The Consecrated Diocesan Hermit

by Therese Ivers

A consecrated hermit is an individual who has made public vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the hands of his bishop and lives them according to a rule of life approved by that bishop. The “diocesan hermit” and “consecrated hermit” lives a seclusive  lifestyle and vocations to this form of consecrated life are rare. In this article, a hermit is male. However, most of what is written of male hermits applies equally to female hermitesses.

Life of Solitude

Each hermit lives in solitude. Social interaction is strictly limited because a hermit finds his vocation in the contemplation of divine things away from the tumult of the world. Consecrated hermits who are not ordained often attend Mass in the local parish. They may also be seen grocery shopping and running necessary errands. The degree of solitude and the manner of observing it is spelled out in their own rule of life, which may differ from hermit to hermit.  Hermits may also live in “community” in hermitages built on the same property.  They meet for common exercises such as Holy Mass.

Public Vows and Rule of Life

To become a diocesan hermit, an individual must normally live for some time under a rule of life. The hermit normally submits this rule to his bishop for approval. If the bishop discerns that a hermit who has been steadily living a balanced rule of life and observing the evangelical counsels should be admitted as a diocesan hermit, the hermit enters the consecrated state by making his profession at the hands of this bishop.

Desert Fathers

The desert fathers were the first known hermits. They lived in solitude either in “cells” or “hermitages” spread out far and few between or in clusters. Eventually many of the hermit clusters evolved into monastic groups. Some orders today preserve their eremetic roots. Carthusians, Camaldelese, Carmelites, and others were heavily influenced by the ermetic lifestyle. While over the centuries members of religious institutes could sometimes receive permission to become hermits, those who are not members of religious institutes are able under canon 603 to become diocesan hermits.

Vocational Discernment

If you are discerning a vocation to become a consecrated hermit, your first step should be to consult your spiritual director. You may also want to consult your diocesan office for vocations and perhaps the bishop himself.

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3 Responses to The Consecrated Diocesan Hermit

  1. Sister Wende says:

    For canonical hermits,
    Are there Universal norms for official recognition documentation? Or does this just vary from diocese to diocese?
    Does a canonical hermits plan of life need to receive an “official” “declaration” or “decree of approval” from a bishop? Notarized? Does the plan itself need to be signed by the bishop?
    If a declaration/decree is indeed necessary, can anyone please offer a sample of what one might look like?

    Or, can the approval/recognition of the plan of life from the bishop be done much more informally,
    Say, be included within one simple all-inclusive document signed after perpetual eremitic profession, which would also include the vow formula, stated recognition into consecrated life under canon 603, date, place, signatures ….
    Can one good, all inclusive document/piece of paper simply suffice to make everything ” canonically official” document wise for a hermit?

    For hermits, regarding plans of life, are the terms “recognized” and “approved” considered synonymous?
    Thanks so much to anyone that might know and is willing to answer!
    Peace and God bless!

  2. Sister Wende says:

    If anyone wants to please delete and remove the above comment, please do.
    I know now, 🙂
    which is what I thought,
    A hermits plan of life gets its own approval separately from any other official paperwork such as a “certificate of eremitic profession” that is signed after the perpetual profession mass.
    Peace and blessings to all!

  3. Sister Laurel M O'Neal Er Dio says:

    Right, though you no longer need the information, FYI, a hermit’s Rule/Plan is given a “Bishop’s Decree of Approval” which includes a brief statement of hope that it will prove beneficial in the living of c 603 life. It is signed by the bishop and notarized by the ecclesiastical notary. As a second piece of documentation the hermit herself is given an affidavit verifying she is professed as a diocesan hermit and is a hermit of the “Diocese of N______”; it provides the date and place of the profession and is signed by the Bishop and ecclesiastical notary. I was given both of these documents on the day of perpetual profession. I believe they were taken from models found in the Guidebook on Eremitical Life from the Diocese of La Crosse, but a detailed description can also be found on my blog, Notes From Stillsong. (Remember too that a note of canonical profession will be sent to one’s home parish for inclusion in the hermit’s baptismal record so there are several ways eremitical consecration under c 603 is documented.)

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