The reality of what hermits live out might seem surprising to many.
I recall in the second year of my hermit vocation (vows over 16 years ago), I was for short time in an upstart Catholic hermit community that followed the Carthusian template. So when it came time for my habit as a novice, the reality of no longer being "hidden from the eyes of men" caused many people to easily let their notions of what a Catholic hermit ought and not ought be, to rule their thoughts and tongues.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit let me see the pitfalls rather soon that the woman who attempted the community of hermits with the approval of her vicar general was not prepared to do so with success. I knew for other factors as well, that the experience needed to quickly end. The foundress of the community was irate, which put a period to my suspicions; and within a couple years her diocese put an end to it anyway.
It was most painful for me to accept that I must leave, that God was not blessing my furtherance in what was a tremendous idea had it a more prepared and obedient founder. Yet, all ended up for the better, and I learned much. For one thing, being "hidden from the eyes of men" is crucial at least in anonymity than to be noticed as a consecrated Catholic hermit. That is, for me God had and has it so. For now, of course and the past 15 years.
What I learned in the year of being in the hermit community was excellent in so many ways, however. I am most grateful to the woman as well as to the persecution, criticism, wagging tongues and opinions of people in my parish and town at the time. In a way, the trials were indispensable for what I learned and the humbling given me by it all.
Well, yesterday my adult son made contact. I'd had to inform him the day before via email of my financial demise from various Lenten-laced, unexpected bills, fees, charges and notice of my income being dropped without my really ever knowing if being done so legitimately. So much in life we just have to take what we are told when it comes to large entities of which we are on the dole, so to speak. Property tax configurations, IRS demands, disability or retirement pension amounts, Medicare coverage of portions of medical costs and copay insurance determinations of how much they will pay.
Catholic hermits, being on our own financially and not at all subsidized by a diocese or Catholic otherwise, have the same temporal financial concerns as anyone else. And, it can be a bit tougher if like lay persons who cannot have a paying job due to illness or other disability, and also when age is a factor. And if the hermit is trying to live out the requirement of our vows to live "hidden from the eyes of men," most even in our parish would know a hermit is among them. Otherwise, as in the other categories of consecrated religious life, people might be tempted to do favors or want to assist financially in some way.
Best not, I think, at least for this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit. Somehow it would go against what I learned of the other way, of being noticed in a habit and the risk of more pride than what any human is at risk of increasing temptations. Plus, strangers even would come to me to pour out even their sins, assuming that I was holy and wise beyond them.
Outer appearances and the "uniform" such as a religious habit can not only cause others to scrutinize and pass judgment in false notions and unjust manner--outer appearances can also tempt people to assume far more positive attributes and expectations. Consider doctors who may or may not be excellent in their diagnoses and treatments, or priests who could be as Jesus warns, wolves in sheep's clothing. That warning applies to any of us, and especially when our outer appearances signal a position laden with authority or specific skill.
Anyway, my son decided to bail me out of my financial conundrum for he is on the mortgage and does not want me to have to sell the place "as is". He knows well, as do I and anyone, that an unfinished dwelling requires a cash buyer or one willing to apply for a rehab mortgage at higher interest and higher down payment. And, I'm so close to the end of this trial and ordeal in renovation despite research and trusting another Catholic, a realtor, and who she had as inspector and recommended in first contractor.
Who'd have known the place would need to be gutted? I chose that path rather than to off-the-bat lose a large chunk of my late parents' hard-earned money. Instead, if not finished, I would lose even more; and as my son pointed out would be even a greater responsibility to him.
Well, I doubt that as I have from this experience learned marvelous soul lessons; and I am quite fine to rent a room and live off the low and seemingly arbitrarily lessening pension. And I've learned this Lent by the grace of God to not allow myself discouragement and to react and respond to all with love. This is worth any temporal gain, of course.
Yet, my son to his honor and credit did not like to think of me reduced to a rented room. Granted, although he'd not consider this aspect, I'd lose the degree of solitude as walls can be thin, of course, and even if in a public shelter as so many who are homeless must find or else live in the streets like so many others--there is not much silence of solitude externally.
It would be quite the experience, though, and soul lesson to learn truly to develop (again, by the grace of God as Scripture reminds that "because of God we bear fruit") an inner silence of solitude. That would be very difficult to learn, I'd think, but in God all things are possible, of course.
Anyway, as I mentioned I'd never want to tell my son this thought of why I realized I'd hoped God would not let me fail here. It has nothing to do with losing my late parents' gift and hope for me to have a more comfortable life than the bulk of it after the accident over three decades ago and my constant physical suffering. It has to do with the challenge of seeing something through that has been so difficult in various hardships and soul lessons, and to make something lovely for someone else out of what was deplorable and wretched even in the, perhaps we can suggest, unrevealed aspects of the property.
None of the temporal really matters, in that if the Lord should decide to fell me physically beyond this month of incapacitating sinus and lung infection, I'd have to bail out as well unless someone could be reliably hired for a fair price to finish. From experience (and my adult daughter has seen the lay of the situation here), when workers are paid $1200 to paint a 12x14' room, my son's loan would not go far.
This is rather rambling in thoughts, but this morning I realize how great the challenge remains ahead, and there are no assurances of success in the endeavors, the external results. But the Lord put a fish in the net I cast yesterday, and it is rather a marvel that my son is helping me for my life and messes are truly frustrating to others, even though most recognize that I have an uncanny amount of situations that few could have sidestepped, either.
My intentions are always sincere, prayerful, and good-hearted. But I'm convinced all the more that especially in Lent, God utilizes this liturgical season of our mortal years to bring to us lesson opportunities in which we may learn the very soul lessons that He has (at least in my case) been trying to get me to learn for years.
Do not allow discouragement and react and respond to all situations and persons with love and acceptance.
What are others' lessons God desires to be learned? I'm convinced each has them, and it can take us humans a long Lent or many Lents, the lengthening of days in Lent, to catch glimpses and to be open to the graces while lending our desire to learn. Some may be quick about it. I'm definitely a slow and late-in-life learner.
But I'm thankful to God for the opportunity to learn and for this bail out even if it does not end up as I might hope in temporal terms. My soul will still be growing, and somehow I sense that God's point.
God bless His Real Presence in us!