29 April 2016

Lay Diocesan Hermit???

Dear Sister, what is a diocesan lay hermit? How do they differ from conse-crated diocesan hermits?

Thanks for your question. From time to time folks search this site using various terms and one of those is "diocesan lay hermit". There is  simply no such thing. All diocesan hermits are professed and consecrated canonically under canon 603. What this means is that if one is publicly professed and consecrated as a diocesan hermit, they live as a hermit OF a specific diocese rather than living as a privately dedicated or non-canonical hermit IN the diocese. The distinction between being a hermit in a diocese and being a hermit OF a diocese may seem like a petty distinction but it really is not. It involves the difference between doing something privately within a diocese and being commissioned to do something that publicly represents the diocese and her own discernment and trust in this specific way.

For instance, I lived for many years as a hermit IN the Diocese of Oakland; only when I was admitted to perpetual profession and to consecration as a canon 603 did I become a diocesan hermit OF the Diocese of Oakland. A legal document (analogous to a sacramental certificate) testifying to this fact was issued by the diocese and given to me on the day of profession; such "testimonials" represent ecclesial affirmations of a public vocation and have been provided for many diocesan hermits over the years upon their admission to perpetual canonical profession.

You see, once one attaches a term like diocesan or Catholic or consecrated or professed to one's eremitical life one is necessarily talking about being a publicly or legitimately committed and commissioned hermit OF the diocese. The diocese must share in the individual's discernment and admit them to canonical profession and consecration. When this occurs the person so consecrated is a diocesan hermit, a hermit living her eremitical life in the name of the diocesan Church and too, the Church Universal. (Remember the diocese is a local Church and the publicly professed hermit lives her life in the name of the Church --- both local and universal; thus, she is diocesan and lives her life in the name of the diocese.) Through profession under canon 603 alone does one become a diocesan hermit. A lay hermit in a diocese, whether privately vowed or not vowed at all, is not a diocesan hermit. She is a hermit IN the diocese but she is not a hermit OF the Diocese of [N___].

Again,  the professed (i.e., the canonical) hermit is not necessarily better than the lay (i.e., the non- canonical) hermit. However, they differ in the rights and obligations they have assumed. Both live their baptismal promises in the silence of solitude. A canonical or consecrated hermit --- whether under c 603 or professed as part of a congregation (or institute) like the Camaldolese or Carthusians, for instance, ---  is extended and embraces canonical obligations and rights which are additional to those associated with baptism alone. The word diocesan in your question points to an ecclesial vocation in which the Church admits one to canonical standing as a hermit under the direct supervision of the diocesan bishop.

Addendum, Followup Question: If I am a Catholic and a lay hermit don't I also live my life in the name of the Church? Why not as a hermit?

Lay persons do indeed live their lives and vocations as persons in the lay state in the name of the Church. The Church commissions them to do this not only at baptism or other Sacraments of initiation, but at the end of Mass (Go and proclaim the Gospel with your lives, etc), and at other times as well. Such a sending forth is something we may take for granted but it is an act of commissioning which serves to renew the call associated with one's state of life.

However, a lay hermit (with or without private vows) does not live eremitical life itself in the name of the Church. She has undertaken this life according to her own discernment in her own name. It is a private undertaking unless and until the Church specifically commissions her to live it in her name. You, for instance, are entirely free to live as a lay hermit in this way, just as you are free to live your lay vocation in any number of ways with various  commitments (e.g., to the military, law enforcement, education, medicine, politics, etc).  While all of these and any number of other similar commitments are significant callings ordinarily embraced  by persons in the lay state, they are not ecclesial vocations and are not commissioned by or lived in the name of the Church. If you should also wish to live eremitical life in the name of the Church you (or any lay hermit) must submit to a mutual process of discernment and, should the Church determine you are called to this vocation, they will act to profess and eventually consecrate and commission you to live eremitical life in her name.