THE DIOCESAN HERMIT IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

For as there are two kinds of coins, the one of God, the other of the world, and each of these has its special character stamped upon it. (The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians Ch. 5 Ver. 2 « Death is the fate of all such » St. Ignatius of Antioch)

Can. 603 §1. The Church recognises the eremitic or anchoritic life by which the Christian faithful devote their life to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through a stricter withdrawal from the world, the silence of solitude, and assiduous prayer and penance.

Can 603 §2. The hermit is recognized in law as one dedicated to God in consecrated life if he or she publicly professes in the hands of the diocesan bishop the three evangelical counsels, confirmed by vow or other sacred bond, and observes a proper program of living under his direction. The hermit lives in a relationship of both dialogue and trust with the diocesan bishop (or his delegate), who is for him the point of reference in the exercise of the rights and duties of his state of life. In this way the diocesan hermit lives his ascetic charism by the explicit mandate of the bishop.

His Excellency the Most Reverend Mons. Domenico Sorrentino, Bishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino wrote:

The charism is not a meteor that tangentially interests the life of the Church in particular: it is an ecclesial event which involves it … It is a « word » spoken by God also to the Church to whom the charismatic belongs, as, on another level, to the universal Church. It enters the gratia loci, meaning with this expression that special graces of grace which the particular Church has received and which constitutes its spiritual heritage. » [Sorrentino, D., 2015. Vita consacrata e chiesa particolare: teologia ed esperienza, p.15., Assisi: Cittadella.]

The ecclesiality of the state of life of a diocesan hermit is formulated within the Code of Canon Law (CJC) in Canon 603 §2, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church to №. 921 and from Pope St. John Paul II’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consacrata §7 [The Order of Virgins; hermits and widows] and §47 [Fraternity in the universal Church]; all described in the word ›Hermit‹.

THE RULE OF LIFE OF A DIOCESAN HERMIT

The professed diocesan hermit leads a penitent and contemplative life in unceasing prayer, according to a written Rule of Life (or Rule), which he himself spontaneously forged over the years, as a result of his ascetic experiences, divine inspirations and suggestions from the spiritual director or fellow hermits with whom he keeps in touch.

By nature and Tradition, a hermit de facto or private vows does not eagerly pursue public recognition of his state of life; has eliminated preparations. Leaving the canonical ratifications to the level of apostolic solicitude to the pastors who know him. The call that has pushed him beyond the ideals of this world, safeguard him in his kenotic abasement as a fruitful compost in the garden of the Church (Luke 17:10; Galatians 6:3). However, the unsought day may arise when in which his spiritual guide, his parish priest or other priests advise him to inform the bishop personally about his choice of life, if it has been going on for some years, so as to offer the Church the opportunity to exercise the right that it has in examining sacred Vocations, especially in light of past spiritual experiences, attitudes, psychological, parish and diocesan life of those called.

It is for this reason that the bishop asks, of a hermit who wishes to publicly profess the evangelical counsels into his hands, a presentation of a written Rule of Life, freely composed on the basis of personal direction and mystical ascetical experience. The hermit who does not ask to make public profession is not obliged to produce a written Rule of Life. A lay candidate for public eremitic profession can insert within the written Rule of Life a declaration that he will properly provide for his own needs without obtaining ecclesiastical subsidies, nor relying on social security or social insurance, and that he will not make claims for the use of movable or immovable assets that are not his.

The Rule must conclusively define the commitments that he wants to assume within the context of the five ascetic-eremitical practices indicated by the Magisterium and described by the Hermit’s own words. In particular the personal characteristics in living the evangelical counsels and their own object must be precisely defined, in relation to the formula of the sacred bonds that have been chosen (vows, promise or holy purpose).

The Rules of eremitical life must take at least four general criteria into account:

  • the obvious one of conformity to the spirituality and mission of the Catholic Church;
  • that of specificity: that is, a rule not born from communal religious life and then adapted for eremitic life; however, but it can bear the marks of a religious institute;
  • that of actuality, understood as an actualisation of the millennia of eremitical traditions, to confer a renewal of spirit in the conditions of our modern times;
  • that of testimonial efficacy of the purposes and methods described, so that the hermit becomes a clear and visible ecclesial sign that can be understood by the people of God.

These four criteria find their adhesion in periodic evaluation of the effects and of the personal reliability achieved. A Rule of eremitical life must be written only after the principal personal experiences and not before, which have to be reviewed periodically. This Rule of life, if he wishes it to have a canonical effect, must be approved by the bishop in writing. The bishop should patiently and at verify at length three conditions that distinguish an authentic call of God of the eremitic charism: a) the affective maturity and judgment of the prophetic discernment of the spirits; b) the humble exercise of all the evangelical and eremitical virtues (cited in note 2 of the Hermit’s written rule); c) of holy abandonment in God and the ante-position of real good toward others instead of oneself. (Consecration does not make the hermit).

A eremitical consecration deprives that faithful from profane use to serve God exclusively; Jesus went aside from the multitude (John 5:13). At the same time the hermit’s concealment must have a didactic character common to all the vocations to the consecrated life, so as to testify « … by their state in life, religious give splendid and striking testimony that the world cannot be transformed and offered to God without the spirit of the Beatitudes » (Lumen Gentium 31). With public profession in the hermitical life the faithful, without changing his former lay or priestly state, is incorporated not in a religious order, but into a form of consecrated life, which is the eremitic life established by the Code of Canon Law Part III, § I, Title I. [1] Such incorporation allows for the use of penitential clothing or habit as a prophetic sign of the consecration, also for the layman, if provided in the Rule of life approved in writing by the bishop and worn in the rite of consecration. The Penitential habit will remind the hermit and to those who approach him of the commitments undertaken before God, which benefits evangelisation, moreover it is an external symbol which the faithful like to behold.

The professed hermit practices far more than a sacred retreat every year: sometimes in the form of spiritual exercises, and sometimes self-managed in penitential and mystagogic [2] solitude, fasting and recollection. When possible, it is useful that the places for retreats or deserts are isolated and outside of the diocese. The ideal would be to reach forty days as a total sum of retreats in a given year, in memory of the 40 preparatory days spent in the desert by the prophet Elijah and Jesus. On each occasion the hermit should have the foresight to inform his bishop on the precise location of the retreat. It may happen that at the places of retreat a priest could ask the hermit for a little pastoral collaboration; to suggest the answer to be given, can be, from time to time, an inspiration received from God during prayer.

To learn more, see the word Hermit.

THE APOSTOLATE OF THE DIOCESAN HERMIT

The essence of eremitic vocation does not consist of an continuous collaboration in active pastoral care: it consists of combat in the ›desert‹ within a contemplative breath, exercising an apostolate of prayer and penance, considering anything ephemeral or superfluous as nuisance. This grace, therefore, « … their life to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through a stricter withdrawal from the world, …” (Can. 603 Code of Canon Law), must be respected like that of the members of the Institutes wholly dedicated to contemplation, who « … however much the need of the active apostolate urges it … For this reason, members of these institutes cannot be summoned to furnish assistance in the various pastoral ministries » (Can. 674 Code of Canon Law). If the hermit does not offer himself spontaneously and with specific boundaries set out in his Rule of life, he could be asked to leave the hermitage using the same caution that would be used in asking a Carthusian or a cloistered nun of to leave their monasteries.

On the other hand, a diocesan hermit is not a recluse hermit, he is not a ›hikikomori‹, [3] therefore he himself does not want to absolutise loneliness, nor does he want to place defensive conditions on the Holy Spirit, but he accepts to live the life of Nazareth in imitation of Christ, to proclaim the Word of God in the assembly (Luke 4:16-17) and to wash the feet of friends (John 13:4-15), remaining open to the unpredictability of the Spirit wherever it may decide to lead him to perform works of mercy. Abstention gives a necessary and requested charity, it would not be spiritually fruitful if it became an irremediable frustration for others; every ascetical exchange of an encounter, appears pharisaic hypocrisy when the absence harms your fellow man.

If the secular hermit has not yet received a formal doctrinal formation, he may make a request of his bishop. A hermit, not being raised to sacred orders or who is not to give scholastic religious instruction, a three-year study plan in a diocesan Theological Study is considered to be sufficient and appropriate, alternatively a Higher Institute of Religious Sciences or at a Religious House of formation, or even as an unregistered student [Auditor] who has received a certificate of attendance.[4] It is essential, however, that the daily mystical amazement of the hermit should not be overshadowed by the concerns of having to provide guarantees. An aspiring scholar in theology who does not live the eremitic virtues, would as an illegible sign do a great disservice to the Church. [5] The true hermit does not have an erudite intellect but a sapiential one, has a vertical word and a prophetic eye and perceives the invisible within the visible. His true final exam, is where he can answer the question of Christ:

And Jesus said to them: You know not what you ask. Can you drink of the chalice that I drink of: or be baptised with the baptism wherewith I am baptised? (Mark 10:38)

In addition: « The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends,[6] who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality. » (Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 2347). To depart from the world, in fact, is valid in the Church only to the extent that this condition expands the heart in charity (1 Corinthians 13:2-7) and the fruit of love is service.[7] In ways convenient to his vocation, even a secular professed hermit, if elderly and prepared, can be invited by some faithful to listen and to spiritual accompaniment in prayer groups or in associations of pontifical right of which he was a part, thus retracing a holy and celebrated tradition of the desert. This is why it is not good for a diocesan hermit who intercedes in prayer, to ignore what happens within his diocese, his nation and the world (cf. Vita Consecrata 39, ›Fostering Holiness‹, Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II).

In any case of the rest – as every hermit knows – sooner or later his face becomes public and the contemplative is discovered and contemplated  by the curious, who want to see even in a flat sensitive reality, he knows how to preserve the joy of Tabor (joy: John 15:11; Philippians 4:4).

THE URBAN OR CITY DIOCESAN HERMIT

The lay hermit (secular) is the only arbiter on the choice of his domicile or hermitage, because God himself has made the decision for him. A notable hagiographic example is that of St. Catherine of Siena, a great penitent and mystic since childhood, a hermit of a city in her own home and a Dominican tertiary.

An urban hermit is a hermit who decides to have his hermitage in a city, large or small, sometimes in an apartment that was his paternal home. The city is a true place of modern solitude and a place of combat against the new demons. In it the hermits travel the way that St. John Climacus hermit and abbot, and other fathers of the Church called Regale (Basiliké Odos) or alternating between continuous hidden prayer and some manageable charitable outlet for fellow citizens. We are speaking of the type of hermits who are convinced that salt and yeast should be placed well inside the dough and not next to it, that a lamp should from time to time be placed on the table and not under it (Matthew 5:13-16; Matthew 13:33); therefore within the fabric of diocesan life, right within the neighbourhoods of the people of God. In this way these ascetics overcome the secular stereotypical view of a hermit who is perceived as a dubious misanthrope or as a rare anecdote of inimitable holiness on top of a mountain, of whom something is only known after having painstakingly searched to discover him. This choice, considered with the spiritual director and with other hermits, must be described in the Rule of life together with its effects on the ecclesial and penitential everyday life.

It may seem that within a city one would be unable to enjoy perfect exterior silence but, just as for the rural hermitage, true silence is within one’s heart; it may seem that there are too many distractions that could be detrimental to contemplation, but the danger lies not in the temptations, where in fact the hermit awaits daily to enlist in the battle against evil, but lies in the will which either consents or refuses; in the city there is no immersion within the idyllic rural environment, which is not always appropriate, practical or convenient for everybody. A hermit will only be suitable in the place that the Lord prefers for him and which are suggested to the hermit by many pointers and clues. If the call of God is toward  an urban surrounding, it will be accompanied by the necessary sanctifying grace necessary for that call. This precious urban testimony recalls the silence that is needed in everyone’s interior life, particularly within a city, and that in the city the hermit demonstrates the provisional nature of this time, in an manner that is easily visible and silently provocative.

Urban hermits, have always existed but have seen a great increase in modern times, embracing with determination the mortifications linked to their vocation, both predictable and unpredictable. By establishing their hermitage in a city, they undergo a tiring penitential formation and Christian virtues, imparted by chance by those citizens who show themselves hostile toward the faith or toward the ascetical life style. In fact, they induce the city hermits to face their true inclinations, humility or pride, to give a name to what really stirs within their heart and thus examining the ascetical path that they are undertaking, more effectively than he would dare to make a severe hermit or an inflexible religious superior. The Father of the Desert, The Venerable [8] Abba Zosimas of Palestine (c. 460- † c. 560), one of the preceptors of Dorotheus of Gaza (505 – † c. 620), [9] used to say: « Who offered St. Stephen his glory, if not those who stoned him? … so we can gain from such slanders how much we have lost because of those who praise us. »

In our world, where it often seems that the signs of God’s presence have been lost from sight, a convincing prophetic witness on the part of consecrated persons is increasingly necessary. Consecrated persons are being asked to bear witness everywhere with the boldness of a prophet who is unafraid of risking even his life… Consecrated persons will be faithful to their mission in the Church and the world, if they can renew themselves constantly in the light of the word of God.Thus will they be able to enrich the other faithful with the charismatic gifts they have received and, in turn, let themselves be challenged by the prophetic stimulus which comes from other sectors of the Church. In this century, as in other periods of history, consecrated men and women have borne witness to Christ the Lord with the gift of their own lives. Thousands of them have been forced into the catacombs by the persecution of totalitarian regimes or of violent groups, or have been harassed while engaged in missionary activity, in action on behalf of the poor, in assisting the sick and the marginalised; yet they lived and continue to live their consecration in prolonged and heroic suffering, and often with the shedding of their blood, being perfectly configured to the Crucified Lord. (Vita consecrata 85-86)

To tend towards holiness: this is in summary the programme of every consecrated life, particularly in the perspective of its renewal on the threshold of the Third Millennium. The starting point of such a programme lies in leaving everything behind for the sake of Christ (cf. Matthew 4:18-22, 19:21,27; Luke 5:11), preferring him above all things, in order to share fully in his Paschal Mystery. (Vita consecrata 93)

THE HERMITS IN THE CODE OF CANON LAW

(Extracts from: Le Forme Individiali di Vita Consacrata by Jean Beyer S.J. translated by a hermit of Saint Bruno)

The hermits in the Latin Church are ever more numerous and constitute a force toward ecclesial renewal. They resume an ancient form of consecrated life – perhaps the first – which originally gave rise to cenobitic monasticism. This form of consecrated life, both from the historical and spiritual point of view, is fundamental; and responds to the desire for a total gift of self to the Lord – « Soli Deo » — a desire that is at the origin of all consecrated life, both apostolic and secular. 

Secular Institutes live a form of personal consecrated life within the world, often conducted with the greatest discretion and, in certain circles, even in secret. They find in the ideal of solitary life the sense and significance meaning of their life, its value and its strength. They have no form of common life, and very often there is no cohabitation of their members. This need for silence, solitude, discretion and concealment brings their life very close to that of hermits, who, on the other hand, often have an external testimony to bear through their presence, their habit, their home in the most distant of places.

A PERSONAL STATUTE

Responding to a particular divine appeal, the hermit must specify his solitary way of life. It is advisable for every hermit, from the very beginning, to have a personal statute. This statute determines the obligations, the times of prayer, reflection, study, work; the way of life, the resources, which often derive from manual labour; the way of receiving renumeration for what they do; it establishes what they can sell and what they must obtain to meet their needs so as not to be of burden upon others.

This personal statute will be submitted to a spiritual counsellor who is familiar with this form of consecrated life, its needs and its perils. It is accurate that it is difficult to find any concrete aspect on this subject, it is nevertheless, important and can facilitate the putting into practice, a balanced and prudent journey of personal life, adapted both to people and circumstances.

THE SETTING OF HERMITAGE

Firstly, the place chosen by the hermit is extremely important to lead you toward a life in true solitude. Certain dioceses have the opportunity to offer the hermits places of silence and solitude of notable value. In this way they were able to receive many hermits, and certain diocesan bishops little by little acquired invaluable experience for a new pursuit of the eremitic life.

In this way there are hermits on the mountains, by the sea or beside a lake; On an island; but also in the centre of the city, in a multi-storey building, where the tallest one will allow one to live in complete silence and to have a free and extensive view, necessary for repose and tranquillity of the spirit.

In each case, it is necessary to determine: the dimensions of the hermitage, the number of rooms required which can and must be arranged by the person who withdraws into solitude: the study, the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom. Often a certain space is necessary to organise a workshop, to make provisions for a library, to have a place to store the tools that are used for any specialised but simple work: a form of cultural or artisanal work; of sculpture or painting to give but an example.

MANUAL LABOUR AND MEANS OF SUBSISTENCE

Manual labour is advisable and one should be anticipated because it allows, if possible, sufficient physical exercise and daily relaxation. The more simple this work is, the better it lends itself toward continuing a meditative, litanic or thematic prayer; a continuous, ceaseless prayer, simplified little by little, without too many words, until it becomes a regular aspiration which fixes the spirit toward an increased contemplative awareness.

The choice of any means of subsistence are delicate. It is necessary to anticipate with what to live, so as to avoid being a mendicant, going door to door, collecting alms; unless this is done by others, in a discrete, anonymous way, on behalf of the hermits within the region. This could be a project for a parish priest who has more hermits within his parish dependency, in the mountains.

If the hermit does not want to be a burden on anyone and lives on his work, he must think carefully about how to make it beneficial; he must provide for the sale of certain objects, especially if they have a practical or even artistic value. This sale can be made by a third party who would generously assumes the task.

More laborious, yet not impossible, is regular translation work. We must take into account the texts to be translated, their contents. These texts will preferably be of a spiritual nature, and suited to a life of prayer. In any case they must be appropriate for a life of prayer in solitude and should not allow any distractions from the attention required to be « hermits both in heart and spirit ».

CHOICE OF HABIT AND DISCRETION OF LIFE

The choice of the habit is somewhat more personal. This can revive certain monastic uses; its colour being discreet; its quality should be a statement of detachment, of poverty, of renunciation, a sign of a withdrawal from social spheres, unless within a city where the hermit needs, at least for going out, to have a simple attire so as not to attract attention, even if it does not emphasise the perception of his hidden and solitary life.

Discretion levies many demands upon the hermit which need to be respected and requires choices to be made. In some cases he may prefer not to be known by the clergy and the bishop of the area. According to Canon law, to give a « public » value to his obligations, he will have to fulfil them with the approval of the bishop and professes them into his hands (c. 603). It is, however, entirely false to believe that such a commitment is in itself more valid, more demanding. It can be taken and, especially at the beginning, be renewed, in silence, during the Eucharist; and it is done with the agreement of the spiritual advisor who helps the hermit in his life of solitary prayer and silence.

EUCHARISTIC LIFE IN SOLITUDE

According to an ancient tradition, the hermit can join the Eucharistic celebration without being present. These days it is advisable to receive Holy Communion [10] on a regular basis; this can be facilitated by having the Sacred Species at the hermitage. This also allows regular Eucharistic adoration, even if not continuous.

The place where the Eucharistic species may be deposited must be worthy; it must facilitate both prayer and worship, unless discretion requires a more concealed way to safeguard them.

From this point of view a hermit priest would have more possibilities, although he must envisage how to make the Eucharistic celebration, how to procure the host and wine for the Mass and how – if he so desires – have Mass Intentions useful for bringing forward the needs, however minimal, of a life which is voluntarily simple and poor.

If the hermit has an Oratory, he will pay attention to everything that makes it possible for the liturgy to conform to the needs of a regular and worthy cult. This additionally involves the care of the altar linen essential for the Eucharistic celebration. The place of hermitage must therefore be situated in favourable surroundings to best meet these needs without losing the obligatory solitude.

Hermits initially retreated into the desert. This total solitude had only advantages; but it also involved real hazards. Today one can find other forms of living that allow for a better adaptation to personal prayer, of a more demanding manner of living, especially from a sacramental point of view.

The solitude of a female hermit is more dependent on the ordained ministry. It necessitates a relationship with the parish priest or with the parochial vicar of the nearest place of worship.

Today’s hermits are seen as confronting things that are imposed. Correspondence, magazines, the sending of books can undermine the subtlety of solitude and silence. Often having to renounce all direct postal shipments to better respond to the demands of a genuine eremitical life.

As for personal direction, that which led to the choice of life will not necessarily have to be maintained if not agreed. But it can become less frequent and even become worthless, especially if the hermit finds within spiritual authors a method of making valid discernment.

DAILY SCHEDULE (HORARIUM)

Preparing his Rule, the hermit needs to take particular care in determining the daily schedule, to ensure a healthy and balanced pace of life, necessary to live an existence of solitude and silence that demands to be truly contemplative.

The schedule must first of all be adapted to the person. It should not be chosen as a penance which can present particular difficulties for this fact. The regularity already poses uncommon demands for attention and devotedness, which at conception cannot be fully perceived. So one should not establish a difficult schedule with the viewpoint that this is the perfect expression of an increased gift.

Nocturnal prayer is often a fundamental element of the eremitic life. This prayer can be determined more precisely than in the past, but it certainly cannot impede the rest that is necessary, without which prayer loses its value. The rhythm of sleep and wake times must be adapted to the physical health demands of the hermit. The hermit may not be in good health; and therefore, if he were to renounce the rhythm of his Carthusian life, nothing would prevent him from finding a schedule adapted to his health, his balance, above all strength of character.

The schedule that the hermit chooses entails first of all the choice of prayer. Solitude does not require recitation of the Divine Office. One could quite perfectly give themselves entirely over to God without forcing this exigency. But it is true that recital of the Office ensures, during night and day, a proper and varied schedule which, in most cases, is somewhat highly appreciated.

Matins can be recited at midnight. The current breviary has greatly reduced the number of Psalms of this canonical hour. The Carthusian book of hours (Diurnale Cartusiense) allows for a more prolonged prayer and richer suitable readings, of more numerous psalms, from twelve to eighteen corresponding to the liturgical calendar. If the Office of the night you have chosen is brief, as is currently that of the readings, you can prolong this vigil with meditative prayer: « Lectio divina », vocal prayer, litany or simple and repeated invocations.

Morning Lauds should be recited at the beginning of the day. The recital at this hour can be difficult if sufficient rest was not provided after the night office. The Carthusians sing the  Office Lauds immediately after the night office; allowing them a second period of rest from two to six thirty. The Trappists (Cistercians) begin the night office at three in the morning; it is followed by an hour of « Lectio » which precedes the morning praises recited during an hour that normally suits them.

The Little or Minor Hours mark the rest of the day: Prime, Terce, Sext and None. Here again the hours are to be established according to the practicability of participating or not at the Eucharist, at times daily.

The constitution of the canonical hours must take into account rest. Also in this case the Carthusians and Trappists are the most capable in organising a solitary life even if they have different uses. In the Charterhouse a first rest period is anticipate after the 6th hour; a second is realised after the Vespers. At La Trappe after the hour of Prime, breakfast is served followed by the recitation of Terce. On certain days in the Charterhouse only bread and water are consumed, especially on Fridays.

Before retiring to bed, Compline is recited. This time is set differently depending on the time that the night office is recited. In the Charterhouse one rests for four hours before the night office and approximately for four hours after this office; in La Trappe you rest until three in the morning.

All these points must take into account the health of the hermit, of his age, of the work he must do to live, of the time he expects to undergo extended prayer during the day, of the times destined for an extended « Lectio divina » so that it is bounteous. A stability of hours is in all cases desirable; it can be established after a period of experience, at the beginning of eremitic life; it cannot be changed too often, nor too quickly. With age it undergoes the necessary adaptations, but this cannot mean that the times of prayer and the prayer’s themselves are shortened.

RECITAL OF PSALMS

What to do if you do not recite the day’s office, the Liturgy of the Hours? This choice is possible; often responding to a form of prayer which was used by the ancient hermits. Often, in these cases, Lauds, Vespers and Compline are retained. Can one follow another path? Yes, if the hermit, praying the Psalms, adapts them with an attitude of penance, of praise and adoration. And besides it is easy in these cases to identify some Psalm to be recited, for example:

One can take inspiration from this example of psalmodic recitation, adapted to a life of silence and solitude:

A.  Introductory Psalm: 95 (94), or 117 (116);

B.  Two sets of twelve psalms; they can be recited at night, in the morning or in the evening:

i.  24 (23), 63 (62), 66 (65), 92 (91), 93 (92), 96 (95), 97 (96), 100 (99), 111 (110), 113 (112), 117 (116), 122 (121);

ii.  2, 110, 8, 11 (10), 16 (15), 19 (18), 21 (20), 28 (27), 33 (32), 46 (45), 47 (46).

C.  One can conclude each series with the six psalms of praise, which are recited at the end of Lauds every morning; are as follows: 145 (144), 147 (146-147), 148, 149, 150.

D.  These same psalms can be taken at the end of a short office, fixed around noon. The psalms of this office are as follows: 135 (134), 136 (135), 138 (137).

This recital of Psalms according to three or four important themes, makes it feasible to better appreciate their merit, to make an ever more personal prayer, to recite them by rote, to fix the attention beginning from the text on the mystery of Trinitarian love which it addresses and to which one allows themselves to be gradually acquainted and encompassed.

THE «LECTIO DIVINA»

If the day is not interrupted by the recitation of the hours of the divine office, a longer time may be given to a more intense, more transforming «Lectio Divina». The « Lectio Divina »  is visibly a reading which takes place through the inspiration and power of the Holy Spirit, which enlivens and illuminates these inspired words. It is thus always more advantageous when adapted to the person, to the graces of prayer; and vivifies a life fully given to the Lord for the good of his Holy Church.

Given its inspiring power, the « Lectio divina », always has a special place – if not a principal position – in a life of silence and solitude. Its primary objective is the inspired Word. No other spiritual book is able to replace this unique text. Read carefully, the Scripture allows the reader to become more consciously influence by the Holy Spirit. This is why it is « divine » par excellence, given its origin, its content, its influence. Other books, commentaries and special studies can complete it; but they can never replace the Holy Books. Choosing them will maintain a fundamental spiritual line. The Carmelite, Franciscan, Salesian spirituality must be respected in a more marked way. These spiritualities have also been lived in the form of claustral life: Carmel, the monasteries of the Poor Clares and of the Visitandines. Other more recent monastic families such as the Monastic Family of Bethlehem, of the Assumption of the Virgin and of Saint Bruno and the Hermits of Saint Bruno have been enthusiastically inspired by the Carthusian tradition and customs which remains the most prominent expression of a hermit’s life, even if it is lived in monasteries.

The stages of the « Lectio » become more and more establishes, adapting themselves to the person, to their vocation, to their call, to their particular grace and their mission.

They interlink according to the personal development of prayer. The « Lectio » leads to « Meditatio », called « Ruminatio », above all if it fixes certain words that are repeated and taken over the course of the day. It becomes « Oratio », that is simple prayer, prayer of the heart, prayer of union with God and of abandonment to his Love. The Carthusian tradition further expresses one last stage, the « Contemplatio ». This allows for a deeper repose in God deeper than simple abandonment and fixed longer upon God himself, in the richness of His gifts, those of the divine persons who live only one Love in mutual dependence in the unity of their life and their vision.

This last stage allows us to surpass the studied texts, their historical or doctrinal elements, to find in God – Love the gratuitous participation in His life and His extension to the world created and saved through the selfsame Trinitarian love. It simplifies the perception of the man who prays in the unity of divine life, a gift of Trinitarian love.

Eremitic life leads to a personal rhythm of contemplative life, which permits regularity and flexibility. This necessary balance must be the fruit of a noviciate; which at the beginning must be submitted for verification to a prudent adviser, capable of discerning and teaching the ways of God. [11] And all this in prayer as well as the whole eremitical life with its appropriate work; the necessary displacements, which must be reduced as much as possible; the often unavoidable contacts, but which can determine the demands of solitude and the profundity of a silence which wants to be entirely directed towards God, for the salvation of the world.

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[1]  A secular hermit may already be professed in a religious institute and not released, in which case his direct superior will remain that of the Institute. For a religious priest hermit, there must be agreements between his Institute and the diocesan bishop regarding their incardination. A secular diocesan hermit may belong to an Association of the Faithful (Third Order or lay sodality): then there is a dependence on those responsible for the Association according to the Statute or the proper Rule but, since an Association does not confer incorporation to an Institute as in the religious state, the pre-eminent obligation always remains with the bishop of the particular Church where the hermit has elected his domicile.

[2]  The word comes from the Greek mystagogos, which has at its root the word mystes (one who is initiated into the mysteries). Mystagogy then is a time when those newborn in Christ are initiated into the various mysteries of the Catholic Church.

[3]  In Japan, hikikomori (Japanese: ひきこもり or 引き籠もり, lit. « pulling inward, being confined », i.e., « acute social withdrawal »

[4]  Auditor is a student who has agreed not to take exams in the disciplines that follows, forgoing an academic degree connected to those studies. The final certificate of attendance, should however, be subject to the students having purchased (non-loaned) the recommended course textbooks by the lecturer, permissible are used copies or outdated editions, so that they remain available for reference an as a cultural heritage to the former student. As a curiosity we quote one of the suggestions that were vented on the ratio institutionis (not just studiorum) of the aspiring secular hermits, the teachings of a three-year course of study: Sacred Scripture (Biblical Theology, triennial); Dogmatic theology (triennial: Christology, Mariology, Eschatology); Moral Theology (triennial: general, towards God, towards the neighbour); Spiritual Theology (biennial: Ascetic and Mystic); Hagiography (biennial); Philosophical anthropology; Apologetics; Modern history of the Church; Patrology (of the desert and pre-monastic); Angelologydemonology and Psychopathology. Therefore, for a secular hermit, the Licentiate in Spiritual Theology was thought to be limiting and intellectualistic, born in a monastic community and not a hermit community.

[5]  A deepening of the Magisterium on what is fundamental: the hermit, like the Eastern Catholic monk, « In its desire to transfigure the world and life itself in expectation of the definitive vision of God’s countenance, Eastern monasticism gives pride of place to conversion, self-renunciation and compunction of heart, the quest for hesychia or interior peace, ceaseless prayer, fasting and vigils, spiritual combat and silence, Paschal joy in the presence of the Lord and the expectation of his definitive coming … » (Vita Consecrata 6 ›Monastic life in the East and the West). « … witness to these marvels not so much in words as by the eloquent language of a transfigured life, capable of amazing the world » (Vita Consecrata 20 ›The evangelical counsels, gift of the Trinity). The Fathers of the desert warned that, as in every sector of life, so too in this one can reveal here and there inconsistencies, discordances and counter-testimonies, even if involuntary and unconscious. They intended for these the imitations of devotional attitudes without loving and practicing true eremitical virtues. They are: the ascetic and mystical life in the circumcision of the heart, that is, in hiding and in silence; the search for the low estate (ταπείνωσις – tapeínōsis) without calculation or lucrative projects; the detachment or estrangement (ξένιτεΐα – xéniteía) from all illusions (Sir 4:27-28; Evangelii Nuntiandi 48 = C.C.C. n. 1676 note 13) and from the agitations dear to the century (ταχυουργία – tachyoyrgía); the emptying of everything that does not come from God (κένωσις – kénōsis); the intimate joy in every situation with an adult heart, that is, with evangelical wisdom, with discernment of the spirits and with good mental health; the practice of works of spiritual mercy with such zeal for the sanctification of the faithful to leave the hermitage for this purpose; communion with the sacred pastors. The Fathers were not soft towards the solitary who instead indulged in: incontinence and refinement, in vainglory notoriety and ostentation of self, to give importance to what is said of them, to a petulant temperament, to bias and prejudices, to difficulties in the forgiveness, to prefer the letter to the spirit.

[6]  Cf. John 15:15.

[7]  « λατρεία – Latria »  pertaining to religion and « latria signifies servitude » as Augustine states (De Civ. Dei x, 1). And we are bound to serve not only God, but also our neighbour, according to Galatians 5:13, « by charity of the spirit serve one another. » Therefore religion includes a relation to one’s neighbour also.

[8]  In the Orthodox Church, monastic saints are referred to as “Venerable” (Greek: Όσιος, Hosios). The term is unrelated to the Roman Catholic term which describes a candidate for sainthood. For the Orthodox, Venerable saints are considered to be fully glorified (canonised) saints.

[9] Kazhdan, A.P. ed., 1991. ‘Dorotheos of Gaza’. The Oxford dictionary of Byzantium; p. 654, New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

[10]  Morrisroe, P. (1910). Holy Communion. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. See also: Gibergues, Emmanuel Martin de, 1923. Holy communion, London: Burns, Oates and Washbourne.

[11]  For a life of prayer we recommend the book by Fr. Pierre Ioseph Picot de Clorivière SJ, The paths of prayer: A clear portrayal of the various kinds of active and passive prayer, Paris, Comet Press Books (1958)