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.
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.
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.