May is the month of Mary, Mother of God. In this country (USA), Mother's Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. In June, Father's Day is celebrated on the third Sunday. In the history of the Church, the hermit vocation is one in which many hermits had been married and were parents to children. So it is that this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit has been considering how it was and is to be a parent and yet a hermit in the Consecrated Life of the Church.
Historically, in some cases, the Catholic hermits of yore who were also spouses and parents, professed the hermit vows after receiving permission from their spouses and children, and with approval of their priest or other such spiritual advisor. In most incidents of hermits who also were married and had children, life situations played out first, prior to their answering God's call to the hermit life.
In this very first week of May, we find hermits on the saint calendar whose spouses had died and their children old enough to either enter monasteries themselves, or were otherwise on their own by then, so that the parent professed the hermit vows and entered into the hermit life.
One woman had eight children, was widowed, and each child was of age to enter monasteries which at that time often took in children to rear in the absence of parents (and also took them much younger than now, to educate them or as potentially remaining in their orders, when the children expressed desire to be a religious brother or sister). The patron saint of Switzerland received permission from his wife and his yet-at-home children, to live in a hermit hut in the Alps and fulfill a call he received to the hermit life.
Yet we do not have many specific details of how the parents-to-be-hermits or the younger or adult children of hermit-parents, lived out this shift in parental vocation. So this nothing Catholic hermit of today, has been pondering what it may have been for the adolescent and mostly adult children of the hermits of yore who were widowed, abandoned by an errant spouse, or whose children had grown to an age of leaving the nest to live out their adult lives.
Perhaps due to lesser modes of communication and also difficulty in traveling, the hermits of yore may not have faced the dilemma of hermits today who have been spouses and parents previous to the call by God to the hermit vocation.
From personal experience, having been a spouse to a spouse who no longer wished to remain married and left, as well as a parent to three children, the call to the hermit life came in gradual stages and with other terms used. The word "hermit" was not introduced until a few years beyond conversion to Catholicism and as the youngest child was readying to leave home for college.
Frankly, being a single parent of adult children, two married and one nearly so, and two with children themselves, is awkward. Part of the awkwardness is having a chronic disability [pain] and part is being single and part is being a consecrated hermit in the Catholic Church when none of the children are practicing Catholics, and two do not claim Christ. If there were an earthly spouse, there might be stronger boundaries as to expected temporal roles and interactions. There might be a greater or more acceptable sense of the single parent having a "life" of his or her "own."
As it is now, the prayer time, spiritual reading, writing, book discussion, and spiritual correspondence are virtually unknown or at least unrecognized by the adult children. Thus, it may be thought that the single parent [this hermit!] does not have its own life and thus is kind of out there, as a dangling responsibility or frustration or problem to be looked after and resolved. One of the three has accepted the task of keeping in contact and interacting.
However, the entire aspect of the spiritual life as a consecrated hermit does not seem to resonate, or is not understood, perhaps, by the adult child and her family. This is possibly due to their not being Catholics and partly because when the hermit does interact with them, it is as a single parent and grandparent--a person in physical pain and rather limited in active ways--and not as consecrated Catholic hermit. The hermit has only recently admitted to the adult child that its main offering and gift to share with others are the spiritual and helping with gardening or other simple, manual labor pursuits.
Perhaps a habit worn or some sort of public recognition might remind that this hermit does have a life of its own, a life of spiritual value with its own rule and way of being? But this hermit is not called to justify or make credible its hermit vocation through externals. This hermit is called to live its vocation in the silence of solitude, in praise and prayer and penance, in stricter separation from the world and hidden from the eyes of men. Yet charity is pivotal in the Gospel Rule of Life--the perfect rule.
Regardless, being a single parent of adult children, especially when the other spouse is physically active, financially well-off, and remarried as are both the divorced parents of the adult child's spouse, makes this phase of parent-child relationships awkward for this consecrated hermit who is also a single parent of adult children. His Real Presence has figured it out according to His perfect will. This hermit has not and maybe ought not--just trust His Real Presence and go with God's flow.
When reading a section in the fourth homily of Pseudo-Macarius, the content struck a soul-chord. The elderly friend with whom this hermit is across-the-miles reading the book and e-discussing it, concurred that it did fit well the hermit's unfolding and altering relationship and love of adult children and other family members, the more the hermit steeps in its vocation and is brought to full flavor by His Real Presence, over the present moment spiritual passages of temporal time and experiences.
Whether or not other consecrated Catholic hermits (publicly or privately professed) who are single parents of adult children (and toss in the factor of the children not being Catholics) experience the awkwardness of parent-family expectations of adult children and (hermit) parent, the thoughts of Pseudo-Macarius help this hermit understand better the progression in both "roles". (Perhaps a hermit priest might also grasp the situation, with previous parishioners not quite understanding the shifted role and life of the priest-called-to-and-living the hermit life.)
"Just as iron or lead or gold or silver, if thrown into fire, will melt and be transformed from its natural hardness to a soft substance, and as long as it remains in the fire becomes all the more a molten liquid, losing its natural hardness because of the powerful heat of the fire, the same is true for the soul that has turned away from the world in its desire for the Lord alone. It awaits god, unflagging in hope and faith. It has then truly freed from all attachment to the world....It considers all other things superfluous compared to the heavenly Bridegroom alone. It rests in his fervent and ineffable love.
"I tell you that even those brothers, loved in God, whom the soul thinks so highly of, if they are a source of leading it away from that love for God, it, I would say, would reject such. For that is its life and rest, namely, the mystical and ineffable participation of the heavenly kingdom. For if an earthly, loving participation of spouses can separate the pair from their fathers, brothers, mothers, and all other things become for them rather extrinsic in their way because of their deep conjugal love for each other--for it is said: 'For this reason, let a man leave his father and mother and adhere to his wife and they will be two in one flesh' (Gn 2:24)--if, therefore, I say, earthly love can detach one from all other loves, how much more in the case of those who have been made worthy to enter into a true fellowship with that holy Spirit, the heavenly and loving Spirit? They shall be freed from all worldly love. All other things will seem indifferent to them since they have been conquered by a heavenly yearning and have become totally one in that surrendered state."
Pseudo-Macarious continues the Scriptural and holy insights, but we get the flow.
It seems that the situation at hand for this consecrated Catholic hermit who has adult children and some grandchildren, and various relatives not Catholic and not viewing the hermit as a hermit and part of the Consecrated Life of the Catholic Church but rather from their perspective as a parent, sibling, relative, friend--the best avenue remains this awkward one.
In charity, this hermit must continue to strive to remove awkwardness from the relationships and simply be what the others perceive, yet at the same time, interiorly be very much living the rule of life, the Gospel Rule, and do so with the platform of the Nine S'* as modality of that rule. The hermit vocation at this phase is the vocation; the parental-sibling-cousin-relative-friend role is superseded other than in the others' perceptions and needs.
Then, in the vast majority of time and place, the hermit pursues that true fellowship with the Holy Spirit, freed of all worldly love. The hermit enters into the consuming fire of God-Is-Love. And, admittedly, some of the awkwardness has resided with the hermit in not grasping God's game plan for this phase of life as a consecrated Catholic hermit, a nothing to all but God's All, though it be. The hermit has waffled at times in thinking it should enter more into the familial world, or should have specific family love and attachments.
But no, this is not at all to be. To love, yes, but in God Is Love--no longer as active, involved, responsible parent-love. God rights the situation according to His Word. The adult children are to cleave unto each other and live their married vocations. If the hermit had a son who was called into Holy Orders, would it not expect that son to live his priestly vocation?
This consecrated Catholic hermit is, also, to live its vocation in the Order of the Present Moment, which for the past 14 years has been as consecrated Catholic hermit. The parent role remains in charity of charity, on an as-requested- and as-needed-by-adult-children basis. And that is not often, if truth be told. God rights all matters according to His Word and Will in the Order of the Present Moment.
God bless His Real Presence in us! Little children, let us love one another for Love is of God! Remain in His Love, and all will be as He wills.
*Nine S': Silence, Solitude, Slowness, Suffering, Selflessness, Simplicity, Stillness, Stability, Serenity