02 February 2015

Followup: On the Significance of the Designation Er Dio (Eremita Dioecesanus)

[[Dear Sister O'Neal, I am grateful you answered my question on the issue of humility and titles. I realize you rewrote your response. I am sorry if my questions were upsetting. I do have a followup one though. In the blog article On Humility and Hermit Titles, the author seems to reluctantly accept that the use of titles and post-nomial initials by Religious Congregations is relatively meaningful because their members are all under a single Rule but that diocesan hermits are individuals with each one being unique and governed by his or her own individual Rule. I think she is saying that hermits shouldn't use a single set of post-nomial initials or titles because they have less in common with one another than they have differences. Does the use of Er Dio or Erem Dio serve to mask an eremitical individualism? I know you argue that eremitical life is not about individualism so it would be pretty serious if the use of the designation "diocesan hermit" were a way of masking that --- something I think maybe On Humility and Hermit Titles is suggesting. I hope this is a more substantive question than my others!!]]

Yes, thank you. This is indeed a substantive question and an interesting one (at least I find it interesting, not least because it was my own Bishop who first approved the use of the initials Er Dio or Erem Dio in 2008!). The poster "joyful hermit", a privately vowed (i.e., a lay or non-canonical) hermit rather than a publicly professed diocesan hermit with the right to use either title or such post-nomial initials, wrote the following: [[ One has come to accept that those in religious orders thought it best to clarify they are of this or that order (Benedictine, Franciscan,  on and on). Perhaps it was necessary to self-identify based upon different rules of life, different foci of spiritual and corporal works of mercy. But they are groups of consecrated religious, living in monasteries under one rule. Hermits are individuals living under individual rules, other than the handful of hermit monastic orders. Even then, their lived daily rules of life are uniquely individual, and in solitude and silence. If there is any point to our identifying ourselves by name and especially by letters or symbols following our names, the reason eludes this nothing. It is rather odd to even add "Catholic hermit" to the "nothing", but this nothing Catholic hermit has a point--attempts to make a point by including "Catholic" with "hermit" to "nothing". ]]

What the poster whom you and I have both cited has missed, I believe, is that while Religious living in community do indeed live under a single Rule and set of Constitutions, diocesan hermits, no matter their individual differences or location (country, diocese, spiritual tradition or family, etc), are each bound by the same canon, both morally and legally. They especially live their lives according to and under the aegis of Canon 603, both sections 1 and 2. They each live their own Rule, yes, but each Rule is a tailored expression of the way their lives are an instance of assiduous prayer and penance, stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude, and the content of their public profession in the hands of the local  Ordinary. Each Rule will reflect the life of a consecrated religious with legitimate superiors and a commission to serve the People of God. The life, unlike that of the privately-vowed hermit, is thus a specifically and formally ecclesial one which is marked by certain public relationships (Bishop, Diocese, delegate) and responsibilities. Other canons which apply to all religious may also legally bind diocesan hermits but it is canon 603 that primarily defines every one of our lives.

As I have written here a number of times all of these requirements and governing norms serve to assist the Diocesan Hermit to fulfill her public commitment and obligation to live eremitical life in the Name of the Church. Each Diocesan Hermit has assumed responsibility for responding to, protecting, and extending the scope of the movement of the Holy Spirit in regard to the Christian eremitical tradition. Each diocesan hermit's life is meant to be an expression of the norm Canon 603 represents --- a paradigmatic example of solitary eremitical life with the commonalities and individual flexibilities every authentic hermit shares but lived in a publicly accountable way as the Church has commissioned him/her to do. The designation Er Dio (or Erem Dio) points to all of this; it establishes a very substantial shared content with a similarly significant degree of authentic freedom to be embraced by public vow and approved Rule. It is, when lived well and with integrity, about as far from individualism as I can imagine.

Er Dio (Eremita Dioecesanus): A Measure and Marker of Commonality

You see, when I see, read about, or hear of a hermit using the initials Er Dio (or others which signal their identity as professed and consecrated under Canon 603), I know that we share a host of similar values, relationships, daily commitments, joys and struggles. I know that different as we each are (and indeed we are each amazingly unique) we have been called and given our lives in Christ to the same charism, the same tradition, the same ecclesial vocation. We share the same vows, explore the same solitary, silent depths of union with God in service to the Church and World --- and we know that we are each publicly responsible to do so for the whole of our lives --- not least so our brother and sister hermits may also be sustained in their own commitments.

While our Rules and horaria differ one from the other we maintain this commitment as solitary hermits, usually, though not always, within a parish community with its joys, friendships, opportunities and sorrows; moreover we do so as consecrated persons responsible for our own upkeep, cognizant that others are similarly responsible, and often times, may be struggling just as we may sometimes do in living without the usual securities, challenges and consolations provided by Religious communities. Er Dio, a designation some canon 603 hermits in several countries have adopted with their Bishops' permission witnesses to all of this and more. It stresses commonality, a shared and numerically very rare contemporary vocation, and omits distinguishing dimensions (like the hermits' own preference in spiritual traditions, for instance); it is emphatically NOT meaningless nor is it a mask for individualism pretending to eremitism.  For related discussions please check out: Ecclesial and Normative Vocations, or Eremitical Life: Ecclesiality vs Individualistic Devotional ActsNew Post-Nomial Initials for Diocesan Hermits and similar posts.

I sincerely hope this has been helpful. While much is repetitive I think some recently-broken new ground (cf, On Canon 603 and Herding Cats) was covered more explicitly in regard to the commonalities implied by the designation Er Dio. By the way, not to worry; your questions were not upsetting in the least. Occasionally a post (and its author!!!) will benefit from a different approach; this was definitely one of those. Thanks for your patience.