I have written recently that I had begun to think perhaps Episcopal solitaries were not always identical to Catholic hermits because the term hermit is a richer or at least a much more specific and demanding one than solitary and implies desert living and spirituality. The Rule of an Episcopal Anchorite confirmed this for me but today in response I also received an email from an Anglican solitary living in the UK. signed, ____ ,SCL (single consecrated life) writes:
[[I am an Anglican Consecrated Woman living in the UK (Single Consecrated Life; SCL). I am sometimes referred to as a "solitary" because I live on my own, but in reality I am more like your Roman Catholic Order of Consecrated Virgins; OCV's. I work. . . to provide for myself. . . . I was professed in the Single Consecrated Life and I've been in life vows for over 10 years. My spirituality is Carmelite and when I am not obliged to work or go to Mass I remain in my little "enclosure", my very ordinary house and garden. (Ellipses used to maintain privacy)
Many of those who are "solitaries" are NOT hermits. There are quite a few retired professionals who have become SCL's and who like to think they are hermits because they live on state pensions and no longer have to work for their living! I would say that probably only 1 or 2 out of twenty Anglican "solitaries" are REAL hermits. [These others are] People who go driving round to religious communities, the latest conferences and get-togethers and announcing they are "hermits".........! ]]
So, many thanks for that response. It helps clarify wonderfully not only why canon 603 spells out the normative requirements of an eremitical life but why I have often commented that a lone pious individual is not necessarily a hermit. Eremitical solitude is a different animal than the solitude of social isolation or the solitude associated with bereavement, retirement, prison, etc. While these can be transformed or transfigured into eremitical solitude, and while that solitude certainly can build on these, they must not be mistaken for it. Moreover, as a consequence of the original question, I have now been able to read some terminologically confused blogs by Episcopal solitaries who fail to adequately distinguish between being a solitary religious and being a hermit. The Roman Catholic canon 603 does indeed serve to protect a tradition and vocation; it is not merely about professing and consecrating individuals who neither can nor perhaps desire to be part of a Religious Institute. It is about professing solitary hermits, not individuals who desire to simply "do their own thing" for instance.