I've explained and commented on this previously, but a reader has inquired about a term seen online: "lay hermit". While the purpose and function of what I write and share is not to be a "Dear Hermit" column, I do want to clarify if someone has a genuine question.
The term "lay hermit" is one that has been created or fabricated by someone online, since that is where the person has seen it written. There is no such category as "lay hermit," nor does there need to be. Why? Hermits are to be simple, for one thing, and adding terms and conditions and categories leads in the wrong direction.
Rest assured that in the Institutes of the Catholic Church as well as in Canon Law, and in any books written of the hermit life by hermits or about hermits of the past many centuries to present, there is no such valid or utilized term as a "lay hermit".
Hermits are hermits. Catholic hermits have always been Catholic hermits. In recent years, in addition to the traditional and historical vocation know as hermit or eremitic vocation, the Church has kept what few guidelines and parameters for this vocation quite simple. We can trust that Holy Church knows what is best in this case.
In the past three decades, bishops of dioceses have created a delineation of an additional type of "profession" other than the norm which is private profession of vows for a hermit. Now there is also an option to be more involved at a diocesan level and seek formal approval and have direct supervision by a diocesan bishop. This category of hermit is one who makes public profession of vows, with daily plan of life approved and overseen by the hermit's bishop. Some bishops have added some additional requirements per his own diocese, and others have adopted some of them.
Any Catholic hermit who has professed the three evangelical counsels either privately or publicly and is living his or her hermit life according to the institutes of the Catholic Church as precisely and simply stated in The Catechism of the Catholic Church is living the eremitic vocation (hermit) within the Consecrated Life of the Church.
It's as simple as that, as far as terminology goes. You may look up "Eremitic Vocation" in the index of The Catechism and read the two passages pertaining to hermit vocational requirements. If you want to publicly profess your vows, you may read Canon Law 603 and contact your diocesan vocations department and/or your diocesan bishop for further information on being a publicly professed hermit. Otherwise, you may live your hermit vocation as a privately professed hermit.
There is no such thing as a "lay hermit"--not that it matters. We hermits need to be seeking harmony with His Real Presence and with the Body of Christ of which we Christians all belong and not be concerned with creating new terms, labels, classifications, and ad hoc requirements. Involving oneself with such activities, creative and perhaps well-intentioned, can take a hermit way off course from a life of prayer, praise of God, penance, stricter separation from the world in the silence of solitude while remaining hidden from the eyes of men.
There is no need for more classifications or distinctions in the hermit vocation other than now the two: privately professed and publicly professed. To do so counters simplicity as well as the Catholic Church's precisely and brilliantly written institutes on the various vocations within the Consecrated Life of the Church. One can question anyone who invents a hermit label. Why? Is it to try to diminish or elevate Catholic hermits one over another? Jesus Christ warns against lording it over others; be wary of anyone trying to create unnecessary, nonsensical, false labels.
Obviously, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has seen no need to create additional labels for the eremitic vocation. If at some point in future, the Vatican or the bishops of the world find it necessary to create other labels and to dissect into further categories the hermit vocation, they will vote on it; and if agreed upon will add it as Canon Law and/or rewrite the pertinent section of the Institutes of the Church. Then we will hear about it and read about it from and in published Church documents. Ten different categories or labels--or even one hundred--will not alter the substance and quality of living the hermit vocation in a way pleasing to His Real Presence.
Hope this more than answers your question!
God bless His Real Presence in us!