26 January 2016

On Living Under Obedience as a Consecrated Hermit

[[Hi Sister, I am wondering how a contemporary hermit lives obedience in the religious life?  Of course you are obedient to your vows, but in daily life, in choosing your occupation (or a decision not to have one), do you have a way of living under obedience.  If not, does this present problems in striving for holiness?  I don't want to bother with all the ramifications of the subject, as I am sure you are aware of them all, and we need not go into a lengthy theological discussion.  I was just wondering. Thanks,]]

Thanks for the questions. Remember that obedience means first of all hearkening to the will of God as it comes or is mediated to us in many ways. Those include not just one's vows, but also Scripture, prayer, liturgy and the Sacraments, the ordinary circumstances of life, one's Rule or Plan of Life, the discernments of one's legitimate superior (Bishop and delegate), other significant persons in our lives (pastor, spiritual director, physicians, good friends, et al) and of course, the voice of God in one's heart (which is usually involved in all of these others). It seems to me that contemporary consecrated hermits (and other religious) learn obedience and grow in their responsiveness to God by attending to God's voice as it is mediated in ALL of these ways (and some I may not have mentioned).

In other words, obedience is not limited to one or two channels, like vows and legitimate superior --- though of course these are privileged ways God can and does speak to us. Several of these many channels of God's will are not only privi-leged ways to living in obedience but they are also ways the hermit is bound in law; specifically, I am thus bound, both morally and legally by vows, Rule, and legitimate superior (the Diocesan Bishop and my delegate). (While in spiritual direction I feel called to an obedience every bit as real and life giving as with any of these others it is not a legal bond.)

I am not quite sure I understand your question about choosing an occupation or not to have one. I am a hermit and that IS my occupation. However, if you are referring to discerning a way of supporting myself as a hermit then it is certain that my state and form of life, and of course my Rule, limit significantly the kinds of occupations I may choose to engage in. Beyond this, of course, my bishop and delegate might have some significant input in certain situations, but generally the decision about forms of work I may undertake are limited to consideration of 1) the education and training I have for them, 2) whether I can continue to live my Rule with integrity and still undertake whatever form of work is being considered, and 3) whether this form of work is consistent with the life of a consecrated hermit and religious. It may be that in some special circumstances some kind of temporary dispensation or waiver may be needed in order to adopt a form of work I would not ordinarily do but in such a case it would need to clearly be temporary (I would argue a definite time frame and limits need to be specified) and I would need not only to have discerned the wisdom of such an accommodation but my Bishop and/or delegate would need to approve.

A c 603 hermit lives her entire life under obedience --- though this does not ordinarily mean under the micromanagement or detailed commands of superiors. It means under the sway of God as his Word and will come to her in Scripture and prayer, in the everyday circumstances of her life, and so forth. The hermit's Rule governs her entire life and, as already noted, she is bound morally and legally to honor and live that out with integrity. Personally, I reflect on my Rule a lot. It engages me on a number of levels; not only does it legislate but more fundamentally it inspires and reminds me who I am, to what I am called, and why I am committed in the way I am. From my perspective it is more deeply and extensively compelling in terms of obedience than even legitimate superiors. This is one of the reasons dioceses have to be sure that hermits have been given every opportunity over time to develop a mature and livable Rule before they admit a hermit to vows of any sort.

I hope this is helpful and gets to the heart of your question.