05 September 2014

When is a Laura not a Laura for a Diocesan Hermit?

Hi Sister Laurel, I read the following online and wondered if you could comment on it. It is several years old but I am sure it refers to you and to something you are supposed to have written. [[Also Sister Laurels defintion of laura is deeply flawed. A good example of this are the carthusians, early Carmelites and Camaldolese of Monte Corona who are a direct split off from the OSB Camaldolese and started as a Camaldolese laura with the same spirit and rule reformed for a stricter observance of the Camaldoli rule. They did away with the cenobial common house aspects so when they enter the community go straight into the hermitage not as individual hermits but as a laura community with strict enclosure. They can be found here in the United States in Ohio. Also sister's saying that you have to be separate in spirituality to be a laura is also false. I have never argued it openly with her because I felt it would only upset the group and bring more heat than light. (Indwelling Trinity/Emmanuel)]]

Sure.  First, this person (Emmanuel is a screename only; this is not the BC diocesan hermit) has mistaken a general definition of laura which is any colony of hermits for the discussions I have had about lauras of canon 603 hermits. The two differ in a number of ways where the laura of the diocesan hermit is a special case within the general category. She is entirely correct that the Camaldolese constitute a laura and the same with the other groups she mentions. They also tend to represent semi-eremitical communities where all are bound by the same Rule, constitutions, and customs. They are governed by superiors from within the community, share a common purse and their vow of poverty is interpreted in terms of this. But when I write here that a laura of DIOCESAN hermits must not rise to the level of a community and therefore may not have many of the elements that these communities do, for instance, I am merely re-stating what experts and canonists on canon 603 like Rev. Jean Beyer have clarified because of the solitary eremitical nature of the life canon 603 defines. (cf Canon 603 Misuses and Abuses pt 1)

Remember that when one enters one of the lauras or communities Emmanuel mentions above they are making their eventual profession AS A MEMBER OF this community or congregation. They are not, as is the case with diocesan hermits, solitary hermits responsible for their own upkeep, writing and living their own Rule, and so forth. If the congregation dissolves then these religious hermits will find that their own vows will also cease due to a material change in the circumstances in which they were made (c. 1194) unless they can transfer these to another institute. (They could not simply transfer their vows and become a diocesan hermit by the way.)

But diocesan hermits are formed  as solitary hermits and make their vows directly in the hands of the local Bishop; should a laura they have formed thereafter dissolve for some reason or another, the individual hermit's vows do not cease. They retain these and the obligation to live as a solitary hermit within the diocese continuing under the supervision of the bishop and their own delegate. In other words, in the examples Emmanuel mentions we are dealing with communities or congregations and their hermits are professed as members of said community. These communities can certainly be called lauras because they are colonies of hermits but they are not colonies of SOLITARY hermits as are c 603 hermits and they are therefore different in kind than lauras of c 603 hermits. For diocesan hermits a laura, helpful as it might be for mutual support in solitude, is incidental to their vocation; for hermits professed in community the laura is an essential part of the vocation.

Regarding separate spirituality, once again Emmanuel has misunderstood what I have affirmed, namely, that if diocesan hermits come together in a laura each hermit has every right to maintain his or her own separate spirituality and not have a single one imposed on them as happens in a group of Camaldolese or Carmelites, for instance where those entering the congregation are formed in this specific spiritual tradition as representatives of it. I suspect this is the place where Emmanuel misinterpreted what I was saying. Thus, in a single diocese when several diocesan hermits choose to live together in a laura for the mutual support of life in solitude, one may have embraced a Franciscan spirituality, one a Camaldolese, and a third, Carmelite.

Because this is not a community reflecting one specific spiritual tradition one need not relinquish one's own identifying or representative spirituality, nor to wear one single representative habit, etc. Since the hermits here remain solitary hermits they have every right to live out their own expression of this according to the spiritual tradition that best fits them and to continue doing so according to their own Rule or Plan of Life. (Guidelines and minimal communal organization and structure will likely be necessary in this laura but it does not rise to the level of structure of a community in the canonical sense. This is especially true since commentators who specialize in Canon Law and who have focused attention on canon 603 are clear that lauras of diocesan hermits should not be composed of more than three hermits at a time.[[Cada Eremitorio consta de no mas de tres EremitaƱos profesos del mismo sexo.]] Revista EspaƱola de Derecho Canonico, Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca, vol 44 num 122, Junio 1987)

Conversely, therefore, if a laura of diocesan hermits begins to move in the direction of a single spirituality, a single habit, a common purse, a single Rule rather than the hermits' own Rules, or if there are uniform horaria imposed, or limitations on the work a hermit may or may not do (one "c 603 laura" does not allow its hermits to do spiritual direction for instance, and in later versions of the Plan of Life requires individual hermits to get permission to leave the property rather than simply signing out so folks know she is away, etc.), or when the laura begins to dictate who the hermits may have as confessors and directors (this same "laura" requires the superior of the hermitage to be every individual hermit's spiritual director), when they  may see friends or family, how they may use media, and so forth in contrast to the individual hermits' own Rules or Plans of Life and discernment, chances are pretty good that the laura has crossed the line into becoming a community of semi-eremites rather than a colony of solitary diocesan hermits.

In any case my point has been that individual characteristics including spirituality are to be retained as well as possible in lauras of diocesan (solitary) hermits. After all, diocesan hermits are first of all solitary and diocesan, not Carmelite or Franciscan or Camaldolese, for instance; their vows are made as solitary hermits within the context of the diocese NOT within a Carmelite or other Order or congregation. The tradition they are committed to live out is that of solitary hermits who may also but secondarily embrace some specific spirituality to assist in that. Like community a specific spiritual tradition is intrinsic to formation and profession for hermits who are part of congregations. It is far less so for diocesan hermits whose charism transcends any specific spirituality. By the way, this is one of the reasons a number of us in various dioceses and countries have adopted Er Dio or some other version of Eremita dioecesanus (including Erem Dio, and ED) instead of post-nomial initials which can be mistaken for congregational initials. We say clearly in this way that we are vowed as diocesan hermits, not as Franciscans or Camaldolese, and so forth. This is quite different than the cases Emmanuel mentions and also quite different from the position she attributes to me. Please do check the labels included below. They will link you to some of what I have written about this before and enlarge on what constitutes a community rather than a laura in the case of diocesan hermits. Again, you might also check the following article for a better summary: Canon 603 Misuses and Abuses pt 1