
It was while ministering to the oblates that Michael was motivated to make monasticism and Christian spirituality more available to men and women living and working in the world. He began searching for a new language to explain ancient truths and mysteries, making them more accessible to modern seekers.
After six 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. This time became an incubation period during which Michael experienced a renewed awakening of the desire to work with lay people who were searching for a relevant spirituality.
In 2009 Michael asked for, and was granted, permission to give retreats at various centers around the country, and to have extra time for solitude and reflection. This combination of ministry and solitude worked so well for Michael that he requested a year's leave, living in solitude while offering spiritual direction and retreats.
Michael began his year of spiritual exploration in 2010, by walking the 800-kilometer pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostello in Spain. This experience turned out to be foundational for Michael, consolidating in him something of the call and charism of St. Romuald, the founder of the Camaldolese Order. St. Romuald, who lived a thousand years before, spent much of his life crisscrossing Europe, transitioning from solitude to preaching and back to solitude again.
The 2010 experiment of balancing solitude and ministry gave Michael first-hand appreciation for the challenges and obstacles men and women encounter today when striving to live a vibrant and valid spirituality in the world.
Michael’s themed retreats are unique, engaging inspirational experiences. He has a gift for intuiting the complexities and distractions that impinge on attendees’ abilities to call on their own spirituality for comfort and contemplation. Michael has an engaging way of connecting with his audience, freely displaying his own vulnerabilities and foibles. It is his humanness that breaks down the barrier between presenter and audience that plague many modern retreats. Michael blends amusing personal anecdotes with contemporary writings and teachings, enabling attendees to find new, imaginative ways to reach the Divine within. Through his innovative teaching he continues to develop the notion of “the inner monk,” “the hermit in the world,” and how to live a monastic rhythm in the world.
On a personal level, Michael continues to explore solitude and itinerancy as expressions of Camaldolese life and mission. Though living alone, he remains involved with his monastic community, the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur.