Sunday, March 15, 2015

Catholic Hermits: Some Considerations, Pt. 2 and Conclusion


  • There is no mention of the hermit having a "Superior" in either The Catechism of the Catholic Church or in Canon Law 603.  The latter does state that the hermit who publicly professes the three evangelical counsels into the hands of the diocesan bishop, is to live his or her proper program of living under the diocesan bishop's direction. Thus, the hermit's director is by [church] law to be his or her bishop.
  • The three evangelical counsels include the avowal of obedience.  It is presumed that all Catholic hermits would be obedient to their spiritual directors, their bishops, their religious order superiors (of hermits belonging to a religious community or order), the pope, Scripture, and God.  Traditionally and in prudence, one is not to indiscriminately obey--such as errant spiritual direction.
  • No reference is made either in the institutes of the Consecrated Life of the Church: The Eremitic Life, nor in canon law as to a hermit adopting the title of  "Sister" or "Brother."  A publicly professed hermit's bishop may approve such for his hermit.  The consecrated Catholic hermit may have been given that title if currently affiliated with a religious order.  If a person has been in a religious community that is no longer existing or has not been approved by the Holy See, it may be questionable to retain their usage.  
  • If a consecrated Catholic hermit who has publicly professed the evangelical counsels into the hands of the diocese bishop and is recognized by [church] law [per CL603] commits a crime such as slander, libel, sexual or other offense punishable by the criminal justice system or involves litigation, is the bishop and the diocese liable as well as the individual hermit?  It is unknown if there current cases being litigated. 
  • What action or resolution occurs in the case of a Catholic hermit who professes the evangelical counsels publicly into the hands of the diocesan bishop  and whose proper plan of life is directed by the diocesan bishop, does not fulfill the proper plan of life as directed by the bishop?  If the hermit does not remediate, is the consecrated hermit stripped of his or her consecration, and is this then made a matter of public record?
  • A consecrated Catholic hermit who professes the evangelical counsels and lives the eremitic life in accordance with the institutes of the Catholic Church (but not with the proviso of CL603) commits  a crime such as slander, libel, sexual or other offense punishable by the criminal justice system or involves litigation, he or she would be solely liable.
  • What action or resolution occurs in the case of a consecrated Catholic hermit who professes the evangelical counsels and lives the eremitic life in accordance with the institutes of the Catholic Church (but not with the proviso of CL603) does not fulfill the hermit life as set forth in the institutes?  Does the hermit's spiritual director, superior, or bishop intervene?  If the hermit does not remediate, is the hermit somehow stripped of his or her consecration since it was not publicly professed nor recognized by [church] law?
  • Perhaps, in the above mentioned situation, such cases are part of, if not the primary reason, for the addition and inclusion of CL603 into the canons of the Catholic Church in the 20th century.   Perhaps there was a concern for those consecrated Catholic hermits who may not have lived their eremitic life in a proper or conscientiously responsible manner (and who also may or may not be in an approved religious community or order) ?  It would conceivably be more difficult for bishops to monitor or reprove such hermits--either on their own, with spiritual director, or even in a religious community or order. 
  • While there have been past interpretation and initiation of various facets other than church law or the in the church's institutes as to what constitutes a proper plan of eremitic life, a bulk of the interpretation derived from a guidebook for hermits, written in the 1990's by a religious sister employed by a diocese in the United States.  Many of these suggestions came from rules and historical writings and traditions extant from the early desert abbas and ammas, as well as from hermits and anchorites of the Middle Ages.  These practices and traditions, as well as what was written in that particular diocese's guidebook are not mandated nor required by the universal Catholic Church.  [In fact, a phone conversation in 1999 with the vocations director of that diocese verified that the religious sister was no longer in their employ, and the diocese had withdrawn the guidebook indefinitely until further investigation into the content.  The diocese was no longer publishing nor taking responsibility for its contents.]
  • Married hermits:  Both parties need to agree to their marriage rights being dissolved and with the choice to enter consecrated life and to choose celibacy.  This may occur if they are older and the high calling and purpose of the married state of life is fulfilled so that the required Evangelical Counsels (poverty, obedience, celibacy) of the consecrated state of life could be met.  [St. Nicholas of Flue is an example of a married man who became a hermit.  Briefly:  His wife agreed to his call to hermit life, regardless the recent birth of their tenth child. Although some family and neighbors criticized the decision, he left the family home to live the eremitic life in a hut in the Swiss Alps.  He became prominent as a contemplative and also prophetically helpful to Switzerland and is now a patron saint of that country.]
  • Not all bishops agree to receive the vows of hermits, divorced with or without nullification of marriage.  Some bishops do not agree to receive vows of hermits for a variety of reasons.  At this time, Catholics professing vows and entering the consecrated life of the Church as hermits yet not by the CL603 proviso, are not restricted by bishop approval or disapproval; but also they are not recognized by church law as a diocese hermit.  Of course, it is a good idea for consecrated Catholic hermits under any form of valid profession, to communicate with his or her bishop as to his or her eremitic profession and life.]
  • Age of hermits:  Nothing is written the institutes of the Church or additionally in CL603, regarding the age in which a Catholic could profess the evangelical counsels and be consecrated in the eremitic life.  The traditional and historical precedents are that hermits ought to have lived long enough to have suffered much, advanced in prayer, and have enough life experience in to fully engage in and endure the rigors of solitary life as a consecrated Catholic eremitic. 
  • Rule of Life:  Again, adopting an individual rule of life is not stipulated per se in the institutes of the Catholic Church or CL603 per the consecrated eremitic life. However, history and tradition of eremites who successfully and heroically lived a holy hermit life, as well as prudence and wisdom, suggest that determining and being true to a rule of life is a positive inclusion.
  • Profession of  Hermit Vows:  This actually should be clarified as "Profess the Evangelical Counsels" (poverty, celibacy, obedience).  There is no mention in the church's institutes of Consecrated Life, sp. the Eremitic Life, of "vows" as distinctive of or from avowing to live the three evangelical counsels.  In CL603, there is the stipulation that the professing of the evangelical counsels is to be confirmed by vow or other sacred bond.  It is assumed that "vow" means by definition:  a promise, a solemn commitment, etc.  "Sacred bond" is not specified but probably extends from the vows and rites of the anchoritic traditions, rule of life, and avowal ceremony of the Middle Ages.  In such instances, the hermit or anchorite would take as a tangible sign of their professing the evangelical counsels and avowing--promising--to live the eremitic life, such items as a crucifix, a tunic, a Bible, and/or ring, for women a veil, or for men to have hair tonsured and for women to have hair shorn.
  • Future of Consecrated Catholic Hermits:  It remains to be seen in what ways the proviso of Canon Law 603, over time, will shape or shift the historical and traditional path of hermits in the Church.  CL603 contains a notable addition to the stipulations for consecrated Catholic hermits as stated in the institutes of the Church per the Consecrated Life: Eremitics.  CL603 states that the hermit is "recognized by [Church] law as one dedicated to God in consecrated life if he or she publicly professes in the hands of the diocesan bishop the three evangelical counsels, confirmed by vow or other sacred bond and observes a proper program of living under his direction."  It would seem, a hermit who is recognized by church law, ipso facto bears a certain status, or legal credibility, that the traditional and historical hermits do not bear.  In today's Church, this is no small matter, and it seems that bishops and future hermits will desire this proviso.  In time, it may become the norm for consecrated Catholic hermit profession.  Would, then, the historical and traditional hermits, or those who do not profess the evangelical counsels per the added stipulations of CL603, need to be "grandfathered in"--as in some provision proclaimed by the Church hierarchy in order to not to jeopardize or negate their avowed professions and lived eremitic lives--as hermits in the Consecrated Life of the Church?  Such considerations will be dealt with, no doubt, as time passes, precedents set (as they tend to be set no matter if advised), and possible new church laws or additions to existing laws, are set (as laws, also, tend to be set in increasing numbers, in the secular world as well as the Church).
Note:  In these blog posts that attempt to clarify the truth and facts of what is officially church-documented and/or law of the contemporary, consecrated Catholic hermit profession and life, this consecrated Catholic hermit has slipped at times in referring to the professing of the evangelical counsels as professing "vows" as if the vows include other promises.  

Per CL603, as is specifically stated, as well as in the institutes of the Church per stated, the avowal refers to the three evangelical counsels. However, the stipulations of the consecrated eremitic state of life in the Catholic Church as well as the additional stipulations of CL603, do not include detailed specifics or definitions, thus the tendency for what can become interpretations, inventions, inclusions, variations, and eventually precedents.  

Precedents set may over time be welcome and positive; or they may negatively impact or alter the basic truths and facts of the eremitic consecrated life. Thus it seems critically important to know the truth and facts of whatever Church documents, but particularly, for hermits, the state of Consecrated Life in the Catholic Church.

    Now to attempt a summation of this and the previous five blog posts.  For those discerning a call to the eremitic life in the Catholic Church or who have already professed the evangelical counsels as a consecrated Catholic hermit and are striving to live the life as Church documents stipulate--what seems advisable is to prayerfully and carefully read and ponder each stipulation, path, and provision.  If already a consecrated Catholic hermit, renew in the heart the professions no matter the form of avowed profession.  

    Be clear on the three evangelical counsels and the specific stipulations in The Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Consecrated Life: The Eremitic Life.  If one has been approved by the diocesan bishop to take the Canon Law 603 option, be clear on the additional stipulations.

    Reflect upon one's progress and short-comings in living out the life of stricter separation from the world, in the praise, prayer, and penance of the hermit vocation.  Learn by reading the writings and lives of Catholic hermits from early centuries onward.  Follow a daily horarium [term meaning "the hours" used nearly exclusively by the Catholic Church for the daily schedule of those in the consecrated life] that is filled with lectio divina (Divine reading) and prayer. Be obedient to one's spiritual director, regardless of his or her position and title.  

    Above all, love, support, and respect other consecrated hermits who strive daily to fulfill their profession of the evangelical counsels and eremitic plan of life, for the hermit life is considered as one of the most challenging of the states of consecrated life in the Catholic Church.  

    Remain faithful to Christ and His Church in all matters, as well as to one's consecrated profession. Take seriously the eremitic vocation and what it entails.  To be a consecrated Catholic hermit, whether by private or public profession, is a serious matter, a challenging spiritual path, a humble life, but also a great honor.

    God bless His Real Presence in us!  Little children, let us love one another, for God Is Love!  Remain in His Love!  




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