27 May 2008

Are you allowed to. . .?

More questions arrived in my email box, and I am glad people are making use of that, especially since I do not have comments in this blog. The question is pretty typical and I hear it from others occasionally so it is a good one, especially because it also gives me a chance to think a little more about the unique charism of the diocesan hermit. I have spoken of this before in terms of expectations (that is, people necessarily have a right to certain expectations of a canonical hermit), but I might well have reflected more directly on the idea of unique charism in terms of relationships. The following question allowed me to do a little of that:

[[Do you attend daily Mass? Weekly Mass? If so, do you communicate with people while you are there? Are you allowed to speak to others? Is the hiddenness of your life disrupted by these encounters with people?]]

Yes, I generally attend daily Mass (though I also have Eucharist reserved in the hermitage for a Communion service when that is not possible, along with doing daily adoration, etc), and usually I attend the Sunday vigil Mass and one Mass on Sunday mornings as well. Recently the Bishop came to our parish to confirm 50 young adults and I attended that too; I was present early enough to casually assist the emcee and others in small ways (the same emcee who helped orchestrate my perpetual profession in September) and served as EEM as well.(It was good to have a chance to meet Deacon Bothe again since I was hardly aware of all he did during the profession rite; we shared a big hug and some laughs, so that was all very nice and vastly different from the formality of the profession rite.) The point is, of course, I choose which events I will participate in in the parish, but yes, I am active there and communicate variously on a number of different levels!

I have to laugh about the questions regarding being allowed to speak to people, etc. The question that raises for me is, "How in the world could I be said to be loving or engaging in genuine liturgy if I refused to do so?" Yes, I am a hermit, but when I am in a communal setting I act as part of the community --- that is also part of who I am, and part of the witness to the fruit of solitude. (Can you imagine a grumpy or distant hermit who comes to Mass but refuses to speak to anyone because s/he is too taken up "in Christ"? Chances are more likely s/he is missing the Christ who stands in front of him/her needing to talk or calling for a normal greeting!) But no, I do not have a vow of silence. I am vowed to celibate love, and for me at least, love in this situation means (or, rather, includes!) active, attentive, and compassionate participation in the community.

Now, I do a few things to be sure that time is bracketed by silence and solitude. Office (Vigils and Lauds) and silent prayer precede Mass, and at daily Mass I generally serve as sacristan and I find that puttering around getting everything ready before anyone arrives is a wonderful way to prepare myself AND the chapel while maintaining silence and solitude. Also, I tend to be early enough many mornings to be able to sing Lauds there rather than at home. And, if I am praying quietly and am wishing for a few more minutes of solitude, I will have my hood up and people know not to interrupt me at those times --- though they can certainly visit with one another still! (As soon as the hood is down things change completely and it is time for catching up on the news, finding out who needs prayers, sharing my own needs, etc).

I also serve as EEM sometimes, and have even served Mass --- though I am just learning how to do this. After Sunday Mass the parish has either doughnuts and coffee or (once a month) a pancake breakfast and I participate in these events and times. Having breakfast or coffee with people I would not otherwise see, catching up on their news, family, concerns (to a limited extent at these times), activities, etc is important to me and to who I am as a diocesan hermit. What I mean by that is that my profession as a diocesan hermit sets up particular relationships which partly define who I am to be. During profession I was called forth in the name of the local church of the Diocese of Oakland AND the faith community of St Perpetua. My vocation is a call by God, yes, but it is mediated to me by these communities, and my response, though a response to God, is also a response to and for these communities --- these people. So, while my response is most often the prayer and love that happens in silence and solitude, it is nourished and renewed as I come to know and love the people who make up this community, just as through my presence it nourishes and renews them too.

So, far from disrupting my solitude then, these contacts GENERALLY serve to enrich and invigorate it. Silence and solitude is lived for them to some extent and these are always conditioned by them. That is, they are always present in my heart and held before God even when prayer seems to be a matter of "just me and God." But your question is a very good one and I absolutely have to take care with the things I do outside the hermitage --- and I do. My point is first, that these things may enrich as easily as distract, and secondly, that these things may be demanded by the vocation itself --- so in all things one must pay attention to not only to one's Rule of Life, or to the eremitic tradition as lived throughout the centuries, but to the state of one's heart and mind where God's will is also heard --- and of course, act accordingly!

I hope this answers your questions. Thanks for sending them! Please feel free to get back to me if something is unclear or needs elaboration.