Saturday, September 5, 2015

Catholic Hermit's View: Where Hermits Reside

Of a few recent inquiries, one reader wants to know more about where hermits live.  This seems timely to this your Catholic Hermit blogger--especially since someone sent an article about a couple of hermits in a diocese who professed vows and are living together.  Where a hermit resides has a few options and facets; how a hermit lives is yet another topic of perhaps greater magnitude.

A consecrated Catholic hermit, privately professed, is free to live anywhere in this grand and beautiful world God has created. A consecrated hermit can live in/on a woods, valley, city, village, mountain, river, ocean, beach, desert, plains, and so forth.  The dwelling itself can be a hut, tent, cave, trailer, garage, apartment/flat, condominium, townhouse, house, etc.  

A consecrated Catholic hermit, publicly professed, can live within its diocese and in whatever type of dwelling situation (examples given in previous paragraph) its diocesan bishop approves for said hermit.

So this is where consecrated Catholic hermits live or may reside, dependent upon if they are privately professed or publicly professed.  In case the reader inquiring as to where a hermit lives, also is asking how a hermit is to live, such as under what circumstances or within what parameters, here are further thoughts.  After all, how a hermit lives is a principled structure for a hermit's spiritual life.

An explicit detail in the Church's issuance on the eremitic vocation, as part of Consecrated Life of the Church (and in the US, the Bishop's Conference's adoption of same as quoted from The Catechism of the Catholic Church; see USCCB website) sets some parameters.   Particular to where or how a hermit lives, the section for eremitic life states, in part "a stricter separation from the world in the silence of solitude...."

Thus, when this consecrated Catholic hermit (privately professed now over 14 years which is not long in the full spectrum of life but well enough along to be into the nitty gritty of the vocation) heard of a the two older women (initial vows publicly professed) who are living together, as well as that of a very young woman living in her childhood home with her mother and father, it seemed to miss the point of that very basic parameter: solitude.

There are other considerations, of course.  One might ask, "What about the religious orders of hermits, such as the Carthusians or the Camaldolese?  The fact is, according to the Church institutes, these are religious orders foremost, and their charism, mission, lifestyle is that as hermits.  The distinction is that they are firstly religious brothers and sisters within the Consecrated Life of the Church.  Hermits are individual eremites with their vocation as such, within the Consecrated Life of the Church.  Can we see the nuanced but defined difference?

So, religious monks who are in a religious order of which the mission and charism is eremitic in nature, would live together or in proximity yet their monastery and cells would provide for the solitude implicit in the Church parameters on eremitic life, but also for them, defined within those set forth re. religious orders.

Hermits who are privately or publicly professed and living in accordance with the institutes of the Church pertaining to Consecrated Life, under the sub-section Eremitic Life, would live alone, in solitude.  To live with ones parents or with one another in a typical house would rather, it seems to this hermit, confuse the point of solitude.  Yes, one could stay within ones bedroom, but a house shared with others is not arranged to provide for the privacy of solitude such as one finds in a Carthusian Charterhouse.

However, this is yet one example again, of how bishops vary in attitude and norm for those they canonically approve or receive what they might call "first vows" (first or second or third or final vows are not actually required nor documented in the Church institutes on eremitic life).  What to one bishop seems to mean "solitude" is, in fact, to another bishop "not solitude".

It seems to this hermit and its spiritual directors past and present (including priest of 68 years in priesthood, a bishop, a monsignor of advanced years, and a religious order priest), solitude for a consecrated Catholic hermit means to live alone.  And, additionally, they have insisted that a privately or publicly professed hermit ought to have some life experience with relationships and suffering, be more advanced in years, and be well along in spiritual and prayer life.

The simple part of the inquiry of a blog reader is that of where hermits reside.  The more challenging aspect is not just how hermits live within their residence (solitude seems fairly obvious as meaning alone) but how hermits live out their vows and what is explicitly written in the institutes of the Catholic Church to be professed as a consecrated Catholic hermit.

The following is that most crucial piece of writing which should guide, form, and define each and every consecrated Catholic hermit, as cited in the pertinent Church document on the subject, as well as what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has adopted, also, for hermits/eremites avowed and professed in the Consecrated Life of the Church.  (Perhaps, if a hermit finds its bishop or spiritual director strays from any aspect of what is accepted and adopted as to how a consecrated Catholic hermit ought live, it may be prudent to seek another superior/director who is in line with the Church's Institutes on eremitic life.)

914 "The state of life which is constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels, while not entering into the hierarchical structure of the Church, belongs undeniably to her life and holiness."453
Evangelical counsels, consecrated life
915 Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple. The perfection of charity, to which all the faithful are called, entails for those who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation of practicing chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty and obedience. It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God.454
916 The state of consecrated life is thus one way of experiencing a "more intimate" consecration, rooted in Baptism and dedicated totally to God.455 In the consecrated life, Christ's faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come.456
One great tree, with many branches
917 "From the God-given seed of the counsels a wonderful and wide-spreading tree has grown up in the field of the Lord, branching out into various forms of the religious life lived in solitude or in community. Different religious families have come into existence in which spiritual resources are multiplied for the progress in holiness of their members and for the good of the entire Body of Christ."457
918 From the very beginning of the Church there were men and women who set out to follow Christ with greater liberty, and to imitate him more closely, by practicing the evangelical counsels. They led lives dedicated to God, each in his own way. Many of them, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, became hermits or founded religious families. These the Church, by virtue of her authority, gladly accepted and approved.458
919 Bishops will always strive to discern new gifts of consecrated life granted to the Church by the Holy Spirit; the approval of new forms of consecrated life is reserved to the Apostolic See.459
The eremitic life
920 Without always professing the three evangelical counsels publicly, hermits "devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance."460
921 They manifest to everyone the interior aspect of the mystery of the Church, that is, personal intimacy with Christ. Hidden from the eyes of men, the life of the hermit is a silent preaching of the Lord, to whom he has surrendered his life simply because he is everything to him. Here is a particular call to find in the desert, in the thick of spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified One.

[Note: Bold emphasis added for the specific paragraphs pertinent to hermits:  "The eremitic life."]

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