13 December 2009

Revisiting the Question of Disedifying (reactive) Withdrawal

[[Dear Sister, for someone already professed as a hermit, are the dangers of withdrawing for negative reasons as strong as the danger of getting too involved (for instance, in parish life)? I wondered because your post on reactive withdrawal seemed to indicate this was the case.]]

Thanks for the question! Once one has, with the Church herself, discerned a vocation to be (and especially been professed as) a diocesan hermit, the danger of removing oneself from the solitude of the cell is more dangerous. In my experience, if one has discerned a vocation to eremitical life in this way then the major danger --- choosing solitude because one is withdrawing in a reactive or disedifying way --- shifts or changes. One's vocation, everyone now agrees, is mainly to remain in cell and live out one's solitude in this way. One does this because God calls one to this primarily. That is really the defining characteristic of the eremitical life. The temptation one faces more usually is now more that of leaving the cell for insufficient and disedifying reasons.

However, for the hermit who also finds herself called to some limited degree of parish ministry, it can happen that she might "duck" some legitimate challenges of the active dimension of her life for less than legitimate reasons. The need to discern what is happening remains, but now the presumption is that one is generally called to remain in cell and if one errs in discernment, one should probably err on this side of things. The burden of discernment shifts so that one must be more careful about justifying reasons to leave her hermitage. Note that the need to be able to discern one's motives has not changed. What changes is the perspective from which one decides. In my original post I was addressing the question of discerning the reasons one may feel drawn to solitude and noting that one should be aware that not all reasons are good ones or indicate a vocation to solitude -- especially to eremitical solitude. With regard to your question, the person has already discerned such a call and done so with the Church's assistance and approval. I hope this helps. Again, good question.