11 June 2014

Question on Religious Poverty and the Diocesan Hermit

[[Dear Sister, Can a hermit own her own property? In particular I was thinking if it was small and only sufficient for her needs. What is your status with regard to your hermitage? How does this line up with your vow of poverty?]]

Please do check other posts on poverty since I have written about this before (one link is included at the end of this post). Yes, hermits may certainly own their own hermitages. So long as they can maintain the property and care for themselves this is probably the best way to go. Remember that diocesan hermits are required to be self-supporting so although they live very poorly and in some cases have executed a cession of administration as part of their vow of religious poverty, poverty for the solitary hermit does not involve a vow which prohibits them from owning anything. That is more fitting for a hermit who belongs to a community which provides for their care and ordinary needs.

I rent the place where I live. Since my vow of poverty is in line with a Benedictine conception of poverty as well as with the requirements of canon 603 I own a number of things a Franciscan hermit might not, for instance, nor someone living in community where the congregation shares some essentials and have physical facilities which support the common life. I have a significant theological library and a good spirituality collection besides because I need these for my own work and spiritual nourishment as well. (These are pretty standard in community of course.) I own a computer which allows me to write and serves as a window on the world around me --- but also allows limited contact with others in case of need or question. I own the wherewithal to listen to liturgical music -- thus iPod, CD's, CD player, etc. I maintain the necessary accouterments for a small chapel where Eucharist is reserved. Further, the expenses which fall to me additionally include: rent, utilities,  cable/phone, insurance, food, education, retreat, spiritual direction or supervision, transportation, clothing, recreation, and health/exercise needs.

My own vow of poverty reads as follows: [[I recognize and accept the radical poverty to which I am called in allowing God to be the sole source of strength and validation in my life. The poverty to which my brokenness, fragility, and weakness attest, reveal that precisely in my fragility I am given the gift of God’s grace, and in accepting my insignificance apart from God, my life acquires the infinite significance of one who knows she has been regarded by Him. I affirm that my entire life has been given to me as gift and that it is demanded of me in service, and I vow Poverty, to live this life reverently as one acknowledging both poverty and giftedness in all things, whether these reveal themselves in strength or weakness, in resiliency or fragility, in wholeness or in brokenness.]]

You see, the heart of religious poverty for me is dependence upon God which issues in a reverence for all that is part of my life. This attitude shapes my approach to owning and spending, to using and having, to acquiring or giving back, but it also shapes the way I see myself and others. Because God is first and last in importance, because he is the source of my life's meaningfulness and richness, and because I am committed to allowing that to be more and more true as life goes on, this means that I really have less need to own things, less need for novelty instead of the real newness God brings to everything and less need to shore up my own poverty and brokenness with "stuff." In any case, you might want to look at the following article as well on the matter of religious poverty: Eremitical Poverty and the Diocesan Hermit