22 December 2010

Fourth Week of Advent: Singing Our Magnificats

Today's Gospel is Mary's magnificat while the responsorial text is a similar song taken from the book of Samuel. I have put these up before though not recently. They are contemporary Magnificats. Two or three pieces of Ann Johnson's poetry in particular are especially lovely. They are taken from Miryam of Nazareth, Woman of Strength and Wisdom, Ave Maria Press, 1984. The first is called the "Magnificat of Acceptance." (My apologies that the original formatting does not come through when the poem is published here.)

My soul trembles in the presence of the loving Creator
and my spirit prepares itself to walk hand in hand
with the God who saves Israel
because I have been accepted by God
as a simple helpmate.

Yes, forever in the life of humankind
people will sing of this loving encounter;
through remembering this moment, the faithful
will know that all things are possible in God.

Holy is the place within me where God lives.

God's tender fingers reach out from age to age
to touch and soften the inner spaces of those
who open their souls in hope.

I have experienced the creative power of God's embracing arms
and I know the cleansing fire of unconditional love.
I am freed from all earthly authority
and know my bonding to the Author of all earthly things.
I am filled with the news of good things:
my favor with God,
faithful trust in the gentle shadow of the Most High,
the mystery of my son, Jesus,
the gift of companionship with my beloved kinswoman,
Elizabeth, who believes as I believe.

The place in my heart I had filled
with thoughts of fear and inadequacy
has been emptied and I am quiet within.

God comes to save Israel, our holy family,
remembering that we are the ones who remember
. . . according to the kinship we have known. . .
remembering that we are the ones who remember
and that where God and people trust each other
there is home.

The second Magnificat is called, the "Magnificat of Friendship" and calls to mind not only my own journey, but those who have made it with me, and especially (in light of this Magnificat) those women who have assisted and accompanied me, whether in religious or consecrated (eremitical) life, medicine, ministry, etc. I am excited about continuing this journey into ever fuller and more abundant life, and I can't say how grateful I am to God for these friends, sisters, mentors, directors, physicians, etc.

My soul flowers in the light of your love, my God
and my spirit sings Alleluia in the reality of your joyful presence,
because you have chosen my kinswoman and me with the
summons of your eyes.

Yes, we are known now and for all time. We are known as women,
Holy is your name.
The tenderness of your hand rests on us as we journey in your way.
Your power in my life has led me into the embrace of loving arms.
You have exposed my lonely pride that I might turn my head to your
nurturing breast.

You have revealed the hollowness of achievements and have opened in
my heart a space filled with simple, loving moments.
My hunger you have satisfied,
my excess you have ignored.

You are my help as I remember your tender love for me,
. . .for we have touched each other you and I
and we have made promises. . .

I remember your tenderness for all that you have begun in me
and in those with whom I walk
and I respond with all that I am becoming
in this hour and in all times to come.

As the quote I like so much reminds us, "God sustains us as a singer sustains a note." Let us each spend some time before and during Christmas discovering the unique Magnificat God has made of our lives and sing it anew with Mary, Hannah, Elizabeth, and all those without whom our lives would be barren indeed!

19 December 2010

In Memoriam, Tim O'Neal b.1954 d. 2010

On Friday, and quite unexpectedly, my brother, Tim, died. Tim had had some back surgery done on Monday, had been in the hospital until Thursday, and spoke with my sister Cindy that night for over an hour. He seemed fine. The next morning his wife and daughter kissed him goodbye as they left for work and school. He did not wake but was snoring. When they returned that afternoon they found him dead.

Tim could be incredibly funny and had one of the best capacities for telling jokes I have ever seen. He was an accomplished cook (sometimes cooking on cruise ships), and animal lover (he worked as a veterinary tech until a few years ago). He also had his problems including drugs and alcohol for much of his youth and young adulthood. However he had turned that all around and become a husband and really devoted father. His family was, without doubt, the thing he was proudest of. He was the primary caregiver there, the stay-at-home father, and he took genuine delight in caring for his daughter Allie, taking her to dance recitals, lessons, school, activities of whatever sort, etc. He is survived then by his wife, Olga, and his 6 year old daughter, Alyson, as well as by his sisters, Cindy and myself.

The whole family is stunned, of course. My sister and I would ask that you please keep Tim and all of us in your prayers, but most especially Alyson who may well feel, and be affected by, this loss most keenly of all.

16 December 2010

A Bit on the Relationship of Hopes to Hope: Hopes as Obstacles to Deep Hope

Thursday, Third Week of Advent
Isaiah 54:1-10
Luke 7:24-30

Advent is a time for preparing our hearts for the coming of God in any way he wills to do that. For this reason it is a time in which we prepare ourselves to be surprised by and grateful to a God who is truly unimaginable. At bottom then, Advent is a time for cultivating a deep hope which carries us through and beyond every exigency in life and opens us to reality which transcends all the specific hopes we hold onto. This deep hope is an orientation of our hearts. It is what traditional theology calls a virtue, an habitual way of approaching reality, an approach in which we see what is truly present and the God who grounds that.

There is therefore a distinction, and often a tension, between specific hopes and this deep or profound hope, this virtue which sustains us even when specific hopes have been dashed or shattered. The ironic thing is that among the obstacles to the virtue of Hope we might identify are the specific hopes we cling to --- sometimes all-too-tightly. This distinction and tension is at the heart of the readings for today.

In Isaiah we see this played out as the author lists the various seminal hopes we each have and the ways those are shattered. Women who dream of having children, and in fact, whose self-worth and significance in the People of God (Israel) is bound up with child-bearing remain barren. The hopes of married couples to live together to the end of their days are disappointed by the death of one of the spouses. Those who look to the intimate and exclusive love and commitment of a spouse are abandoned instead. Youth whose lives are full of personal promise ruin their futures by somehow shaming themselves and becoming bound to and by that failure and shame. Hopes here can block the development of deep Hope instead of being opportunities for inculcating the virtue. And yet, in spite of the ways hopes disappoint or are disappointed, Israel is called to something deeper, something transcendent and more eternal and sustaining. In particular, Israel is called to be open to a God who will surprise her with a life with him that is beyond imagining. Specific hopes are expressions of the imaginable. Hope opens us to the surprise of the unimaginable. Thus Isaiah outlines some really outrageous pictures of what Israel will come to know: a barrenness that will be made fruitful beyond all telling, an abandonment which is contrasted with a commitment which is undying and without limit or end and is redeemed by that covenant, a national smallness and marginality which will be transformed into centrality and worldwide scope as Israel is made a light to the nations.

Today's Gospel also contrasts Hope with hopes, the unimaginable with the imaginable, and it does so by pointing out a second way hopes may be an obstacle to deep hope, namely by our allowing our individual hopes to make us blind to the larger and more surprising ways in which God really does visit and dwell amongst us. In today's text from Luke Jesus turns to those who have been out in the desert to see John the Baptist and he asks them three times, "What did you go out to see?" The first two times the question is ironic: did you go out to see a reed swaying in the wind or someone in soft/rich clothes, someone who dresses as a King, for instance? Only the most foolish would have done this and most would easily answer, "Of course not!" The third time Jesus enlarges the question, "Did you go out to see a prophet?" and explains that yes indeed, that is precisely what they saw, but even more besides. In meeting John Bp people saw not JUST a prophet but the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah and Israel's reception of that Messiah. And of course, implicitly, the people to whom Jesus is speaking must begin to entertain the possibility that something even more unimaginable has occurred, namely, that they are looking at Emmanuel right here and now.

But, while Jesus focuses explicitly on the surprise and significance of John the Baptist, the text is also clear that some people allowed their hopes to prevent them from seeing what God was doing in their midst. The Pharisees and scholars of the Law "knew" what the Messiah and the final Prophet would look like and they grasped this hope a bit too tightly to allow themselves to recognize and be surprised by a God who would do the unimaginable in their midst.

The challenge of Advent is to prepare our hearts for Christmas. To that end we take time to become people who hold our hopes a little less tightly or rigidly so that profound hope may be the motive and orientation of our lives. We prepare ourselves in a way that 1) prevents the shattering of our hopes from overwhelming us with disappointment, and 2) allows us to see beyond those hopes to the deeper ways in which God surprises us. This preparation prevents our being disappointed or even scandalized or offended by the way he works his will among us. If we are not truly surprised by Christmas it is probably right to ask ourselves if we have not either let go of hope altogether or clutched at hopes so tightly we remained closed to the God of the surprising. In either case, we will have failed to be people of profound or deep hope, people whose God goes by the unimaginable name, Emmanuel!

NB: With gratitude to David Steindl-Rast, OSB, and his book, Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer. Therein David draws the distinction between Hopes and Hope and speaks of the imaginable vs the unimaginable as well as Hope as unitive and hopes as potentially divisive. I have drawn liberally on his insights in this reflection. If you have not read this book, please get it for Christmas. It is one of the best books on the nature of prayer I know.

09 December 2010

Jesus and John the Baptist: Two Approaches to Repentance and Forgiveness

Gospel Reading for Friday, 2nd Week of Advent: Matthew 11:16-19

Recently I watched story of a woman (Eva Moses Kor) who survived the holocaust. She was one of a pair of twins experimented on by Dr Mengele. Both she and her sister (Miriam) survived the camp but her sister's health was ruined and years later she later died from long term complications. Mrs Kor forgave Mengele and did so as part of her own healing. She encouraged others to act similarly so they would no longer be victims in the same way they were without forgiveness and she became to some extent despised by a number of other survivors. What struck me was the fact that Eva had come implicitly to Jesus' own notion of forgiveness and justice (where her own healing is paramount and brings about changes in others and the fabric of reality more than other notions of justice) while others clung to the Jewish teaching which states that amendment and restitution (signs of true repentance but more than this as well) must be made before forgiveness is granted. What also struck me was that she was indeed freer and less a victim in subjective terms than those who refused to forgive saying they had no right, for instance. Further, her forgiveness and freedom freed others (including another doctor at the camp (Dr Hans Munch) who had, until he met Eva and heard of her own stance towards Mengele, been unable to forgive himself) --- though it also pointed up the terrible bondage of either refusal or inability to forgive which other survivors experienced, especially as this became complicated by their newfound anger with Eva.

Today's Gospel reminds me of this video (and vice versa) because of the close linkage of John Bp and Jesus, and so of two very different (though still-related) approaches to repentance and forgiveness. On the one hand, a strictly ascetic John the Baptist preaches what John Meier describes as a "fierce call to repentance, stiffened with dire warnings of fiery judgment soon to come." (A Marginal Jew, vol 2, pp 148-49) In general John's preaching is dismissed and John himself is treated contemptuously as being mad or possessed by a demon. In the language of the parable John piped a funeral dirge and people refused to mourn.

On the other hand we have Jesus of Nazareth preaching the arrival of the Kingdom of God and offering "an easy, joyous way into [that] Kingdom" by welcoming the religious outcasts and sinners to a place in table fellowship with himself. Meier characterizes the response to THIS call to repentance in terms of the parable, [[With a sudden burst of puritanism, this generation felt that no hallowed prophet sent from God would adopt such a free-wheeling, pleasure-seeking lifestyle, hobnobbing with religious lowlifes and offering assurances of God's forgiveness without demanding the proper process for reintegration into Jewish religious society. How could this Jesus be a true prophet and reformer when he was a glutton and a drunkard, a close companion at meals with people who robbed their fellow Jews . . .or who sinned willfully and heinously, yet refused to repent. . .?]] In other words, in terms of tomorrow's parable Jesus piped a joyful tune, a wedding tune, and people refused to join in the celebration and dismissed Jesus himself as a terrible sinner, worthy of death.

There is wisdom in both approaches to repentance and forgiveness. Both are part of the Judeo-Christian heritage. Both approaches are rejected by "this generation" --- as Jesus calls those who refuse to believe in him. Both lead to greater freedom. But it is Jesus' model which leads to the kind of freedom Eva Moses Kor discovered and which is supposed to mark our own approach to repentance and forgiveness. After all repentance is truly a celebration of God's love and mercy, and these we well know are inexhaustible. Still, entering the celebration is not necessarily easy for us, and we may wonder as some of the other survivors wondered about Eva's forgiveness of Mengele: do we have the right to forgive? Is it wise to act in this way towards someone who has not repented and asked for our forgiveness? Isn't this a form of "cheap grace" so ably castigated by Dietrich Bonhoeffer --- also a victim of the Nazi death machine? (cf The Cost of Discipleship) Where does forgiveness become enabling and does it demean others who have also been harmed? What about tough love: isn't John Bp's approach the better one? Am I really supposed to simply welcome serious sinners into my home? Into our sacred meal? To membership in the Church? To my circle of friends?

And the simple answer to most of these questions is yes, this is what we are called to do. The Kingdom of God is at hand and Jesus' example is the one we follow. It is this example which leads to the freedom of the Kingdom, this example that made Christians of us and will in time transform our world. In particular, it is this example which sets the tone for Advent joy and festivity and allows the future to take hold of our lives and hearts. It is not merely that we have the right to forgive in this way, but that we have been commissioned to do so. It is an expression of our own vocations to embody or incarnate the unconditional mercy of God in Christ.

Most of us will find ourselves caught between the prophetic example of John the Baptist and the Messianic example of Jesus' meal fellowship with sinners. We have great empathy both for the approach of Eva Moses Kor AND those survivors who could not forgive Mengele --- often because they felt that doing so was contrary to justice as spelled out in the Scriptures and elaborated in rabbinical tradition, as well as because it demeaned his victims. We know that "tough love" has a place in our world and that "cheap grace" is more problem than solution. Today's Gospel underscores our own position between worlds and kingdoms, and it may cause us to recognize that there was a deep suspicion of Jesus' table fellowship which was grounded in more than envy or fear. We may see clearly that the Jewish leadership of Jesus' day had serious and justified concerns about the wisdom of Jesus' actions and praxis. Even so, it is also clear regarding which model of repentance and forgiveness we are to choose, which model represents the freedom of the Kingdom of God, and which model allows us to be Christ for others. As Matthew's version of this parable also affirms, the wisdom of this approach will be found in its fruit --- if only we can be patient and trust in the wisdom of Jesus, the glutton, drunkard, and libertine who consorted with serious sinners.

02 December 2010

John Haught, the Future, and Advent

As a result of a panel discussion I listened to yesterday or the day before, I was reading God After Darwin again and came to an interesting passage on time and the idea of a metaphysics of future. In this book John F Haught tries to reorient both theology and science from an over dependence on (or bondage to) the past and turn them to a notion of future which is very different than the notion we are so used to. He is convinced this new perspective is (literally) the hope of both theology and science. For me personally his ideas imply a shift in the way I think of "the present moment" or the way I celebrate Advent or look to the Feast of Christ's Nativity.

Haught begins this section by describing faith as the state of being grasped (a la Tillich!) by "that which is to come." He then speaks of the future as having some kind of "efficacy" --- hard as this is to conceive of. He goes on to refer to a famous passage by Tillich in which he refers to being grasped by the "coming order." [[ The coming order is always coming, shaking this order, fighting with it, conquering it and conquered by it. The coming order is always at hand. But one can never say, "It is here. It is there!" One can never grasp it, but one can be grasped by it.]] (Shaking of the Foundations, p 27)

We are so very used to thinking of the future as that which is not here yet (because it has not yet been built out of the building blocks of the past and present), and the past as that which has been completed and gone (scattered building blocks, mostly turned to dust). We think of the present (the building blocks we can pick up and work with) as the only really real. But the situation is more complex and also more exciting than this. What we call present is the eternally-coming-to-be-and-also-passing (the eternally vanishing and ephemeral). It cannot really be fixed or pointed to, for the moment we identify it, it is gone and a new present has come into play (and gone again too). Meanwhile it is the future that takes hold of us and calls us to be. Haught writes:

[[In the experience of faith, it is the "future" that comes to meet us, takes hold of us, and makes us new. We may call this future, at least in what Rahner calls its "absolute" depth, by the name "God". In Biblical circles the very heart of authentic faith consists in the total orientation of consciousness toward the coming of God, the ultimately real. Beyond all our provisional or relative futures there lies an "Absolute future." And since our own experience cannot be separated artificially from the natural world to which we are tied by evolution, we are permitted to also surmise that "being grasped" by the absolute future pertains not just to ourselves but to the whole cosmic process in which we are sited. Theology can claim legitimately, along with St Paul (Rom 8:22), that the entire universe is always being drawn by the power of a divinely renewing future. The "power of the future" is the ultimate metaphysical explanation of evolution.]]

Later Haught explains: "by a metaphysics of the future, I mean quite simply the philosophical expression of the intuition --- admittedly religious in origin --- that all things receive their being from out of an inexhaustibly resourceful "future" that we may call "God" this intuition also entails the notion that the cosmic past and present are in some sense given their own status by the always arriving but also always unavailable future. . . . It should not be too hard for us to appreciate, therefore, why a religion that encourages its devotees to wait in patient hope for the fulfillment of life and history will interpret ultimate reality, or God, as coming toward the present, and continually creating the world from the sphere of the future "not-yet". . . .The past and present may seem to have more "being," in the sense of fixed reality, than does the future, which apparently has the character of not-yet-being. . . . In fact many of us think intuitively of the future as quite "unreal," since it has not yet arrived fully. [Haught notes this is a difficult and confusing idea at first, then says,] . . .perhaps this confusion is the result of our having been bewitched by a metaphysics either of the past or the eternal present. . . .]]

It seems to me that Advent is the perfect time to ask ourselves if we have been so bewitched, and to what degree we are really believers in the summoning call, promise, and power of the future which dwells within us and summons us from all sides as well. To what degree are our own lives an expression of the hope this future provides? (I would note that nothing unreal has this same kind or degree of power.) How truly attuned to the future are we? How truly capable of waiting, not in the grim sense of being stuck in the past, but in terms of orienting all we are and know TOWARDS the future that IS in God and is breaking in on us at every moment?

Contemplatives often speak of living in the present moment or attending to the present moment and sometimes we have the sense that the present moment is a kind of static reality of some breadth and length. We may also think that this kind of spirituality locks away the past and blocks us from looking towards the future. But really, the contemplative "present moment" is precisely what Haught is speaking of here: the powerful and continual grasping of our lives by the power of futurity -- a futurity grounded and realized in the living God. To truly dwell in the present moment is to give oneself over to this absolute future, this God who creates by summoning us forth from death and the despair of the past-only into the hope and freedom of the dawning-future we call present. This I think is preeminently the spirituality of Advent.

Our own approaches to Advent will differ one to the next, but we should ask ourselves to what degree have we become bewitched by another metaphysics than the one Haught describes, a metaphysics of the past or of a static eternal present, for instance rather than a metaphysics of future. For some that may mean spending some time rethinking our own ideas of the nature of time. We must at least, I think, begin to get our minds around this idea that the future is more real than we have allowed thus far in our conventional wisdom re time, and that IT is the reason there is a present (or really, anything at all). We, our world, the whole of the cosmos is not SIMPLY the consequence of a series of past causal events. Instead we are the result of God summoning the real out of the unreal, the more perfect out of the less perfect, the more complex out of the less complex, etc. We are here because the future opens the way for us to grow to fulfillment, not as a void into which we might merely move or expand as the weight of the past pushes us onward, but as an effective reality which empowers and summons to encounter and surrender. For me this is a really new way of thinking or seeing --- something, despite my reading of Haught, Moltmann, et al, I had not really "gotten" before now in doing theology. And so, the prospect of exploring this is new and exciting. Personally, I love beginnings and the excitement linked to them! That is what Advent (and the power of future) are all about! Apparently that is also what remaining in the present moment is all about as well!!

P.S., for those looking for a challenging and very exciting read, check out John Haught's, God After Darwin, A Theology of Evolution. If you are not up to the whole thing (and I personally am not myself right now) at least read chapter 6, "A God for Evolution." Of all of Haught's books the one I have liked best to this point is Is Nature Enough?. Great ideas, central themes, but readable. There you might want to look at the chapter on "Emergence" or the last short chapter on "Anticipation".

01 December 2010

Questions, Lay Hermits and Canons 604 vs 603

[[I am a little confused by some of the things you have written on your blog. I remember [someone] talking . . .about living as a lay hermit and your response was " good, the world needs more lay hermits" but it seem at times on your blog that you are against lay hermits, that you look down on them, that they are not a true expression. On another note, can you explain the difference between code 603 and 604? I'm sure you've written about it before but if you could " dumb it down" for me. ]]

Thanks for the questions. I think it is probably important to read everything I have written about lay hermits, or at least to read about it apart from what I say about canonical or diocesan hermits. If one reads JUST what I say about diocesan hermits one could get the impression you have gotten. I am passionate and enthusiastic about my own vocation and I argue for its importance in a world which generally neither esteems nor understands it. Thus, I devote more energy and time to it than to the lay hermit vocation. If, however, you read what I say about the need for lay hermits, the dignity of the lay state, the need for all hermits to discern between calls to lay or diocesan eremitical life, I think the impression is more balanced and positive.

To restate briefly what I have said before on this, the two vocations are both valid expressions of the eremitical life. (Religious eremitical or semi-eremitical life is a third valid expression by the way.) Both are important and each may speak to different segments of the Church and world more effectively than the other. They have different rights and responsibilities within the church per se, though they overlap and may be identical in terms of the foundational elements of the life. Despite their hiddenness, one is a "public" vocation and one is not. The obligations of one flow directly from one's lay vocation and state, the obligations of the other do not but come from public profession and initiation into the consecrated state as well.

Yes, the world needs more lay hermits. It is my impression that in general lay hermits could speak to the problem of isolated people in unnatural solitudes better than canonical or diocesan hermits do (though I haven't seen or heard any lay hermits doing that, more's the pity)! They stand directly in the shadow and line of the desert Abbas and Ammas --- who were also lay hermits, and witness to a different kind of relationship with the local church than diocesan hermits do. They witness to the simplicity and freedom of the eremitical life in ways the diocesan hermit perhaps cannot do as easily or effectively (here some of the criticisms or concerns re institutionalization of the vocation may come into play --- at least in a cautionary sense). Lay hermits model the universal call to holiness, the universality of the call to contemplative prayer (which many people still believe is ONLY open to specialists), and the call to the silence of solitude (union with God) which every person is meant to embody in one way or to one degree and another; they can do all this better than the diocesan hermit who is perceived as a religious and, unfortunately, therefore somewhat distinct from the laity. I should note that lay hermits, precisely because they live without the benefits of habit, title, etc, also call diocesan hermits in a poignant way to live the life without becoming caught up in the approval/status game which is more typical of "the world" hermits and other Christians reject.

Regarding the distinctions between Canons 603 and 604, they are significant. Canon 604 is the canon governing the conse-cration of virgins living in the world (i.e., not religious or hermits). It establishes them as consecrated women and brides of Christ and is thus a renewal or revival of this ancient vocation in the Church. (Some cloistered nuns have historically used the Rite of Consecration of Virgins on the occasion of their solemn profession and continue to do so today. Canon 604 revives the practice of consecrating women living in the world to a vocation which both predated and stood side by side this practice until about 1200. Consecrated Virgins living in the world are thus not nuns or "quasi nuns.")

The life of a consecrated virgin under Canon 604 may be fairly contemplative or quite active. She is expected to serve the Church by her life in whatever way suits and may do appropriate ministry with her gifts. She does not make vows but instead makes a proposal to live a chaste life; like diocesan hermits she is consecrated by God through the act of the diocesan Bishop. (All religious enter the consecrated state because they are consecrated by God and so do consecrated virgins living in the world.) She therefore lives the evangelical counsels in a way which fits her secular state despite not making vows to do so and has what is described as a "special relationship" with her Bishop.

Canon 603 is the canon governing the life of diocesan hermits. Hermits do not live in the world but rather in stricter separation from it. Like consecrated virgins they are in the consecrated state. Besides "stricter separation from the world", their lives are characterized by "the silence of solitude," and "assiduous prayer and penance," all lived for the glory of God and the salvation of the world. They also live the evangelical counsels and are obligated to do so by vow or other sacred bond. Their legitimate superior is their Bishop who may appoint or ask the hermit to select someone to act as a diocesan delegate, a quasi superior who meets with the hermit regularly during the year and serves both the hermit and the diocese on the Bishop's behalf. Diocesan Hermits write their own Rule or Plan of Life which becomes a morally and legally binding Rule on the day of their Profession. The Rule is ordinarily approved by a Bishop's Decree on that day and becomes the equivalent of proper law at that time. All of these externals aside, the vocation itself is a call to live the silence of solitude in stricter separation from the world, and this is simply not generally true of the vocation to consecrated virginity which is secular (lived in the world). They really are different vocations despite the similarities that also exist.

Early in the history of these two canons (c.1984-90) we saw people being conse-crated under Canon 604 AND Canon 603, that is, they were consecrated under the second of these canons despite already being consecrated under one of them. (Usually 603 came second because it was not as easy to discern eremitical vocations and Bishops were less willing to profess individuals under it than to consecrate a virgin living in the world.) Those who wanted to be hermits accepted consecration under Canon 604 and were sometimes called "diocesan sisters" and only later were admitted to vows under Canon 603 (if this occurred at all). (Sometimes Bishops used Canon 603 to profess individuals but did not want to indicate these persons were diocesan hermits and also used the term "diocesan sister" to describe or designate them in the diocesan directory.)

However, this is no longer accepted or acceptable practice. The consecration of each of the two vocations is complete in itself and the vocations differ from one another (Cf Statutes of the Bishops of France on Eremitical life); each have their own dignity and character. One is secular, the other is religious. It is not acceptable to celebrate consecration under Canon 604 simply because a Bishop will not use Canon 603 in his diocese any more than it is acceptable for individuals in non-canonical or lay communities to use C.603 as a way to get canonically professed and consecrated. My point here is simply that one needs to truly discern to which vocation they are called (and the church needs to do this as well), for it cannot be both (the exception is when the CV later discerns a call to solitude and becomes a diocesan hermit under c 603; alternately, a hermit might find she is no longer called to solitude, be dispensed from her vows, and seek consecration as a Virgin living in the world).

I hope this is helpful. If it raises more questions please get back to me.