In a previous post I wrote about hermits offering spiritual counsel or direction to those who inquire and request. Another point has come to mind.
Not all hermits do much spiritual directing, definitely not in the aspect of clients or regulars. One reason for this is the hidden life a hermit lives of prayer and of praise of God, as well as in the silence of solitude. It seems that there would not be any lengthy or on-going relationship of much spiritual counsel with specific outline.
However, there would more be spiritual correspondence in which questions could be addressed, or suggestions and encouragements provided.
I have found that those who contact me who do not know me personally but only in a spiritual sense or having read my blog posts, actually provide the best circumstances. I also do not know them, and the reliance upon the Holy Spirit is quite strong in these cases. I have found the expedience and success to be far better than when people who know me correspond or desire assistance with temporal or spiritual issues.
Especially for women, I think referring them ultimately to a priest is wise if the situations are such that they might not tend to follow through on what a hermit might discern. Just from experience, I have found that women are more inclined to take the guidance of a priest. I'm not sure it is a gender consideration, but it seems to be in my experience, thus far.
Women may verbalize more and turn to a hermit, for example, for various needs and issues in daily life, wanting feedback, suggestions, ideas, and even understanding, solace, and encouragement. But this can take quite a bit of time, back and forth, and often enough in the end analysis, it seems that women end up not trusting the advice and needing to go to a priest, regardless.
At times in such circumstances, I've had women correspond later that they were amazed that the priest had said the same as I had counseled, and yet they simply did not have the trust in the hermit's counsel enough to follow through. Sometimes it is as well to simply send a person asking for counsel, to a priest to begin with.
I have not had so much this experience with men who have wanted to discuss spiritual matters or seek counsel. They tend to accept and implement if the counsel resonates with them, and do not so much hedge their bets, so to speak.
As for the hermit, the only problem with spending a lot of time corresponding and counseling others is that one's daily life can become distracted, hours consumed, and not efficiently so if the person wanting consultation ends up either not progressing or else perhaps does not accept the counsel.
As a professed hermit in the consecrated life of the Church, there is a responsibility to pray for souls, to be hospitable to those who have needs that one can address, and to answer questions and guide from a center of prayerful reflection, spiritual base, wise discretion, and lived experience. But if dealing with an issue that is not resolved in due course, best to send the person on to someone who might be perceived more as an authority figure such as a priest with hope that the person will heed what another might suggest or give in guidance.
If the person desiring counsel and spiritual guidance is receptive and makes progress, and the time spent for each person is efficient and effective, simple and timely, then of course, offer spiritual insights and encouragement, building one another up in Christ.
The Lord has given me this worthwhile reminder.
In other words, always keep in mind that a hermit's vocation is not that of spiritual director. A hermit's vocation is that of prayer, praise of God, silence, solitude, and remaining a hidden source of love and support for souls--the Body of Christ and of the temporal and mystical Church.