Friday, March 13, 2015

Catholic Hermits: Some Considerations


The previous four blog posts have cited current Catholic Church documentation of and for the procedures and requirements regarding the consecrated state of Catholic hermits/eremites.  Stipulations on professing the three evangelical counsels as well as what the Church requires in the daily life of consecrated eremites are clearly set forth.

Consecrated Catholic hermits or those who are discerning a call to consecrated eremitic life in the Catholic Church should take time periodically to read what is actually written by the Church relative to the consecrated eremitic life.  

The result can be renewed fervor and encouragement for hermits who have professed the evangelical counsels and strive to live the eremitic life as specified in The Catechism of the Catholic Church (920-921 in particular), and also if have professed according to the additional stipulations of CL603.  

Read carefully, thoughtfully, using critical thinking skills. Take time to ponder what each states, specifically and accurately.  

There ought be no motive or intent other than seeking and finding truth in making clear for ourselves the now two options and pathways by which a Catholic may credibly and legitimately profess vows as a Catholic hermit.  The outcome must be to assist us in discerning, and if God's will, to actually live  the eremitic life responsibly, sincerely, truthfully, and lovingly, as part of the Consecrated Life of the Church.

However, in any aspect of life, and perhaps especially so in the hermit vocation with its often-times enigmatic tradition and history, there are conceptions and misconceptions of what is a hermit and what constitutes the hermit vocation. Most people, even Catholics, do not generally think about the hermit vocation, perhaps because relatively few are called to this state of consecrated life.  Those who are aware of the eremitic vocation, often have varied perceptions and conceptions about hermits historically, traditionally, and currently.

What is a Catholic hermit?  Who are they?  How do they live their lives?  What must one "do" to become a Catholic hermit? What is the process, what vows, what requirements? What is an acceptable plan of hermit life, as specified and by the Catholic Church?  

The answers to these questions can be found, as mentioned above, by reading the pertinent documents of the Church, specifically on the institutes of the Church regarding the Eremitic [hermit] life as found in The Catechism of the Catholic Church and also in the canons [church laws], specifically CL603. 

Yet even so, as in all aspects of life in which something is not the norm and wafts an air of mystery, there arise varying interpretations, conceptions, inventions, and theories which then may or may not begin to set precedents rather than keeping to the actual truth and foundations.  In such matters, there is truth as well as intent.  

Tradition and lived history also play a role in developing and ascertaining what is accuracy and truth, such as in this topic:  the Catholic eremitic, or hermit, life.  Precedents may be set, over time.  They may or may not be in keeping with the truth specified in Church documents, or also may not accurately reflect Church tradition.

The following offer a few examples of some interpretations, inventions, and opinions that beset the statistically few (and generally misunderstood) hermits who comprise the Catholic Church's eremitic state of Consecrated Life.  Hopefully and prayerfully, may the following observations, thoughts, and facts help dispel some confusions, clarify some truth, and stimulate the reader's own considerations of this marvelous life of the consecrated Catholic hermit. Enjoy what is offered for your consideration:  Quidditas!

  • "Lay hermit":  There is no such term or category as "lay hermit" in Church Law, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Church Tradition, or Church History.  Hermits [eremitics] are specified under the category of "The Consecrated Life," specifically 920-921, in The Catechism of the Catholic Church.  In the 20th century, they are also specified in Canon Law 603.  (The hermit vocation, by virtue of the required inclusion and profession of the three Evangelical Counsels [celibacy, poverty, obedience] and by specified program of life, preclude a hermit from being a lay person.  A Catholic with single or married vocation should not make avow to celibacy and poverty. A family living in society has additional, viable, material needs that a hermit, consecrated virgin or widow, and religious brother and sister, do not.
  • "Stability" (remaining in one locale):  This is not required but may be what the hermit's earthly superior requests of the hermit.  Some religious orders, whose members live as hermits, include "stability" in their professed three evangelical counsels.
  • "Dedication":  There is no such term used to describe a Catholic hermit's profession of the three evangelical counsels [poverty, celibacy, obedience] and one who lives in accordance with the stipulations per Consecrated Life of the Church:  The Eremitic Life, in The Catechism of the Catholic Church.  [The term "dedication" is often used currently by Protestant Evangelicals and those of other denominations who do not practice infant Baptism; such as:  make a "dedication" of their children to God or to live a godly life.]
  • Both current forms of profession of the evangelical counsels by Catholic hermits are valid, licit, and credible. The hermit may publicly professes the three evangelical counsels into the hands of the hermit's diocesan bishop and per CL603.  Or the hermit may profess the three evangelical counsels according to the precepts stipulated for all Catholic hermits in The Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Consecrated Life of the Church, Eremitic Life, 920-921.  [A key divergence between the two types of Catholic hermit profession of the three evangelical counsels resides in the one being recognized by canon law and professed publicly into the hands of the hermit's diocesan bishop, and ipso facto public church record.] Regardless format of hermit profession, the specifications in the institutes of the Church per hermit life are to be lived daily.  Neither type of profession is better than the other in legitimacy, validity, or credibility, nor should hermits who profess by way of one or the other consider themselves entitled to esteem or certain rights.
  • Being a Catholic hermit who professes vows via the 1983 CL603 format is not to be confused with being effectively part of the Hierarchy, nor with privileges to write or speak "in the name of the Church." This right is reserved to acting Bishops relative to their office and diocese, and for the universal Church, to the Holy Father.
  • There is no specific rite established by the Church (such as a Mass) for the diocesan bishop to receive a hermit's profession.  The hermit may use a format similar to what a religious institution uses for a profession of vows.
  • Any Catholic hermit, regardless of the format in which the counsels are professed, write and speak merely as a Catholic consecrated eremitic.  The hermit's words carry no Church authority nor represent anything other than their thoughts and opinions as sincere, truthful Christians who happen to be by their professions living in accordance with the institutes of the Consecrated Life of Church, as eremitics--with or without the additional stipulations set forth by CL603.  They are at their pinnacles:  just simple, humble, striving, consecrated Catholic hermits.
  • Whatever guidelines or practices enacted by Catholic hermits (regardless their mode of profession) or by a priest, religious order superior, or even a bishop, ought be for use privately by the hermit, or for the hermit as requested by a priest (presumably acting as the hermit's spiritual director), the hermit's religious superior, or the hermit's bishop and in that bishop's diocese.  In other words, to date there have been no changes relating to the state of consecrated life for eremitics--not in The Catechism of the Catholic Church nor in Canon Law, not by pontifical decree nor by collective agreement among the universal Church's bishops.

(To be continued....)

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