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Diocese of La Crosse
Office of Consecrated Life

Marlene Weisenbeck FSPA, Ph.D., J.C.L.

©August 1997
Revised November 2000
All rights reserved


Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2
I. INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Text of Canon 603 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
CLSA Commentary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . 5
Commentary from A Handbook on Canons 573-746 (Hite, Holland & Ward) . . .

Vita Consecrata No. 11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Admission of the Candidate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Expected Preparation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Expected Lifestyle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
Policies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . .6
Procedures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

II. Elements of a Rule of Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
Considerations for Clarity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
The Evangelical Counsel of Poverty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Cession of Administration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Last Will and Testament . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
The Evangelical Counsel of Chastity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22
The Evangelical Counsel of Obedience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Bishop’s Decree of Approval . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24

III. Recommendations for Stewardship of Financial

Resources. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Commentary on Financial Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26
Chart of Accounts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Budget Preparation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32
Income-Expense Account . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
Tax Exemption . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36
501 ©(3) Acknowledgment Form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37
Advance Directives for Healthcare ..........
. .. . . . 39

IV. Request Forms for Canon 603 Status . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Application Form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
List of Required Documents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
Recommendation Request . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
Waiver of Claim . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46

Release of Information concerning Behavioral Assessment . .47

Form for Addresses of Relatives and Significant Others .

V. The Rite of Profession of the Evangelical Counsels . . . . . 50

Rite A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
Rite B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. 67

VI. A Ritual for the Blessing of a Hermitage . . . . . . . . . . . . .74

VII. Ancient Rules of Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
The Rule of Saint Albert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .80
Rule for Carmelite Recluses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .84
St. Francis of Assisi Life in Hermitages. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
St. Romuald’s Brief Rule . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

VIII. 1996 Discernment Survey and Questionnaire . . . . . . . .


IX. Statutes for the Hermits of France . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98

Table of Contents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
A Brief History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
The Meaning of the Eremitical Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102
The Diversity of Hermits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .102
The Components of Eremitical Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
The Eremitical Profession . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .105
The Status Established With the Bishop . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106
Discernment for Candidates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107
The Entrance into Eremitical Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .108
Formation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . .113

X. Bibliographies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114
Eremitic Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115
Vows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. 120


This Guide Book for Eremitical Life is written after seven years of
companioning persons who were seeking God in the depths of their
souls through a life of eremitic prayer, penance and solitude. In
particular, I am grateful to Margarette, Agnes, and Mary who have
enriched my knowledge of eremitic life through their personal sharing
of self and some of the resources found in this book. The journey has
also included many other Vicars for Religious in the United States who
faithfully have reverenced and nurtured the call to an eremitic vocation
among those they serve. Finally, Lyn Sheffer has been an invaluable
and patient co-worker in the compilation of this Guide Book. Maryjo
Wilson has been significantly helpful in distribution. To all of you, my
heartfelt gratitude and admiration.

May God be always with you and may you always be with God!

Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA, Ph.D., JCL

Guide Book author, compiler, and editor

August 15, 1997

Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary


The vocation of eremitic life flourished in the early centuries of Christian life
in the church. With the revision of the Code of Canon Law in 1983, this form
of life was again encouraged as an explicitation of the one baptismal call of
all Christians.

This Guide Book is provided for those who experience a call to solitude and
penance and wish to formalize a public commitment to eremitic life within the
Church. It is the diocesan bishop who decides the necessary suitability of a
person who is admitted to public profession of the evangelical counsels
according to Canon 603, the canon which provides for this way of life within
church law, as follows:


§1. Besides institutes of consecrated life, the Church recognizes the eremitic
or anchoritic life by which the Christian faithful devote their life to the praise
of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the
world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance.

§2. A hermit is recognized in the law as one dedicated to God in a

consecrated life if he or she publicly professes the three evangelical counsels,
confirmed by a vow or other sacred bond, in the hands of the diocesan bishop
and observes his or her own plan of life under his direction.


The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary

edited by James A. Coriden, Thomas J. Green and Donald J. Heintschel
New York: Paulist Press, 1985, pp. 467-468.

The eremitical life, also called anchoritism, has its roots in the third century
with such desert fathers as St. Paul (c. 234-342) and St. Anthony (251-356).
The solitude, prayer and penance of the hermits are recognized as the
beginning of the monastic life of both men and women in the Church. Their
search for solitude distinguished them from the cenobitic form of life which
gathered around St. Pachomius in the same era.

In the 1977 schema of the revised law, the eremitical life was mentioned
along with the cenobitic life as a form of monasticism. This seemed to
envision a monk or nun, receiving permission to live apart from the
community in greater solitude. Benedict had foreseen the possibility of this in
his rule but permitted it only after the religious was well formed in the
spiritual life.

In the same schema, the canon explicitly dealing with hermits was in a set of
preliminary canons, just before the section dealing with religious, societies,
and secular institutes explicitly. The relocation of the canon further clarifies
that these persons are not members of institutes. The rules of institutes
provide adequately for members who seek greater solitude; reference to this
has been removed from the universal law. The hermits spoken of in the
canon relate directly to the diocesan bishop, making their public profession of
the counsels in his hands. Such persons are recognized in law as living a
consecrated life.

For centuries the eremitical life was less known and practiced than cenobitic
monasticism. Today increased interest is evident. Beyer speaks of the diverse
possibilities of this life, within the essential elements listed in the canon:

The description of the eremitical life can be the norm in light of which all
hermits discern and carry out their vocation wherever they live it: in the
desert, the forests, the mountains or in the solitude of the modern city.
Today, besides the public witness of the hermits through their abandonment
of the world, austerity of life, and external solitude, there are also hermits
who remain in the world, live in reserve, supporting themselves by common
manual labor. They are almost unknown, and in their cities they pray and
work to the praise of God and for the salvation of the world. . .some, even,
live in a laura (a colony of hermits) under the direction of a spiritual director
without being bound to the same rule or institute and without constituting a


from A Handbook on Canons 573-746
edited by Jordan Hite TOR, Sharon Holland IHM, and Daniel Ward OSB
Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1985, p. 55.

The basic source for this canon is Venite Seorsum I. The discussion of the
coetus indicates that they used the verb “recognizes” (agnoscit) to intend
official ecclesiastical juridical recognition. §2 offers a legal definition of a
hermit. In practice, the terms “hermit” and “anchorite” are used almost
synonymously. The New Catholic Encyclopedia nuances the difference
slightly by distinguishing hermits as those who “retire to a place far from
human habitation” to live the religious life in cells adjacent to a community.
The revival of the eremitic form of life is occurring in various parts of the
world, including areas of the United States. This canon offers a new possibility
for those seeking such recognition. Care must be taken in moving ahead too
quickly: the episcopal conference in consultation with other interested groups
like LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) or CMSM (Conference
of Major Superiors of Men) in the United States may want to issue suggested
guidelines and a discussion of the ramifications. Certainly a period of
approbation or temporary commitment is called for before the public
profession mentioned in the canons. In particular, practical details such as
financial responsibilities, regular contact, provision for sacraments, etc.,
should be worked out in advance. The term “religious” now applies to
individuals with no obligation to common or community life and no
relationship to an institute. Groups could use the category of associations of
the faithful to have ecclesiastical identity if they wish.

from Vita Consecrata No. 11

by Pope John Paul II
March 25, 1996

Men and women hermits, belonging to ancient Orders or new Institutes, or

being directly dependent on the bishop, bear witness to the passing nature of
the present age by their inward and outward separation from the world. By
fasting and penance, they show that man does not live by bread alone but by
the word of God. (cf. Mt 4:4) Such a life “in the desert” is an invitation to their
contemporaries and to the ecclesial community itself never to lose sight of
the supreme vocation, which is to be always with the Lord.

Discernment Criteria

Please see pages 92-97 Section VIII. and pages 107-108 in Section IX. which
outline an excellent review of criteria for a person considering the eremitic


1. The diocesan bishop decides who is admitted to eremitic life in the Diocese
of La Crosse.

2. The diocesan bishop and/or his delegate for consecrated life will discern
with the individual if a vocation to eremitic life is an authentic vocational call
for that person.


A process of preparation for an ecclesial public commitment as a hermit will

ordinarily include the following:

A written request to the bishop for eremitic life in the Diocese of La Crosse
Regular spiritual direction with a person other than the bishop or his
delegate for consecrated life
Evidence of adequate scriptural and theological study and preparation

Guidance in prayer forms

Study of the evangelical counsels

Study of the various spiritualities of the Church

Study of the church fathers and mothers and of significant women and
men mystics

Study of the documents of Vatican Council II, especially Gaudium et spes,

Lumen gentium, Perfectae Caritatis, the post synodal document Vita
Study of moral theology
Study of the history of eremitic life and of various early eremitic Rules of
Life such as those by St. Albert, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Pachomius, St.
Romuald (see VII.)
A written Rule of Life
Living one’s Rule of Life for at least one year before public profession of
the evangelical counsels
Periodic conferences, visits and evaluations with the Director of the Office
of Consecrated Life and the diocesan bishop
Securing a personal hermitage

Evidence of financial independence

• Daily prayer: Morning and Evening Prayer Meditation

• Examen of conscience

• Frequent participation at Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation

• Lectio divina (spiritual reading)

• Annual retreat

• Other personal and devotional prayers as desired

• Some very limited and minimal service to the church (optional)

The diocesan bishop and his delegate will be vigilant regarding the
admission of persons to preparation for eremitic life. Only those
candidates who by their age, prudence, and approved character give
assurance of a call to eremitic life may be admitted. The special bond
between the diocesan bishop and the canonical hermit requires a special
degree of spiritual and psychological stability. Moreover, suitable health
and maturity are to be ascertained, if necessary, by using experts.
Candidates must be free to embrace the eremitic life. This presupposes
that the person is a member in full communion with the Catholic Church,
neither married nor a member of a religious institute, a secular institute,
or a society of apostolic life. Church law requires that to profess the
evangelical counsels, one must be free from the impediments of lack of
age (18), lack of the use of reason, lack of a period of formation and
preparation, and fear or fraud.
Each person makes the request individually and not as part of a group or
formal organization. The person must give evidence of a clear
commitment to the solitary life and to assiduous prayer and penance.
The candidate is guided in a period of formation as outlined in these
diocesan procedures. Upon successful completion of this time of
formation, the individual may make a formal request for public profession
of the evangelical counsels as a canonical hermit.
The candidate may freely cease the period of formation prior to being
accepted for public profession of the vows according to Canon 603.
The Diocese of La Crosse assumes no financial responsibility for the
support of an individual seeking or living the life of a canonical hermit. In
cases where the individual is employed by the diocese, compensation is
provided according to other norms operative within the diocese.

An individual first discerns one’s suitability and call to eremitic life with a
pastor, spiritual director, or the bishop’s delegate for consecrated life in
the diocese. These aspirations and the call to this form of consecrated life
may be discussed with the bishop at an opportune time before a formal
request for canonical recognition is presented.
The individual completes the Request for Eremitic Status using the forms
provided in IV. of this guide book. These records are retained in the Office
of Consecrated Life and shared with the diocesan bishop.

Applicable documents and letters of recommendation are sent to the
Director of the Office of Consecrated Life who apprises the bishop of the
individual’s free status to become a canonical hermit.
The candidate either gives evidence of sufficient preparation for the
eremitic life or begins a period of preparation and formation, which
includes the various elements articulated under the Expected Preparation
outlined above. This is also a time of continuing discernment in which the
candidate can recognize one’s call to eremitic life and during which one’s
intention and suitability can be evaluated. This period of preparation may
be under the guidance of the Director of the Office of Consecrated Life
and/or other persons designated by the bishop.
With the direction of one’s spiritual director, the Director of the Office of
Consecrated Life, or another designated delegate of the bishop, the
candidate writes a personal Rule of Life. Information and suggestions are
available in II. of this guide book.
The spiritual director, the Director of the Office of Consecrated Life and
the diocesan bishop periodically evaluate the progress of the candidate in
the preparation process. Written reports are reviewed by the bishop and
the Director of the Office of Consecrated Life.

Considerations for Clarity
The Evangelical Counsels: Poverty, Chastity and Obedience
Cession of Administration
Last Will and Testament
Bishop’s Decree of Approval


Writing one’s Rule of Life can be a confirming experience of the call of God to
eremitic life. Although there are no exact determining requirements about
what must be included in a Rule of Life, certain elements to be contained
therein can be found in Canon 603 itself. The canon speaks of:

• devotion to the praise of God and the salvation of the world

• strict separation from the world

• silence

• solitude

• assiduous prayer and penance

• public profession of the three evangelical counsels

• plan of life


Using the above consideration and this outline, the person writing a Rule of
Life may be guided by a format as follows:

WHO—Introduction Name of document

Name of hermit
Brief statement of one’s call to eremitic life

WHAT—Nature of the Eremitic Life

• Context of the universal and local church

• One’s particular spiritual emphasis (e.g., Carmelite, Franciscan,
Dominican, Salesian, etc.)
• Relationship to church authority and leadership

HOW—Means to Attain Your Goals of Eremitic Life

• Prayer life and how it is expressed

• (Eucharist, Reconciliation, Divine Office, meditation, etc.)
• Your interpretation of “separation from the world”
• The observance of silence and solitude
• The observance of penance
• Poverty: Personal goal
• Cession of administration
• A will valid in civil law
• Activities relating to your financial viability
• Chastity or consecrated celibacy
• Obedience: Attentiveness to the gifts and work of the Holy Spirit
• The role of listening to others and events in one’s life
• Relationship to church authority and leadership
• The role of the spiritual director
• Your vow or commitment formulary
• How changes are made in your Rule of Life
• Provisions for your death and burial
• A commitment to fidelity

HORARIUM. A daily schedule of prayer, work, re-creation


1.Use the same style throughout the entire text, with one idea per line. First
person makes a personal manifesto. Third person is a good tense to express

Example: The vow of chastity

is an offering to God of corporal goods.
By this vow
I commit myself
to celibacy
and renounce any act contrary to the virtue of chastity.

In this example, jargon is left aside. The two objects of the vow itself are
highlighted—celibacy and continence. Other elements pertaining to the virtue
are not enumerated. Here follows a much less preferable articulation,
because the proper object of the vow is not defined.

The vow of chastity

is an offering to God of corporal goods.
By virginity and the vow of chastity
God’s call to love and the destiny of the baptized
are fulfilled to the greatest extent.
This work takes place today

in a splendid fashion
by a unique adventure of witnessing in service.

2.Use plain English. Avoid wordy expressions and the jargon of the day. Use
words that are indicative of verifiable and observable behavior. Avoid
absolutes, contradictions and the arbitrary.

3.Number the articles or paragraphs consecutively, even when the chapter

numbers change.

4.Canon 587.3 offers a useful principle. “The spiritual and the juridical
elements are to be aptly harmonized. Norms, however, are not to be
multiplied without necessity.”

5. Avoid undue length.


Canon 603 simply specifies that the hermit publicly professes the three
evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. No other canonical
norms about the observance of these vows by a hermit are specified.
Therefore, Canon 19 is the guide for interpretation, as follows:

Unless it is a penal matter, if an express prescription of universal

or particular law or a custom is lacking in some particular matter,
the case is to be decided in light of laws passed in similar
the general principles of law observed with canonical equity, the
jurisprudence and praxis of the Roman Curia, and the common and
constant opinion of learned persons.

In light of Canon 19, the canonical texts relating to the evangelical counsels
are quoted along with an outline that highlights the emphasis and rights and
obligations entailed with each vow. Bracketed notations indicate a possible
application to a hermit’s observance of the vow(s).

Canon 600 (PC #13)

The evangelical counsel of POVERTY in imitation of Christ, who for our sake
was made poor when he was rich, entails a life which is poor in reality and in
spirit, sober and industrious, and a stranger to earthly riches. It also involves
dependence and limitation in the use and the disposition of goods, in
accordance with each institute’s [hermit’s] own law.

Canon 640 (PC #13)

Taking into account the circumstances of the individual places, institutes

[hermits] are to make a special effort to give, as it were, a collective

testimony of charity and POVERTY. They are to do all in their power to donate
something from their own resources to help the needs of the Church and the
support of the poor.

Canon 668

1. Before their first profession, members [hermits] are to cede the

administration of their goods to whomsoever they wish and, unless the
constitutions [plan of life] provide otherwise, they are freely to make
dispositions concerning the use and enjoyment of these goods. At least
before perpetual profession, they are to make a will which is valid also in civil

2. To change these dispositions for a just reason, and to take any action
concerning temporal goods, there is required the permission of the Superior
who is competent in accordance with the institute’s [hermit’s] own law.

3.Whatever a religious [hermit] acquires by personal labor, or on behalf of the

institute, belongs to the institute [the hermit.]. Whatever comes to a religious
[hermit] in any way through pension, grant or insurance also passes to the
institute [belongs to the hermit], unless the institute’s [hermit’s] own law
decree otherwise.

4.When the nature of an institute requires members to renounce their goods

totally, this renunciation is to be made before perpetual profession and, as far
as possible, in a form that is valid also in civil law; it shall come into effect
from the day of profession. The same procedure is to be followed by a
perpetually professed religious who, in accordance with the norms of the
institute’s own law and with the permission of the supreme Moderator, wishes
to renounce goods, in whole or in part. (This part of the canon is not
recommended for the hermit.)

5.Professed religious who, because of the nature of their institute, totally

renounce their goods, lose the capacity to acquire and possess goods;
actions of theirs contrary to the vow of poverty are therefore invalid.
Whatever they acquire after renunciation belongs to the institute, in
accordance with the institute’s own law. (This part of the canon is not
recommended for the hermit.)

Canon 669 (PC #17)

1.As a sign of their consecration and as a witness to POVERTY, religious are

to wear the habit of their institute, determined in accordance with the
institute’s own law.


• limitation in the use and disposition of temporal things/goods

• poverty/simplicity of lifestyle

• corporate witness of poverty appropriate to the institute’s tradition and


within the institute

for other needs in the Church

for the support of the poor

• a life of labor lived in moderation

• dependence on the religious institute for all material support

• the reciprocal obligation of the institute to care for its members

• the desire for sharing everything in common, or having nothing as

one’s own

• to detach one effectively from practical involvement in possessions

• to clarity of institute’s norms regarding the spirit and practice of

• to reasonable diversity of expression of simplicity; needs are not equal

among the membership

• to acquisition and ownership of property and the returns from property

• to all those things necessary for achieving one’s vocation; e.g., food,
shelter, clothing, proper medical attention, spiritual formation,
education for apostolate, vacation (c. 670)
(All members must receive the same opportunity and the same
reasonable consideration and charity.)

• to voluntary renunciation (PC #13) with due regard for prudence and
the parameters of proper law

—the selection of a person and the transferral to that person the duty of
overseeing one’s possessions; e.g., relative, trusted friend, lawyer, religious
institute (maintenance and care of property, investing and securing returns
on investments)


—to make arrangements for the use of income deriving from
possessions (usufruct); e.g. the interest from investments or income
from the rental of properties

• may be specific and detailed or left to the judgment of the person
fulfilling the obligation

• changing the dispostions requires the permission of the major Superior


—making a determination of one’s property effective at the time of
one’s death

• required before final profession

• Scriptural basis: Hebrews 9:16-17


—requires a just reason
—requires permission of Superior competent in proper law

• to hand over one’s activity/ministry and compensation to the institute

(c. 668.3)
1) by one’s activity: intellectual
within or outside the institute
2) with respect to one’s institute:
—anything received because the donor intends to give to the institute
and because the donor gives because one is a member of the institute

—Presumption: gifts from relatives, inheritances and legacies are gifts to

the private person

3) in any way as a pension, assistance or insurance. . .—pension from a

former employer or the government—social security—health

• approval/permission of Superior to administer property belonging to

lay persons (c. 285.4)
• consultation required to act as guarantor or security with one’s goods
(c. 285.4)
• to seek permission to practice commerce or trade for the purpose of
profit (c. 286)
• dependence on Superiors in the use of temporal goods
• to give communal and corporate witness to poverty that leads others
to the proper evaluation of and desire for material things (c. 640)
• observance of common life in material things (c. 600)

• common style of dress according to directives of the institute’s
Constitutions (c. 669.1) [see p. 186 Hite, Holland & Ward]

PERSONAL PROPERTY (or patrimony) -- “bona sua”

(one’s goods or temporal property)

• includes whatever is owned at the time of profession—real estate—

stocks and shares or bonds—bank accounts—inheritances or legacies—
income earned from a secular employment—investments

Each hermit writes one’s own Rule of Life. It articulates how the three vows
are lived. In regard to the vow of poverty, the individual hermit:

1.Has the responsibility to provide for one’s own living, health care, ongoing
formation and educational experiences, retirement, etc. The bishop or
diocese has no obligation to provide for the hermit’s temporal needs.

2.Has the right to own property, but cedes the administration of the property
to someone else.

3.Has the right to acquire funds to supply for one’s needs; if living alone as
most hermits do, one has personal financial accounts, savings, investments,
etc. . .

4.If hermits agree to live in a group (Laura) or community, they usually have
their own personal living space (hermitage) and contribute in some way to
the common financial expenses that provide for this way of life. This should
not in any way imply that they are living a common life. It does not imply that
they cannot individually establish funds for their personal needs. Therefore, it
should be very possible for each hermit to have one’s own way of earning a
living, such as spiritual direction, painting, vestment making, selling pottery,
etc. The funds received from this work would belong to the individual hermit,
not the common account.

Cession of Administration of Personal Property

I, _____________________________________ , who having received Decree of

Blessing and approval from Most Rev. Raymond L. Burke in the Diocese of La
Crosse on _____________________ to live the eremitic life according to Canon
603, and who having made my public profession of the three evangelical
counsels on _______________________, hereby grant power of attorney and
administration of my real and personal property or any property
subsequently acquired by me to _______________________________________
(Name and Address)
during my lifetime as a hermit.

This property is specified as follows:

Item/Property Amount ($)

Income derived therefrom shall be

( ) added to the principal

( ) given to

I do hereby also declare and ordain that, if for any reason, I shall be
dispensed from the obligations arising from my profession of vows according
to Canon 603, both the above named Cession of Administration of my real
and personal property and the disposition of the use and usufruct of said
property shall cease, terminate and be null and void as if it had never been
made. In witness whereof, I hereunto subscribe my name.

Signature_______________________________________ Date ___________________

Witnesses (1) ______________________________________________

(2) ______________________________________________

Last Will and Testament

I, ___________________________________ of the city and county of La Crosse and

State of Wisconsin, being of legal age and of sound mind and memory, do
hereby make, ordain, publish, and declare this to be my Last Will and
Testament, hereby revoking all former Wills made by me.

FIRST. I order and direct that my Personal Representative, hereinafter named

pay all my just debts as soon after my decease as conveniently may be done.

SECOND. I give, devise, and bequest all the rest, residue, and remainder of
my property, real, personal, and mixed, now owned and hereafter acquired
by me of every nature whatsoever and wheresoever situated, of which I may
die seized or possessed, or to which I may at the time of death be any way
entitled, to ____________________________________________
to have and to hold forever.
THIRD. I hereby make, constitute, and appoint as my Personal Representative

and direct that ______________________ be allowed to serve without bond or
security of any type.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I hereunto set my hand and seal this

day of ______________________________, 19 ___.

Signed _________________________________________
Name of Hermit

On this the _______________ day of __________________________________ , 19

__________________________________ of La Crosse, La Crosse County, State of
Wisconsin, signed the foregoing instrument in our presence and declared the
same to be her/his last Will and Testament, and as witnesses thereto, we
now, at her/his request, in her/his presence, and in the presence of each
other, hereto subscribe our names.
___________________________________________ Residing at
___________________________________________ Residing at


Canon 599 (PC#12)

The evangelical counsel of CHASTITY embraced for the sake of the Kingdom
of heaven, is a sign of the world to come, and source of greater fruitfulness in
an undivided heart. It involves the obligation of perfect continence observed
in celibacy.


• to have an undivided heart in order to give total love to God in Christ

• “Perfect continence” is distinct from the chastity required of all
Christians because it is lived out in celibacy and because it is chosen
for the “Kingdom of God.”
• “Chastity,” “perfect continence” and “celibacy” are deliberately used
to give a clearer, fuller identity of what it means to live this religious
• commitment to discipleship, agape in community, transforming
relationships, integrity of heart, and openness to God.


• celibacy (abstention from marriage)

• perfect chastity (following from the 6th and 9th commandments,
abstention from any external or internal sexual act which violates
• whatever is developed in the context of proper law on how the vow is
to be lived within the hermit’s lifestyle and plan of life

Canon 666 (c. 277)

In using the means of social communication, a necessary discretion is to be

observed Members [The hermit] are [is] to avoid whatever is harmful to their
vocation and dangerous to the CHASTITY of a consecrated person.


• to behave with prudence in relation to persons and situations which

may endanger the obligation to continence or lead to scandal (cc.
277.2, 285.1 & 2)
• to avoid what is harmful to one’s state in life.


Canon 601 and LG #46, PC #14 and ES II, #18

The evangelical counsel of OBEDIENCE, undertaken in the spirit of faith and

love in the following of Christ, who was obedient even unto death, obliges
submission of one’s will to lawful superiors, who act in the place of God when
they give commands that are in accordance with each institute’s own
constitutions [each hermit’s plan of life].


• freedom from excessive self love

• constant faith and humility
• Scripture: Ph 2:8 “He humbled himself becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.”
• active and responsible obedience (PC #14)
• service rather than domination (PC #14)
• government should provide that all members have a share in the
welfare of the whole community and a responsibility for it (PC #14)

The evangelical counsels should promote the development of the human

(LG #46)


• to an informed conscience about obedience
• to confidentiality, honesty and openness
• to recourse and representation in matters of conflict regarding

• to be responsible directly and to deal directly with a person in authority

who has legitimately designated and carefully circumscribed authority
(not some group)
• to a responsible consideration of the desires, counsel, or admonitions
of Superiors whose rights are derived from the law itself.


• in faith, to fulfill the proper laws of one’s institute [plan of life] and its

• to fulfill the serious commands of legitimate Superiors—an expressed

imposition—to do or omit or fulfill something—“I command, order,
forbid you in conscience . . .”
to be at service for the works of one’s institute [the church]

Bishop’s Decree ofApproval


Rule of Life

According to the authority I have as Bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, I

grant my approval and blessing to ___________________________ as she
endeavors to live this Rule of Life in accordance with the tradition of the
eremitic life and Canon 603 of the Code of Canon Law. I ask that she live
according to these directives for a period of three years. If this Rule of Life
proves advantageous in living the eremitical life, final approval will be given
at the time of final profession as a hermit.

With joy and gratitude, I receive this gift of consecrated life which the Holy
Spirit entrusts to the Church.

__________________________ __________________________
Bishop of _______ Date_______


Director of the Office of Consecrated Life



Commentary on Financial Considerations
Chart of Accounts
Budget Preparation
Income-Expense Account
Intent of Financial Independence
501©(3) Acknowledgment Form
Advance Directives for Health Care

Financial Matters

The individual hermit is responsible for his/her financial independence. All

forms of income can be accepted in one’s personal name or the name of
one’s incorporated hermitage title. Appropriate records must be kept. Excess
available funds should be invested rather than being held in the personal

Financial Planning and Budgeting

A budget, a tool for financial planning, is required for the stability and
financial predictability of one’s independent financial status. Past budgets, a
particular year’s financial experience and these recommendations can be
reviewed as new budgets are developed for a new fiscal period (before July 1
each year).

Income: Funds generated from employment, alms, craft sales, retreat or

spiritual direction are considered personal income. All money, stocks, bonds,
insurance policies, etc., are the personal property of the individual hermit and
are his/her responsibility.

Charity: A hermit may offer charity as one determines it necessary and is

able to provide it. An amount may be placed in the budget for this purpose.

Education: A hermit’s educational experiences are his/her responsibility and

can be paid from one’s personal account. Budgeting for books and periodicals
relating to one’s prayer and spiritual life are recommended.

Personal Property: All items needed for one’s personal residence and
transportation are the responsibility of the individual hermit.

Health Care and Insurance:

1. Health insurance and all medical expenses (hospital, medical, doctor,

optical, drug, professional counseling, etc.) are the responsibility of the
individual hermit.

2. An advanced directive expressing one’s wishes in case of sudden or

extreme illness is highly recommended. In addition, a list of one’s next of kin

or significant relationships should be filed with the Office of Consecrated Life
for purposes of notification in case of serious injury or death.

3. For hermits over 65 years of age, Medicare premiums are deducted from
the Social Security benefit check before it is received. Where this is not the
case, premiums for Medicare are paid separately by the hermit.

Social Security Tax: If the hermit elects to participate in the Social Security
program, the monthly amount for Social Security taxes for a hermit under the
age of 62 or 65 years is determined yearly based on the formula determined
by the Social Security Office following that Bill as defined for religious.

If employed, the Social Security tax will be paid partially by one’s employer
on a monthly basis. Quarterly tax reports will also be filed by the employer.
For example, a salary of $7,500 might be taxed by .0765 for a total of
$573.75 per individual and a like amount from one’s employer. This equals
$1,147.50 payment per year.

Typically, the 7.65% tax is applied to 6.20% to future Social Security

payments and 1.45% to future Medicare requirements.

A hermit must file FICA or social security information and taxes. An individual
hermit is allowed a standard deduction of $4,000 plus $2,150 for oneself as a
single dependent on one’s income.

Social Security Benefits: Benefit checks for hermits qualifying under the
Social Security Bill for religious or other categories are received monthly. It is
recommended that a hermit set aside these benefits for one’s retirement or
living expense as the individual’s needs dictate.

The Vow of Poverty: By analogy, (Canon 19) the canonical requirements

regarding the vow of poverty for a member of a religious institute can be
applied to a canonical hermit who professes the vow of poverty. Thereby, the
hermit is required to have a will valid in civil law and to cede the
administration of one’s property to a person of her choice. (See II. for Cession
of Administration and Last Will and Testament.)

Regarding Your Financial Status: You will need to pay taxes on income over
$6,250 by filing a W-2 Form at the end of each calendar year.

Incorporating the Hermitage:

A 501©(3) non-stock and nonprofit corporation is an appropriate structure to
use for a hermit. You must:
—Determine a name.

—Name two other directors, besides yourself, who are adults who have no
connection with the diocese.

—Open a bank account under the corporation’s name.

—File an annual report.

—Be prepared for $100-$200 in legal fees for the preparation of the
documents and for filing them with the state, the register of deeds, etc.

Wages may be paid directly to you and deposited in the corporation account.

Donations to you may be written to the corporation itself and deposited in the
account. Donations of $250.00 or more must be acknowledged to the donor.
An appropriate form is included at the end of this chapter.

Statement of Income and Expense

Income Accounts

Craft/Gift Sales: Funds derived from the sale of items such as cards, books,
icons, candles, vestments, calligraphy, etc.

Donations: Funds received as gifts from family, friends, benefactors, etc.

Investment Income:

Income from personal savings

Other: Funds generated from any specific project from which a separate
accounting of funds is desirable, e.g., the Newsletter income

Refunds: Return of a payment (from sale items) which reduces income; the
return of a payment must be subtracted from that particular income line.

Salary: Monthly or bimonthly payments from one’s employment

Expense Accounts

Art/Craft Supplies: Cost of the supplies used for crafts

Business Costs: Cost of mailings, brochures, correspondence related to

hermit’s independent business enterprises

Car Maintenance & Repair:

The cost of upkeep, including gas, oil changes, periodic servicing and repairs,
driver’s license, automobile insurance.

Charity: Gifts and charity to persons or organizations

Computer Supplies: Cost of print cartridges, paper, etc.

Education: Cost of educational experiences, such as courses for credit,
continuing education units, seminars, workshops, etc.

Electricity: Costs for electrical services

Finance Charges: Finance charges from credit cards or other

Food/Dietary: Cost of all food, items used for food preparation, and related
dietary supplies

Health Insurance: Premiums for health insurance

Hermitage Improvements: Cost of substantial repair or improvement to the

hermitage or the property

House Maintenance: Repair and upkeep of minor equipment and house


House Supplies: Cost of laundry supplies, dry cleaning of household

materials, and normal household supplies such as cleaning materials, light
bulbs, etc.

Library: Cost of books, records, periodicals, tapes

Mortgage Payments:

Funds used for the periodic payment on the purchase price of properties, a
new car, or any other loan or credit plan

Office Supplies: General expense for the house such as office supplies,
postage, stationery

Other Medical: Costs of medicine, oculist, foot care, chiropractor, hearing

aids, etc.

Personal: Clothing, personal needs such as hair care, personal stationery, etc.

Postal Service: Cost of postage, UPS, related postal insurance for mailing

Property Insurance: Cost of insurance for personal properties

Property Tax: Taxes on property which have not been declared tax exempt


Expenses related to periodic cultural experiences, entertainment, visits to

one’s family, etc.

Reimbursed Expense:

Funds paid to cover an existing expense (for example, insurance premium

payment from another source to be used to reimburse the expense of health

Retirement: Funds set aside for future retirement

Retreat/Religious: Expenses related to retreat, chapel and religious services,

Mass stipends, religious articles, etc.

Social Security: Payments made by the individual hermit toward social


Telephone: Expenditures for all types of telephone, fax, and telegraph

services, including installation

Travel: Expenses for transportation such as airfare, train fare, bus fare,
meals, hotel, and similar costs associated with traveling which exclude
automobile services and those items listed under recreation/vacation



+Craft/Gift Sales $ $
+ Donations
+Investment Income
+ Refunds
+ Salary
- Art/Craft Supplies $ $
- Business Costs
- Car Maintenance & Rep.
- Charity
- Computer Supplies
- Education
- Electricity
- Finance Charges
- Food/Dietary
- Health Insurance
- HermitageImprove’t
- House Maintenance
- House Supplies
- Library
- Mortgage Payments
- Office Supplies
- Other Medical Costs

- Personal
- Postal Service
- Property Insurance
- Property Tax
- Recreation/Vacation
- Reimbursed Expense
- Retirement
- Retreat/Religious
- Social Security
- Telephone
- Travel
Less Income


INCOME January February March April May June July August September
October November December
+Craft Sales
+ Refunds
-Craft Supp.
-Finance Ch.
-Health Ins.
-House Mai.
-House Sup.
-Other Med.
-Postal Serv.
-Prop. Tax

-Social Secu.


• A Federal ID # comes with 501©(3) status. An individual can take tax

deduction based on that.
• Gifts and donations need to be acknowledged with the appropriate
form on corporation letterhead.
• After 501©(3) has arrived, fill out forms for a tax exempt number for
purchasing goods for the hermitage corporation. This form asks for the
Federal ID #. If applied for prior to getting the 501©(3), you could say
“applied for.”
• It is not necessary to register in Wisconsin to solicit funds.
• A seller’s permit is required if a hermit sells crafts or other items as
part of an income producing business.

(Name of Hermitage)
Gift Acknowledgment


This acknowledgment of your contribution to the (Name of Hermitage) is

provided pursuant to section 170 (f) (8) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Name of Contributor: ____________________________

Address of Contributor:_____________________________


Date of Contribution: _____________________________

Amount of Cash Contribution: $_____________________________

Description of Non-Cash Contribution: _____________________________

Check as appropriate

________ The (Name of Hermitage) either did not provide any goods or
services in whole or partial consideration for the above contribution OR
provided only intangible religious benefits.

________ The (Name of Hermitage) provided the donor with the following
goods and services in return for the above contribution:
The estimated value of these goods and services is $______________________

The amount of your contribution deductible for federal income tax purposes
is limited to the excess of the amount contributed over the estimated value
of the goods and services indicated above. (This statement will satisfy the
section 6115 disclosure rules if acknowledgment is provided at the time of

The (Name of Hermitage)

By: __________________________________

Its: __________________________________

1. The Office of General Counsel gratefully acknowledges the efforts of Vince

Whelan, Esq. of San Diego, CA, in the development of this form.

2. It is important to date the acknowledgement form provided to the donor.

Acknowledgement may be provided to the donor at the time of the gift, at the
end of the year, or upon request.

3. A contributor’s social security number is not required.

4. These two statements have been combined until such time as the IRS
clarifies its position on deductibility of payments solely for intangible religious
benefits. However, they may also be stated separately.


Developed by the La Crosse Area Medical Centers’ Task Force on Advance


As a capable adult, you have many legal rights. You should be told about your
medical options. You can decide to accept or refuse these options. You may
also record your views about treatment in an advance directive.

Your advance directive may be a formal, statutory document like either the
Wisconsin “Declaration to Physicians” or the “Power of Attorney for Health
Care.” Or you may choose to record your wishes informally. You are not
required to record your wishes on a specific form. If you’re not a Wisconsin
resident, we advise that you consider using forms from your own state, even
if you’re receiving care elsewhere.

You are encouraged to put your wishes in writing after discussing them with
others, particularly your family.

A physician will review an advance directive before entering or removing it

from the medical record. This review assures you and the health facility that
documents are authentic. As long as you are capable, you may change or
revoke your advance directive at any time.

Your medical record (including your advance directive) may not be instantly
available in a crisis and medical staff will begin emergency care that may
sustain your life. Treatment can be stopped if it is discovered that it’s not
what you would have wanted.

It is assumed you want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) attempted in the

event your heart or breathing stops, unless it is against your wishes or is
clearly futile. If it is against your wishes, please consult your physician.


Making an advance directive is an option. Your health care will not be
affected if you decide against it. If a physician has a concern about honoring
your wishes, you or your surrogate may consider transferring care to another
physician or requesting consultation with the hospital’s Ethics Committee. If
there is a concern or complaint about honoring the wishes in an advance
directive, please contact the Patient Representative.


Application Form
List of Required Documents
Recommendation Request
Waiver of Claim
Release of Information Concerning Behavioral Assessment
Form for Addresses of Relatives and Significant Others


Canon 603 Status
Diocese of La Crosse, WI



Telephone - Home:


Date of Birth:

Check categories which apply to you:

 Single
 Widowed
 Divorced
 Annulment

 Former Member of Religious Institute

 Exclaustration


1. How did you learn about eremitical life?

2. Explain your reasons for seeking canonical status as a hermit in the

Diocese of La Crosse.

3. What are your expectations of eremitic life?

PERSONAL BACKGROUND: (Supply this information in an autobiographical


1. Write about your parents and your relationship with them.

2 What was it like to grow up in your family?

3. How have your family relationships influenced you?

4. Describe your present relationships—single, married, partnership, children.

5. Have you or anyone in your family struggled with alcoholism or other

dependencies? If so, how have you coped.

6. If you are divorced or widowed, how have you dealt with these losses?

7. List any other significant losses or grieving you have experienced; for
example, job, death, fire, departure from a religious institute, and how this
has affected your life.

8. Who is your primary support person? Describe your relationship in terms of

communication, distance, etc.

9. Describe how you feel about your life right now.

10. What do you hope for yourself five years from now?

Religious/Faith Development and Practices

11. Describe your religious education and the effect it has had on your life.

12. Briefly describe your faith development from childhood to the present.

13. Describe God in your life.

14. What are your current faith practices?

15. Have there been any significant changes in your religious practices over
the past five years?

16. What are your goals for growth in your spiritual life for the next five

17. What hope do you have for the church in the next five to ten years?


18. Describe your physical health. Comment on chronic conditions, serious or

terminal illnesses, stress, physical disability, or other limitations.

19. Describe your emotional health. What is your attitude toward life and

20. What are your life coping skills? (e.g. taking a walk, seeking out a friend,
counselor, spiritual director, support group, etc.)

21. Comment on how you relate to the environment. What are your attitudes
and practices regarding conservation, stewardship of resources, etc?

Eremitical Life

22. What attracts you to eremitical life?

23. What part does service or ministry hold in your present life?

24. Reflect on the values of conversion, contemplation, poverty, penance,

and solitude and how these have been or will be integrated into your present

25. What personal gifts and skills do you offer for promoting your own
material sustenance?

26. Comment on your potential for financial independence.

To Accompany Application for Canonical Status
As a Canon 603 Hermit
Diocese of La Crosse

Vita or resume:
A summary of your educational background
A summary of your past employment experience

Sacramental Records:
Baptismal Certificate
Confirmation Certificate
Declaration of Nullity of Marriage (if applicable)

Academic Records:
High school diploma or GED Certificate
Undergraduate transcripts
College diploma
Graduate transcripts
Masters/doctoral degree(s)

Documents pertaining to Public Profession of Vows: (as applicable)

Record of temporary vows
Record of perpetual vows
Indult of dispensation from vows in a religious institute
Cession of administration of property
Decree of approval of Rule of Plan of Life (Canon 603)

Civil documents: (if applicable)

Tax exemption forms
Social Security number
Employer Identification

Physician’s medical report
Behavioral assessment

Bishop or designated delegate of bishop
Three persons who know you well—pastor or pastoral associate—spiritual
director—a person of your choice


Office of Consecrated Life

Diocese of La Crosse
3710 East Avenue South
La Crosse, WI 54601


_____________________________ has made application with the Diocese of La

Crosse to begin a process, the aim of which is to make a commitment as a
publicly professed hermit according to Canon 603.

She/he has given your name as one who knows her. Will you please complete
an appraisal to assist in the initial evaluation of her request? Your assistance
will be greatly appreciated.

How long have you known the applicant? ____________ years or months

How frequent was your contact with this person?


How recently were you associated with the applicant in this capacity?

Are you aware of any reason why it would not be appropriate for this person
to consecrate herself/himself in this form of life?

In the space below and on the reverse side of this paper, please write a brief
appraisal of the applicant, keeping in mind such qualities as: sincerity and
authenticity, capacity for relationships, dependability, stability, emotional and
psychological maturity, sense of humor, consciousness and concern for
others, personal initiative, self-esteem, etc.

Please mail this form to:

Director, Office of Consecrated Life

Diocese of La Crosse
3710 East Avenue South
La Crosse, WI 54601

A prompt reply would be appreciated. THANK YOU.

I, ______________________________, intending to commit myself to the holy plan
of following Christ more closely as a publicly professed hermit according to
the approved rite of the Roman Catholic Church
on___________________________, do hereby testify that I fully understand that I
am to maintain financial independence, and that I am to be responsible for all
my financial obligations. The Diocese of La Crosse shall not be responsible for
any of my financial obligations or personal actions.

(Typed Name)

( Signature)


Diocesan Representative_____________________________
(Typed Name)





Behavioral Assessment

I, _________________________________grant permission for the release of the

Behavioral Assessment Report on my behalf regarding my request for Canon
603 eremitic status in the Diocese of La Crosse.

Person(s) or Agency to Receive Information

Name Address




Requested by: (name of person assessed)




Witness Signature



Name of Hermit _______________________________________________

(Family Name) (First Name)

Please return this form to: Office of Consecrated Life

Diocese of La Crosse
P.O. Box 4004
La Crosse, WI 54602-4004

V. The Rite of Profession of the Evangelical Counsels for a person following

the eremitic way of life
Rite A
Rite B

Rite A


of the Evangelical Counsels
for a person following the Eremitic Life

The consecration ordinarily takes place at the chair. (The bishop’s chair may
be placed in front of the altar.)

For the Eucharistic celebration, bread and wine should be prepared for the
ministers, the candidate, her relatives, friends, and other religious.

Items needed for the rite:

• Ring
• Bishop’s Chair
• Prayer Garment
• Table at side
• Documents
• Rule or Plan of Life
• Copy of Vow Formula
• Bible

The liturgy of the Word takes place as usual, except for the following:

a) Readings are taken from suggestions given in Rites II.

b) The profession of faith is not said.

c) The general intercessions are omitted, since they

are included in the litany of the saints.

d) The sign of peace concludes the vow ceremony and is

therefore omitted in the fraction rite.

The bishop gives a short homily to the candidate and the people, developing
the Scripture readings and the theme of eremitic life as a chosen way of life—
how it sanctifies those called to it and promotes the good of the Church and
the whole human family.





God our Father,

you have caused the grace of baptism
to bear such fruit in your servant (Name),
that she now strives to follow your Son more closely.
Let her rightly aim at truly evangelical perfection
and increase the holiness and apostolic zeal of your Church.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Pray, brothers and sisters . . .

accept the gifts and the vows of your servant (Name),
Strengthen her by your love
as she professes the evangelical counsels.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.



Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,

we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
He came, the son of a virgin mother,
named those blessed who were pure of heart,
and taught by his whole life the perfection of chastity.
He chose always to fulfill your holy will,
and became obedient even to dying for us,
offering himself to you as a perfect oblation.
He consecrated more closely to your service
those who leave all things for your sake,
and promised that they would find a heavenly treasure.
And so, with all the angels and saints
we proclaim your glory
and join in their unending hymn of praise.


After the words, “your Son has gained for you,” there is added:

Strengthen also (Name), this servant of yours

in her holy purpose,
for she has dedicated herself
by the bonds of religious consecration to serve you always.
Grant that she may give witness in your Church
to the new and eternal life won by Christ’s redemption.


Let us pray.

as we share these sacred mysteries,
we pray for your servant (Name)
who is bound to you by her holy offering.
Increase in her the fire of your Holy Spirit
and unite her in eternal fellowship with your Son,
who is Lord for ever and ever.



God inspires all holy desires and brings them to


May God protect you always by the gift of grace,
so that you may fulfill the duties of your
vocation with a faithful heart.


May God make of you a witness

and a sign of divine love for all people. AMEN.

May the Lord enable you to travel in the joy

of Christ as you follow along his way.
May the bonds which bind you to Christ on
earth endure forever in heavenly love. AMEN.

May Almighty God,

the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
bless all of you who have taken part
in this sacred celebration. AMEN.


Calling of the Candidate

After the Gospel and the homily, the bishop with miter and staff, goes to the
chair and sits. All in the assembly sit. He invites the candidate to come
forward in the following words.

BISHOP: (Name of candidate),

Come, that the Lord may receive the
resolution you have formed in your heart.

The candidate comes forward.


The bishop then questions her on her readiness to dedicate herself to God
and to seek perfect charity, according to the Rule of Life which has been
given a decree of approval. He uses these words:

BISHOP: (Name), what do you ask of God and the Church?

(Candidate): I ask to make perpetual profession of the evangelical counsels,

living an eremitic life of prayer and penance, for the glory of God and the
service of the Church.

BISHOP: (Name), in baptism you have

already died to sin and have been set aside for God’s service.
Are you now resolved to unite yourself more closely to God by

the bonds of poverty, celibacy, and obedience in the eremitic

(Candidate): I AM.

BISHOP: Are you resolved to strive

steadfastly for perfection in the love of God and of your neighbor
by living the Gospel with all your heart
and keeping the Rule of Life
which you have espoused and to which I have given my blessing?

(Candidate): I AM.

BISHOP: Are you resolved to give yourself

to God alone, in solitude and silence, in
persevering prayer and willing penance, in
humble labor and holiness of life?

(Candidate): I AM.

At the end of the questions, the bishop confirms the candidate’s intention
to be professed, in these words.

BISHOP: May God who has begun the good work in you bring
it to fulfillment before the day of Christ Jesus. AMEN.

Invitation to Prayer

Then all stand, and the bishop, without his miter and staff, invites
the people to pray.

BISHOP: Dearly beloved,

let us pray to God the Almighty Father
through his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ
that, by the intercessions of the Blessed Mary
and all the saints,
he will pour out the Holy Spirit of love
on this servant who has been chosen to be
consecrated to the service of God’s reign.


Litany of Saints

Then the bishop, the ministers, the candidate and the people kneel.

The cantor leads the litany of saints.

Petitions suitable to the occasion may be added.

When the litany is concluded, the bishop alone rises,
and with hands joined, prays:

hear the prayers of your Church.
Look with favor on your servant, (Name),
whom you have called in your love.
Set her on the way of eternal salvation;
may she seek only what is pleasing to you,
and fulfill it with watchful care.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Profession of Vows

After the prayer, the assistant invites everyone to stand.

The bishop, with miter and staff sits.

The Director of the Office of Consecrated Life and the Concelebrants

come to the Chair of the Bishop and, standing, act as witnesses.
The candidate comes forward and declares her profession of the vows.

Standing before the Bishop and the witnesses,

and with hand on the Holy Scriptures
held by the Director of the Office of Consecrated Life,
the candidate makes her profession.

(Sample formulas at end of Rite A, pages 61 and 62)


BISHOP: By the authority entrusted to me,

and in the name of the Church,
I receive your vows made to God.
I earnestly commend you to God,
that your gift of self,
made one with the sacrifice of the Eucharist,
may be brought to perfection

Prayer of Consecration

After the profession of vows, the hermit kneels.

The bishop putting aside miter and staff, extends his hands over her,
and prays the prayer of consecration.

BISHOP Loving Father and Source of all life,

Look with favor on your servant, (Name)
She places in your hands her resolve to live

in poverty, celibacy, and obedience.
You inspire her in these vows,
and she gives you her heart.

Protect her as she seeks your help;

strengthen her by your blessings and
Through the gift of your Spirit,
give her right judgment, kindness, and true wisdom,
gentleness with strength of character,
freedom and the warmth of love
to love you above all others.

May her life deserve our praise,

without seeking to be praised.
May she give you glory
by holiness of action and purity of heart.
May she love you and fear you;
may she love you and serve you.
Be yourself her glory, her joy, her whole desire.
Be her comfort in sorrow,

her wisdom in perplexity,

her protection in the midst of injustice,
her patience in adversity,
her riches in poverty,
her food in fasting,
her remedy in times of sickness.

(Name) has chosen you above all things;

may she find all things in possessing you.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ,

your Son, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.




The Ring

After the prayer of consecration, the bishop and people sit.

The professed hermit stands.

(The candidate) receives the ring on the day of first profession of vows.
Placing his hand on the hermit’s, the bishop prays.

BISHOP: (Name), wear the ring that marks you as a Bride of Christ.
Be faithful to your God, that you may one day be admitted to the
wedding feast of everlasting joy.

(Candidate): AMEN.

The Prayer Garment (or other symbol of eremitic life)

The Bishop presents the prayer garment,

assisted by the Director of the Office of Consecrated Life.

BISHOP: (Name), this prayer garment,

is a sign of your consecration as a hermit sister.
Never forget that you are bound to the service of
Christ and of His body, the Church.
As you wear it in times of prayer,
may the praise of God be always on your lips.
Pray without ceasing for the salvation of the whole world.

(Candidate): AMEN.

The Director of the Office of Consecrated Life assists the hermit in putting
on the prayer garment. (or other symbol)


After the symbols of consecration have been received,

the hermit goes to the altar and places on it the formula of profession.

She signs it, as does the Bishop, the Director of the Office of Consecrated
Life, and the Concelebrants as witnesses.


The Bishop extends the Sign of Peace to the hermit.

This is shared with the ministers at the altar and with relatives and friends
in the attending congregation.

Everyone takes their place and the Liturgy of the Eucharist then follows.




In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I earnestly desire to respond to the gift of vocation to the eremitical life and
freely follow the inspiration of grace to a hidden apostolic fruitfulness in a life
of prayerful contemplation as a solitary hermit. I
______________________________________ come before you Triune God to make
my profession to live out my baptismal commitment more fully. I trust in
God’s enduring love and mercy, and strengthened and made new by his
transforming presence, do give myself totally to Jesus whom I adore, and to
whom I vow, consecrated celibacy, gospel poverty and obedience, according
to the approved Rule of Life for a Hermit and under the authority of the
Bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse. This I do in the presence of our
Eucharistic Lord, Jesus Christ, of Mary, my mother and model of
contemplation, of Joseph, patron of the interior life and protector of the
universal Church and before the whole Heavenly court. I offer myself to God
and vow to live this consecration for _____________ years. I ask you,
_________________ , as Bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse to accept my vows in
the name of the Church, and grant me your blessing. May the Word of God
which I touch with my hand today be my life and my inspiration, this I pray.

Place: ______________________________________

Date: ______________________

Signature of the Professed Hermit ___________________________________________

Signature of the Bishop

(Or his delegate)

Witnesses: ___________________________

Profession of the Evangelical Counsels


I, ________________, vow to God Almighty, and into your hands, Bishop

Raymond Burke, to live poverty, chastity and obedience for (three years, for
life), according to my personal Rule of Life as a hermit. May the grace of the
Holy Spirit and the intercession of Holy Mary Mother of God, St. Joseph, and
all the angels and saints be my help all the days of my life. With joy, I seal
this covenant of solitude, prayer and penance, in the name of the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

Professed hermit

+Bishop Raymond L. Burke
Bishop of La Crosse




Rite B


of the Evangelical Counsels
for a person following the Eremitic Life

1. It is fitting that the rite of profession by which a hermit binds oneself to

God should take place on a Sunday or a solemnity of the Lord, of the Blessed
Virgin Mary, or of a saint distinguished in the living of the eremitical life.

2. The rite of public profession for a hermit takes place separately from other
rites of religious profession in an institute of consecrated life.

3. Notice of the day and hour should be given to the faithful in good time so
that they may attend.

4. The Mass is that of the liturgy of the day, or the ritual Mass for the day of
perpetual profession may be used, in accordance with the rubrics.

5. Where possible and if the needs of the faithful do not demand individual
celebrations by the priests present, it is preferable that the Mass be

6. The profession made to the diocesan bishop ordinarily takes place at the
chair. Seats should be so arranged in the sanctuary for the one making
profession that the faithful may have a complete view of the liturgical rites.

7. The profession takes place in the sanctuary.

8. In order to promote esteem for the eremitical life, to give edification to the
People of God, or to permit larger attendance, the rite may take place in the
cathedral, parish church, or some other notable church.

9. The whole liturgical service should be celebrated with fitting solemnity, but
an appearance of lavishness unbecoming to evangelical poverty should be

10. Enough bread and wine for consecration should be prepared for the
ministers, the one making profession, her relatives and friends.

11. In addition to what is needed for Mass, there should also be ready:
-- the ritual for public profession of the evangelical counsels;
-- the symbols used to designate public consecration of the hermit.


12. When the people are assembled and everything is ready, the procession
moves through the church to the altar in the usual way, while the choir and
the people sing the entrance song. The one to be professed joins in the

13. When they come to the sanctuary, all make the customary reverence to
the altar and go to their places.

14. After the sign of the cross and greeting, the presider welcomes the
assembly to a celebration that belongs to all. Profession is achieved in radical
conformity with the baptismal commitment that transforms everyone in
Christ. To enter appropriately into this celebration, therefore, requires the
baptismal rededication of all in creed, water and prayer.


15. PRESIDER: I ask all of you who are baptized in Christ,

do you believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth?


PRESIDER: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord,
who was born of the Virgin Mary,
was crucified, died and was buried, rose from the dead,
and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?


PRESIDER: Do you believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sin,
the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?



16. PRESIDER: (Name), you have been consecrated to the Lord
through baptism and therein have found the promise of eternal life.
What further do you ask this day of the Lord and the church?

HERMIT: I am firm in my baptismal faith

and know that it is the way to eternal life.
I ask today that I might be allowed
to live out this baptismal commitment
as a publicly professed hermit
and so give glory to God
and serve the church for the rest of my life.

ASSEMBLY: Thanks be to God!


17. PRESIDER: Let us bless God who has given us this faith
and who confirms our commitment in these baptismal waters.


Holy and eternal God,

We give you thanks for our creation and redemption
symbolized in this living water.
We bless you for this holy sign
that brings life and freshness to the earth,
washes away our sins,
and inaugurates us into the way of eternal life.

With gratitude for your fidelity surpassing every hope,

we ask you to send your living Spirit
upon this water and upon those present
who have already found rebirth in the font of your love.
Renew the living spring of your life
especially in our sister/brother (Name),
who this day offers her/himself to you
with a willing and joyful spirit.

Create in us a new heart, and enliven us with zeal for your house.
Fortify us with your Word, so we may reject all that is evil
and embrace the way of your Son.

Let his charity be our mission,

His poverty our strength,
His obedience to your will our promise of eternal life.
We make this and every prayer in the name of Jesus
who is our hope and our joy, now and forever. AMEN.

(Presider sprinkles the assembly.)


18. PRESIDER: Let us pray:

God our Father, you have caused the grace of baptism
to bear such fruit in your servant,
that she/he now strives to follow your Son more closely.
Let her/him aim at true evangelical perfection
and increase the holiness and apostolic zeal of your Church.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God for ever and ever.


19. The Liturgy of the Word takes place as usual.

20. The homily or address should develop the scriptural readings and the
theme of eremitical profession as God’s gift and call for the sanctification of
the one chosen and for the good of the Church and the whole human family.


21. After the homily, the one to be professed stands, and the bishop or his
delegate questions her on her readiness to dedicate herself to God and to
seek perfect charity, according to her Plan of Life or Rule approved by the

22. PRESIDER: Dear (Name),

This day you have renewed your baptismal commitment,
listened to the Word of God
and attended to the challenge of the Church.

Having observed your desire and persistence

to follow an eremitic life, I am confident of your ability
to follow the way of the desert, to strive for holiness,
and to embrace the Gospel of life.

Before committing yourself to this way of life,

I ask you in the presence of this community and almighty God,
to speak again your resolve to live as a hermit.

Great indeed is this world,

but greater by far is the One Who made it.
Beautiful indeed is this world,
but far more beautiful is the One Who formed it.
The world is attractive, but more lovely is the One Who created it.
Are you ready to set aside this world as the basis of your hopes,
preferring God who is the Creator of all?


PRESIDER: Are you now resolved

to unite yourself more closely to God and the Church
by the bond of public profession of the evangelical counsels?


PRESIDER: Are you resolved to strive steadfastly for perfection

by living the Gospel with all your heart,
and by keeping your Rule of Life
as a solitary in the heart of the Church?


PRESIDER: Are you resolved to live for God alone,

in silence and solitude, in persevering prayer and willing penance,
in humble work and holiness of life,
for the sanctification of the Church and the salvation of the world?


PRESIDER: Are you resolved to live a life of evangelical poverty and chastity,
obedient to me and my successors,
and to persevere in it all the days of your life?


PRESIDER: May Almighty God, with the gift of divine grace

make this possible for you.


23. PRESIDER: Dear friends in Christ,

let us pray to God for this servant who has been called
to the eremitical life.
May she be blessed with the grace and love of God.
May God strengthen her in her holy purpose.

Let us kneel.

24. The presider kneels at the altar. The one to be professed kneels or
prostrates herself. The assembly kneels. During the Easter Season and on all
Sundays, all stand except the one to be professed. A special time of prayer is
observed, using one of the following:

a) A period of silence;
b) A common prayer, particularly composed for the occasion;

c) An invocation to the Holy Spirit;
d) An adapted form of the Litany of the Saints, such as:

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us.

Saint Michael
Holy angels of God
Saint John the Baptist
Saint John
Saint Mary Magdalene
Saint Paul of Thebes
Saint Anthony
Saint Hilarion

Saint Macarius
Saint Arsenius
Saint Mary of Egypt
Saint Basil
Saint Augustine
Saint Benedict
Saint Francis and Saint Clare
Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine of Siena
Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Saint Rose of Lima
Saint Herman of Alaska
All holy hermits of God
All holy men and women

Lord, be merciful Lord, save your people.

From all evil
From every sin
From everlasting death
By your coming as man
By your death and rising to new life
By your gift of the Holy Spirit

Be merciful to us sinners. Lord, hear our prayer.

Lead all people to the fullness of Christian life.
Give all who profess the Gospel counsels a fuller share in the work of
Make this servant of yours more and more like Christ, the firstborn among
Give this servant of yours the grace of perseverance.
Bless this servant, make her holy, and consecrate her to your service.

Jesus, Son of the Living God. Lord, hear our prayer.
Christ, hear us. Christ, hear us.
Lord Jesus, hear our prayer. Lord Jesus, hear our prayer.

25. Then the PRESIDER ALONE rises and says, with hands joined.

Lord, grant the prayers of your people.

Prepare the heart of your servant for consecration to your service.
By the grace of the Holy Spirit purify her from all sin
and set her on fire with your love.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.


PRESIDER: Let all arise.


26. After the prayer for divine grace, two members of the assembly stand
near the chair of the presider to act as witnesses. Kneeling before the bishop,
the one to be professed places her hands in his, resting them upon the Book
of Sacred Scriptures. She professes her vows as prepared beforehand.

HERMIT: (Vow formulas are found at the end of RITE A [pages 54 and 55], or
may be written by the hermit herself.)

27. The newly professed goes to the altar to place on it her formula of
profession and signs it upon the altar itself. The bishop and two designated
witnesses also sign the document. After this, all return to their places. The
professed hermit then kneels before the bishop for the blessing.


28. The presider and the assembly stand. The presider, with hands raised
over the professed hermit, prays the following blessing:

Father in heaven,
in your goodness and wisdom you were pleased to reveal yourself
and to make known the mystery of your will.
From the fullness of your love
you addressed our ancestors as your friends and moved among them
in order to invite and receive them into your own company.

Abraham was alone when he received the three messengers

and realized that he had encountered you.
When brought out under the stars of night
you promised him a destiny in his offspring, and a land not his own.

In the solitude of the desert, with sheep as his only companions,
your servant Moses stood bare-footed before the burning bush
as you revealed your holy name.
Later, in the same desert, you called him up the mountain alone
to meet you again and to reaffirm the covenant with your people
by the giving of the Law.

Elijah detached himself from the other prophets

to take his lonely journey into the desert and to experience your Providence;
with the strength of the meal provided by an angel,
he went alone to Horeb and there in the solitude of the cave
he heard your voice in the voice of silence.

As the dawn of salvation drew nigh,

John the Baptizer lived as a stranger to the ways of his people,
and so prepared them for the coming of your Son
and the proclamation of your Kingdom.

Finally, your beloved Son, anointed with the power of the Spirit,
was driven into the wilderness of Judea to meet his adversary,
and gained strength for the contest of life by the obedience of faith.

Lord, look with favor upon this servant of yours

who has dedicated her life to you by public profession
to follow the way of the desert.
Send forth upon her the Holy Spirit
that she may be strengthened by the gift of your seven-fold grace.
May she carry out her holy resolve to live in solitude, prayer and penance
for the love of Christ.
United with Him, she is united to all.

Secluded in her hermitage, professing a pioneer’s life on the frontier

keep her from all harm and preserve her from the wiles of the enemy.
Fortified by prayer and penance may she experience in her own life
the mystery of the death and resurrection of your Son.

And after a life lived in profound communion

with the whole Church and people of the world,
bless her, and all your saints
with the fulfillment of rest in the Promised Land,
where they may gaze with open eye on the beauty of your face.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



29. (If a garment is to be blessed.)

PRESIDER: Lord, Jesus Christ,

You clothed yourself with the garb of our mortal flesh
in the immaculate womb of the Virgin Mary.
We ask you to bless this garment
which our holy predecessors wore as a sign of humility
when they determined to renounce the world.
May your servant who wears this garb
merit to be clothed with immortality,
for you live and reign forever and ever.


(If the garment is to be placed upon the newly professed hermit:)

PRESIDER: Be renewed in the spirit of your mind

and be clothed in the new person,
created according to God
in justice and holiness of truth.

30. (If a ring is blessed.)

PRESIDER: Lord, bless this ring which we bless + in your name.

Grant that she who wears it may always have a deep faith in you.
May she do your will in peace, good will, and love.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.


PRESIDER: (Name), to the honor and glory of the Most Holy Trinity,
Receive this ring as a reminder of your love of God
and your public profession to the eremitical life.


31. (The presentation of the Sacred Scriptures upon which public profession
was made.)

PRESIDER: Receive these Holy Scriptures.

Trust in God,
and wait on him to provide as is pleased by God.



32. When the presentation of the insignia is completed, or after the prayer of
solemn blessing, the presider and members of the community may give a
sign of peace to the newly professed hermit and to each other.

33. The hermit returns to her place. The Eucharistic Liturgy continues.


PRESIDER: God inspires all holy desires and brings them to fulfillment.
May God protect you always by divine grace,
so that you may fulfill the requirements of your vocation
with a faithful heart.


PRESIDER: May God make each of you a witness

and sign of the love of God for all people.


PRESIDER: May God make those bonds

with which you are bound to Christ on earth
endure for ever in heavenly love.


PRESIDER: And may Almighty God,

the Father, + and the Son, + and the Holy Spirit, +
bless all of you who have taken part in this celebration.
Go now in peace and the love of Christ among us!


This ritual originated in the Diocese of Grand Rapids,

and was most probably prepared by Rev. Robert Johnston, OP.

VI. A Ritual for the Blessing of a Hermitage



Bishop: Let us sing God’s praise.

All: Let us go forth upon the journey.

Presider: Let us call upon our Father Elijah
and all the early Fathers and Mothers of the Franciscan Order.

All: That they may accompany us and protect,

assist and bless us in our solitude.

(Simeon the New Theologian)

Response: Holy Spirit, enlighten us.

Presider: Come, true Light,

Come, eternal Light,
Come, secret of hiddeness,
Come, unutterableness,
Come, awaited by all who are in want,
Come, mighty One forever creating, recreating
and renewing with a mere wave of your hand.
Come, You who remain wholly invisible,
for none ever to grasp or caress.

Response: Sanctify us, Holy Spirit.

Come, perpetual joy,

Come, inaccessible refuge,
Come, whom my poor soul desires,
Come, my breath and my life,
Come, joy, glory and incessant delight.

Presider: Spirit of God, we praise You.

Hermit: I give thanks that You have become for me

a day without evening and a sun without setting.

You, who have no place to hide,

as you fill the universe with your power.

Holy Lord, make Your abode in me,

dwell in me and until my departure from this life;
leave not your servant.

Remain with me, Lord, do not forsake me.

Strengthen me interiorly
so that I may be moved at all times by your grace,
and protect me by dwelling in me.

Presider: Let us pray:

Holy prophet Elijah, and all you ancient hermits of old,
come, and by your presence foster in us that inner listening
and profound recollection that was yours as you meditated day and night on
the Law of the Lord, and the Sacred Scriptures.

Train us in your spirit of totality and ardor;

capture for us that devotedness to Mary, the Mother of God,
that filled our ancient Fathers and Mothers, your disciples,
so that we may live “in spirit and truth”
for the glory of God and the Church.

May our lives be spent in imitation of her

who received the Word of God most perfectly,
and was enriched with such plentitude
that her compassion still flows out to all generations
who call her blessed.

We ask this in the Name of Christ the Lord,

who prayed to His Father in the Holy Spirit
in the desert and in solitary prayer on the mountain.

All: Amen

(Remain standing to sing)

Come Holy Ghost, Creator blest

and in our hearts take up Thy rest
Come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

(Now exit the building in silence. When gathered outside the door,
Sing the next stanza as the hermitage is viewed from the outside.)

Great Paraclete, to Thee we cry,

Thou highest gift of God most high;
Thou fount of life and Fire of Love
And sweet anointing from above.

Presider: Peace to the one who will live in this hermitage.

All: May she dwell in the strength of silence;

may her dwelling be in security and rest;
may her solitude be filled with light and wisdom.

Presider: Most Holy Trinity, Father + Son + and Holy Spirit +

Deign to bless this solitude with graces of deep prayer,
with powerful lights of truth that will heal our inner wounds
and let us begin that divine journey towards you
that all holy hermits desired for all their followers.

Give us to drink of the living water in the wilderness,
until we come to transformation in Christ,
immersed in the torrents of Kerith;
until through water and living flame,
we truly love Christ and can “see His image” in everyone.

Bless + and sanctify + this hermitage,

and may health and holiness, strength and joy,
humility, goodness, and a fullness of the Spirit’s gifts
ever fill those who dwell in it.
We ask this in the Name of Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Holy water is sprinkled on the hermitage)

All: Amen.

(Process to the hermitage,

singing one stanza at a time.)

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known

Thee, finger of God’s hand we own.
The promise of the Father Thou,
Who dost the tongue with Power endow.

Kindle our senses from above,

And make our hearts o’er flow with love.
With patience firm and virtue high
The weakness of our flesh supply.

Far from us drive the foe we dread

And grant us Thy true peace instead;
So may we not with Thee for guide
Turn from the path of life aside.

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow

The Father and the Son to know
And Thee through endless times confessed
Of both the eternal Spirit blest.

All glory while the ages run

Be to the Father and the Son
Who rose from death; the same to Thee
O Holy Ghost, eternally.

(In the Chapel)

Presider: (enthroning an icon or statue)

O God-bearer and Mother of the Church,
we place you in this hermitage as Queen and Protectress of solitude. Be for
(Name), Mother of living waters of grace and peace. Here may she listen to
your Son, the Word of the Most High;
here may she find the path of truth that is humility and joy;
here may the tenderness of your loving compassion enfold her in serenity
and hope;
here may faith become radiant Light for her,
enkindled by the flame of the Spirit
that she may be led across the desert darkness
to the mystery of the Triune God.
We ask this in the Name of Christ, the Lord of Glory,
reigning with the Father and their loving Spirit forever.

All: Amen.

Presider: Let us pray

All: O Holy Spirit of God, stay with (Name) in her solitude

that she may live in contemplating You,
and although poor, may be rich in the possession of You.
For You are all good, all beauty, all beatitude,
and Yours is the glory of the universe,
Yours with the Father and the Son forever and ever.


The Rule of Saint Albert
Rule for Carmelite Recluses
St. Francis of Assisi: Life in Hermitages
St. Romuald’s Brief Rule

The Rule of St. Albert

THE PRIMITIVE RULE of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel
given by St. Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem between the years 1206 and 1214
to the hermits on Mount Carmel.

1. Albert, called by God’s favor to be Patriarch of the Church of Jerusalem,

bids health in the Lord and the blessing of the Holy Spirit to his beloved
people in Christ, and the other hermits under obedience to him, who live near
the spring of Elias on Mount Carmel.

2. Many and varied are the ways (cf. Heb. 1:1) in which our saintly ancestors
laid down how everyone, whatever one’s station or the kind of religious
observance one has chosen, should live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ (cf.
2 Cor 10:5) how, pure in heart and steadfast in conscience (cf. 1 Tim 1:5),
must be unswerving in the service of the Master. It is to me, however, that

you have come for a rule of life in keeping with your avowed purpose, a rule
you may hold fast to henceforward; and therefore:

3. The first thing I require is for you to have a Prior, one of yourselves, who is
to be chosen for the office by common consent, or that of the greater and
maturer of you.

4. Each of the others must promise the Prior obedience of which, once
promised, you must try to make the Prior’s deeds the true reflection (cf. John

5. Next, each one of you is to have a separate cell, situated as the lie of the
land you promise to occupy may dictate, allotted by disposition of the Prior
with the agreement of the other brothers or sisters, or the more mature
among them.

6. None of the brothers is to occupy a cell other than that allotted to him, or
to exchange cells with another, without leave of whoever is Prior at the time.

7. The Prior’s cell should stand near the entrance to your property, so that he
may be the first to meet those who approach, and whatever has to be done in
consequence may all be carried out as he may decide and order.

8. Each one of you is to stay in your own cell or nearby, pondering the Lord’s
law day and night (cf. Ps 1:2; Jos. 1:8) and keeping watch at prayer unless
attending to some other duty.

9. Those who know their letters, and how to read the psalms, should, for each
of the hours, say those our holy forefathers and foremothers laid down and
the approved custom the church appoints for that hour. Those who do not
know their letters must say twenty-five ‘Our Fathers’ for the night office,
except on Sundays and solemnities when that number is to be doubled so
that the ‘Our Father’ is said fifty times; the same prayer must be said seven
times in the morning in place of Lauds and seven times, too, for each of the
other hours, except for Vespers when it must be said fifteen times.

10. None of the brothers must lay claim to anything as one’s own, but your
property is to be held in common; (cf. Acts 4:32, 2:44) and of such things as
the Lord may have given you, each is to receive from the Prior—that is from
the brother appointed for the purpose—whatever befits one’s age or needs.
(cf. Acts 4:35) However, as I have said, each one of you is to stay in your
allotted cell, and live on what is given out to you.

11. An oratory should be built as conveniently as possible among the cells,

where, if it can be done without difficulty, you are to gather each morning to
celebrate Mass.

12. On Sundays, too, or other days if necessary, you should discuss matters
of discipline and your spiritual welfare; and on this occasion the indiscretions

and failings of the others, if any be found at fault, should be lovingly

13. You are to fast every day, except Sundays, from the feast of the
Exaltation of the Holy Cross until Easter day, unless bodily sickness or
feebleness, or some other good reason, demand a dispensation from the fast,
for necessity overrides every law.

14. You are always to abstain from meat, unless it has to be eaten as a
remedy for a sickness or great feebleness.

15. Since one’s life on earth is a time of trial (cf. Job 7:1) and all who would
live devotedly in Christ must undergo persecution, (cf. Tim 3:12) and the
devil your foe is on the prowl like a roaring lion looking for prey to devour, (cf.
1 Pet. 5:8) you must use every care to clothe yourself in God’s armor so that
you may be ready to withstand the enemy’s ambush (cf. Eph 6:11).

Your loins are to be girt with chastity, (cf. Eph 6:14) and your breast fortified
by holy meditations, for as Scripture has it: “Holy meditation will save you.”
(Prov 2:11) Put on holiness as your breastplate (cf. Eph 6:14) and it will
enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and
strength (cf. Deut 6:5) and your neighbor as yourself (cf. Mt. 19: 19, 22, 37-

Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to
quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: (cf. Eph 6:16) there can be
no pleasing God without faith (cf. Heb 11:6).

On your head set the helmet of salvation (cf. Eph 6:17), and so be sure of
deliverance by our only Savior, who sets his own free from their sins (cf. Mt 1:

The sword of the spirit, the word of God (cf. Eph 6:17), must abound (cf. Col
3:17; 1 Cor 10:31).

16. You must give yourselves to work of some kind, so that the devil may
always find you busy; no idleness on your part must give the evil one a
chance to pierce the defenses of your souls. In this respect you have both the
teaching and the example of St. Paul the Apostle, into whose mouth Christ
put his own words (cf. Cor 13:3). God made Paul preacher and teacher of
faith and truth to the nations (cf. Tim 2:7). With him as your inspiration you
cannot go astray.

“We lived among you,” Paul said, “laboring and weary, toiling night and day
so as not to be a burden to any of you; in our own selves, an example you
might imitate. For the charge we gave you when we were with you was this:
that whoever is not willing to work should not be allowed to eat either. For we
have heard that there are restless idlers among you. We charge people of
this kind, and implore them in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that they

earn their own bread by silent toil” (2 Thess 3: 7-12). That is the way of
holiness and goodness: see that you follow it (cf. Is 30: 21).

17. The Apostle would have us keep silence, for in silence he tells us to work.
(cf. 2 Thess 3: 12) As the prophet also makes known to us: “Silence is the
way to foster holiness (cf. Is 32: 17). Elsewhere it is said: “Your strength will
lie in silence and hope” (cf. Is 20: 15).

For this reason I lay down that you are to keep silence from Vespers until
Terce the next day, unless some necessary or good reason, or the Prior’s
permission, should break the silence. At other times, although you need not
keep silence so strictly, be careful not to indulge in a great deal of talk, for, as
Scripture has it—and experience teaches us no less—“Sin will not be wanting
where there is much talk.” (Prov 10: 109) and “The one who is careless in
speech will come to harm;” (Prov 13: 3) and elsewhere, “The use of many
words brings harm to the speaker’s soul.” (cf. Sir 20: 8) And our Lord says in
the Gospel: “Every rash word uttered will have to be accounted for on
judgment day” (Mt. 12: 36).

Make a balance then, each of you, to weigh your words in; keep a tight rein
on your mouths, lest you should stumble and fall in speech, and your fall be
irreparable and prove mortal. Like the prophet, watch your step lest your
tongue give offense (cf. Ps 38: 2), and employ every care in keeping silent,
which is the way to foster holiness (cf. Is 32: 17).

18. You, brother and whoever may succeed you as Prior, must always keep in
mind and put into practice what our Lord said in the Gospel: “Whoever has a
mind to become a leader among you must make oneself a servant to the
rest, and whichever of you would be first among you must serve the needs of
all.” (Mt. 20: 26-27).

19. You other brothers too, hold your Prior in humble reverence, your minds
not on him, but on Christ who has placed him over you, and who, to those
who rule the churches, addressed these words: “Whoever pays you heed
pays heed to me, and whoever treats you with dishonor dishonors me.” (Lk
10: 16) If you remain so minded you will not be found guilty of contempt, but
will merit life eternal as fit reward for your obedience.

20. Here are the few points I have written down to provide you with a
standard of conduct to live up to; but our Lord, at his second coming, will
reward anyone who does more than one is obliged to do. See that the bounds
of common sense are not exceeded, however, for common sense is the guide
of the virtues.

15th Century Rule for Carmelite Recluses

Lyne owre holy fadyr (pope) of Rome he ordeyned this rowls to all solytary
men that takys the degre of an heremyte; he byndis him thus to spende the
nyght and the day to the lovinge of God. The begynning of the day is at

midnight and an hermit shall rise at midnight fro Holy Rode day unto Easter
day, and fro Easter day unto Holy Rode day in the dayeg (dawn?) of the day.
And he shall say for mateins of the day 40 Pater Noster and 40 Ave and 3
Credo and for Lauds 15 Pater 15 Ave and 1 Credo. And for Prime he shall say
12 Pater 12 Ave 1 Credo. And when he hath said Prime he shall hear Mass
and after Mass he shall say for every howr 10 Pater 10 Ave and 1 Credo. After
that he shall go to his Oratorye and have a meditation of the Passion of
Christe or of some other holy thing. For midday he shall say 10 Pater 10 Ave
and 1 Credo. And then go to his mete after mete he shall say for all his good
doors 30 Pater 30 Ave and 1 Credo, and our Lady’s psautier. For Evensong he
shall say 40 Pater Noster 40 Ave and 1 Credo. For Complyne he shall say 10
Pater 10 Ave and 1 Credo. And fro Complyne be sayde he shall keep silence.
He shall faste every day in Lenton and Advent and the Postylls fast that is to
say fro Holy Thursday unto Whitsunday. He shall be shrewyn and hoselde 3
tymes in the yere, at Chrystmesse, Easter and Whitsunday. He shall faste the
Friday and Saturday through the yere. The Friday to brede and alle and
potage. He shall ete no flesh but Christmasday, Epiph. St. Paul the ist Hermit,
St. Anthony, All the feasts of our Lady, the Ascension, Whitsunday, the feste
of the Trinity, Corpus Xti, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, and Peter and
Paul, the feste of the Angels, of All Hallows, the feste of the Saint of the Cell
and the dedication of the Cell. Also he shall lie in his kirtell gyrdede with de
gyrdill or with a Cord. He shall wer the heyr but if he be weyke and may not
suffer it he shall wer shoon with owtin (?) hoods. And he shall be gunede
(buried?) When he is dede in hys habyt as he gothe.

The sum of the Pater Noster on the day is 197 and als many Ave Maria and
14 Credo beside our Lady’s psalter.

This is ye charge of an hermytis lyffe.

MS. 192 Lambeth (15th century).

The booke of the institution and proper deeds of religious Carmelites.

Religious Life in Hermitages

St. Francis of Assisi

Not more than three or at most four friars should go together to a hermitage
to lead a religious life there. Two of these should act as mothers, with the
other two, or the other one, as their children. The mothers are to lead the life
of Martha; the other two, the life of Mary Magdalen.

Those who live the life of Mary are to have a separate enclosure and each
should have a place to himself, so that they are not forced to live or sleep
together. At sunset they should say Compline of the day. They must be
careful to keep silence and say their Office, rising for Matins. Their first care
should be to seek the kingdom of God and his justice (Lk. 12:31). Prime and
Terce should be said at the proper time, and after Terce the silence ends and
they can speak and go to their mothers. If they wish, they may beg alms from

them for the love of the Lord God, like any ordinary poor people. Afterwards,
they should say Sext and None, with Vespers at the proper time.

They are forbidden to allow anyone to enter the enclosure where they live,
and they must not take their meals there.

The friars who are mothers must be careful to stay away from outsiders and
in obedience to their custos keep their sons away from them, so that no one
can speak to them. The friars who are sons are not to speak to anyone except
their mother or their custos, when he chooses to visit them, with God’s
blessing. Now and then, the sons should exchange places with the mothers,
according to whatever arrangement seems best suited for the moment. But
they should all be careful to observe what has been laid down for them,
eagerly and zealously.


From the very early days of the Church there were both cenobites and
hermits among the various groups of religious. The cenobites lived as monks
in community life. The hermits lived in retirement to pray and meditate alone.
So too from the very early days of the Franciscan Order there were small
hermitages where the friars could retire to give themselves more completely
to a life of prayer and meditation.

Francis himself always felt drawn to remote places. Even as a young man he
liked to go with a certain unnamed companion to a grotto or cave near Assisi
where they could talk undisturbed and where Francis could pour out his heart
to God. After he had renounced the world at the court of the Bishop of Assisi,
he spent the next several years living as a hermit, wearing the garments of a
hermit. And when Francis and his eleven companions returned to the Spoleto
valley from Rome after their Rule had been approved in 1209, they first
discussed among themselves whether they should live strictly as hermits or
live a mixed life of prayer and work for the salvation of souls.

But, even while they chose the mixed life of prayer and the apostolate,
Francis still wanted a number of places of retirement, called hermitages,
where some at least of the friars could lead a life of seclusion and to which
others could retire at least occasionally. Thomas of Celano makes mention of
such places a number of times, sometimes without giving their location, at
other times speaking more precisely of the hermitage of St. Urban, Sarteano,
Rieti, Poggio Bustone, Greccio, La Verna, and one even in Spain.

The brief instruction entitled Religious Life in Hermitages very probably dates
from the year 1222 or 1223. The reason for dating it from this time is the fact
that it uses the technical term custos, or superior of a smaller division of a
larger province. It may be that the term came into use shortly after the
division of a larger province. It may be that the term came into use shortly
after the division of the Order into provinces in 1217, but it does not yet
appear in the Rule of 1221. It is only in the Rule of 1223 that the office of

provincial minister and of custos are mentioned specifically. Accordingly, it is
more likely that this little work was written at a time when the term custos
was in more common use, hence about 1222 or 1223.

(This text of the Rule for Hermitages and the commentary are taken from
Habig, Marion A., St. Francis of Assisi: Writings and Early Biographies. English
Omnibus of the Sources for the Life of St. Francis. Chicago: Franciscan Herald
Press, 1973, pages 71-73.

St. Romuald’s Brief Rule

Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it.
Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish.

The path you must follow is in the Psalms—never leave it.

If you have just come to the monastery, and, in spite of your good will you
cannot accomplish what you want, then take every opportunity to sing the
psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind. And if your
mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to
the words once more. Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and
stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.

Empty yourself completely and sit waiting content with the grace of God, like
the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what the mother brings.

(In Italy St. Romuald spent much of his life founding hermitages and
monasteries that combined the cenobitic and eremitical forms of life. The
most famous is the Camaldoli Monastery near Arezzo in Tuscany which he
established in 1012. He died in 1027, and is known as the founder of the
Camaldolese Benedictines.)


Hermit Discernment Survey and Questionnaire (1996)

Conducted by S. Mary Vogel, Hermit
Palestine, Texas

This questionnaire is addressed to those who classify themselves as hermits.

For our purpose, a hermit is one who engages in a life style marked by a
specific plan of life, relative solitude and seclusion to better relate to God
(deity) and neighbor. The purpose of this questionnaire is to provide for a
point of sharing among hermits and those interested in the eremitical life.

The questionnaire was sent out in January 1996 to the approximately 175
subscribers of Marabou, the hermit newsletter from which Raven’s Bread
evolved. By mid-February, 120 had been returned from 26 states (113),
Canada (3), England (2), and Ireland (2).

1. Identity: Of the 120 respondents: 85 were hermits, 18 aspired to be

hermits and 17 were interested in hermit life. There was 2:1 ratio of women
to men.

2. Status: Of the 85 hermits, 15 did not indicate actual length of time lived as
hermits. But of the 70 who did indicate time as a hermit: 32 (6 months -
9years), 24 ( 10 - 19 years), 11 (20 -29 years, 3 (30 - 35 years).

Nearly all of the hermits responding were Roman Catholic Christians. A few
were of the Eastern Orthodox Rite. One was of the Greek Melkite Rite. There
were also a couple of Anglicans/Episcopalians and Quakers, as well as a few
Buddhists and a Yogi.

Of the 85 hermits, 75 volunteered this information:

– all were single (2 widowed)
– 12 were hermits while retaining membership in a religious order
– 20 were hermits with private vows or promises
– 35 were hermits according to canon 603
– 4 were hermits with the Consecration of a Virgin, Canon 604
– 2 were hermit priests (previously members of a religious order)
– 2 were hermits (1 for 6 years; 1 for 20 years) but are so no longer.

3. Means of Financial Support

A fair number of hermits reported that they were financially supported by

social security or social security disability benefits, or by inheritance and/or
investment income dividends. A few were able to make it from donations
alone. Two were fully supported by their religious community. But most
hermits indicated that they make it financially by means of a combination of
earned income and donations received. A creative variety of in-hermitage
work emerged in the telling: e.g., hand-weaving of vestments and rugs,
painting icons, pottery, plaques, writing, translating, editing, calligraphy,
making and selling retreat tapes; home business, manual workshop, etc.

Several seemed to be unavoidably engaged in work outside of the hermitage

but took special care that it be of a solitary nature, e.g., house-sitting,
vineyard work, bookkeeping, janitor, etc.

Lastly, there were a few who responded altogether differently! Incongruously,

they called themselves “part-time hermits” and in regard to financially
supporting themselves, indicated that they made it their preferential choice
to seek a socially active ministry in their local parish or neighborhood as a
sort of balance or enrichment to their contemplative life in the hermitage.

NOTE: Call it “beautiful” but please don’t call it “part-time hermit”! It needs
to be noted here that while it is, of course, laudable to spend a valuable
portion of your time in contemplative silence and solitude, and while it
undoubtedly follows that grace from this prayer time will overflow into your
active ministry, it nevertheless must be recognized that what is being lived
here is an altogether different form of vocation. It is not the hermit way of
life to which the church is referring in Canon 603 and in articles 920-921 of
the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is not the hermit way of life as
experienced by those who live it as a vocational response.

4. Juridical Recognition

More than one applicant met with indifference or even opposition when
approaching their bishop or vicar for religious, one having been told: “We’re
not doing hermits!” In another situation, although two bishops were present
at a hermit’s profession within the context of a public liturgy, both of them
saw the vows as private, not under Canon 603. Prayers are asked by some
respondents with private vows who wish to be diocesan hermits, that they
receive their bishop’s acceptance and blessing through the implementation
of Canon 603.

Another form of juridical recognition or its lack thereof was voiced by

religious and former religious who live or seek to live the hermit response.
Several hermits indicated their status as current members of religious
communities who enjoy the full support and encouragement of their
leadership. Other religious pray and wait for superiors to validate the hermit
vocation in their orders. Some former religious, in order to test or live out
their call to solitude, have had to separate themselves from their
communities. A number of former religious have allowed their particular call
to evolve as they journeyed from the cloister of many years to the “world”,
then into a style of solitary life peculiarly their own, “according to the
promptings of the Holy Spirit.”

5. Plan of Life

Some follow an adapted ancient rule such as that of Carmel, the primitive
eremitic rule of St. Francis, or a modified Carthusian or Cistercian/Benedictine
rule. For many, their plan of life unfolded over several years and through
many phases of life. For some, it continues to evolve, year by year, as
circumstances change and enlightenment is received. The plan is kept
purposely flexible by some in order better to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice and
follow it. One sister wrote: “My plan of life is simply to stay here unless/until
the Spirit calls me elsewhere.” A hermit aspirant said: “Daily life is simple and
solitary—close to nature, with regular hours of silent prayer and lectio
divina.” In contrast, some follow a prayer/work horarium, in silent communion
with their monastic counterparts.

6. With Others or Alone

In relation to this issue, the majority of hermits indicated that they had
chosen to live alone—the truly solitary, eremitical life style rather than in
close proximity to another or other hermits, e.g., in a small group or cluster.
However, we did hear from several hermits who live in lauras designed for
two or more solitaries in which some community life and shared liturgy is
experienced, much as it was in the lives of some of the early desert dwellers.
Both forms are authentic expressions of eremitical response and the
particular form one chooses is ultimately dependent upon the call and grace
of God.

7. East/West Dialogue

Seven hermits indicated a personal involvement in this area, mainly through

prayer and perhaps along with some limited study and correspondence. This
form of nurturing and concern for unity flows from one of the many
ecumenical aspects of the solitary way: that the hermit by his/her very life
and call expresses the inward unity of all in God. As a very wise and humble
theologian once observed: “Perhaps none have realized as intensely the
saving mystery of fellowship, the love of the brethren, as those whom God
has called to live by prayer in the greatest solitude, even in the continual
contemplation of the hermit.”


In the January 1996 issue of Marabou, hermits were invited to reflect upon
and share some of their personally graced insights regarding the Scriptural,
Traditional and Ecclesial teachings that help to form criteria for the
discernment of a person’s sense of vocation to the hermit life. We were also
asked to ponder and present what we consider to be some of the authentic
as well as some of the mistaken motives a person might have for entering
and persevering in the eremitical life. Special thanks for the generous
personal contribution of insights received from those of you who so lovingly
took the time to comment on this very important and timely topic.

Due to scarcity of space, what follows is only a very limited development

containing some of the basic considerations one might take into account in
the difficult process of prayerfully discerning an authentic eremitical
vocation. Nevertheless, it is our heartfelt hope that by God’s grace this
summary report might genuinely provide a solid springboard for further and
deeper prayerful reflection and discernment whre needed.

Our report will proceed according to the above-mentioned outline.


The influence of Scripture in the work of discerning an authentic Christian

eremitical vocation flows from our basic understanding of the Good News as
God’s revelation of Himself and of His Will to all humanity”. “God is LOVE.” (1
Jn 4:8), and “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all

your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as
yourself.” (Lk 10: 26-28). So, the first principle for consideration is that
everyone is primarily called to be a lover of God, of others and of one’s true
self, no matter what other secondary calling they may have. Therefore, in
discerning the authenticity of a person’s sense of call and response to the
hermit life, determination must first be made as to whether the candidate is
being motivated primarily by this tri-fold commitment to LOVE.

• Is the candidate a wholehearted lover of God, others and one’s true

• Is solitude being sought in order to be freer to focus all of one’s
energies on fulfilling this divine command of love?

A second principle for consideration is that Scripture further reveals the way
that as “lover” we are called to love most deeply: “Be still and know that I am
God” (Ps 46: 10): “We can be sure that we love God’s children if we love God
Himself (1 Jn 5: 2): “Abide in my love” (Jn 15: 19). Thus, we see that God calls
humanity, not only to become “lovers’ but, specifically, to become
“contemplative lovers”—content in heart with the grace of God and zealous
in spirit to live this gift of simply being present to His Presence in Love.

To be loved and to love through contemplative prayer in God’s Presence is

the meaning and purpose of everyone’s life. Contemplative love is the fullest
and deepest way to becoming lovers of God, others and one’s true self. If this
contemplative striving is true for everyone, in every walk of life, how much
the more intensely and unconditionally must it be at the very heart of the
hermit life! It is imperative that the Christian hermit understand that our
Christian goal is to be “lovers”: and that the way to this goal is
contemplative. The goal and the way are one! Therefore, it is important that
a discerning probe be made in regard to the candidate’s graced
understanding and way of prayer.

• Does the candidate place a decisive emphasis upon and express an

informed commitment to nurturing this direct love relationship
(abiding) with God in contemplative prayer?
• Does he/she seek “to live through love in His Presence” (Ep 1: 14) and
“find the fullness of joy in His Presence” (Ps 16: 11)?
• Is this the primary motivating factor behind his/her desire for hermit
life: to be freer to dedicate one’s whole life to becoming a
contemplative lover of God and of the people of God?

A third essential principle gleaned from Scripture and central to the

discerning process is one that flows from the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s life,
death and resurrection. It is this mystery into which all Christians are
baptized and through which all are enabled by grace to become Christ. “For
me to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Ph 1: 21). All are called through baptism to
enter fully into the Christy Mystery of life through death. Even as “the Spirit
drove Him out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan” (Mk 1: 12), so too,
each and every Christian is given to share in the life and death desert

experience of struggling against Satan’s ploys as well as against one’s own
selfish self-seeking.

Yielding to such snares prevents a person from recognizing and dying to

one’s false ego self so that, by God’s grace, one’s transcendent true self
might emerge. Scripture advises: “Have this mind in you what was in Christ
Jesus . . . He emptied Himself . . . becoming obedient unto death . . . to the
glory of God the Father (Ph 2: 5-11). This then, is the third principle to
consider: that it is only to the degree that one is willing to follow the Spirit’s
lead and Christ’s example of love unto death, choosing the Father’s will
rather than one’s own in all things (so that it is His Spirit Who informs and
moves one’s ego self) that a person really opens oneself to the transforming
grace of living in contemplative love union and communion with God and with
one another in God. This is the only way to become a contemplative lover! If
this is true for all Christians, how utterly imperative it is that this be
recognized, cherished and lived without measure by one who seeks the
hermit life! Therefore in discerning eremitical questions, one might ask:

• Does the candidate experience an irresistible attraction toward

entering ever more deeply into the vast mystical solitude of Christ’s
Paschal Mystery of contemplative love?
• Does he/she consistently respond with a humble spirit of obedience to
God’s Word and Will in its various manifestations?
• Does the candidate exhibit a certain basic trust and confidence that
Christ’s indwelling Spirit will continue to sustain and guide him/her
throughout and beyond this “dying” (purification) and “rising”
(transformation in love)?
• Does the candidate know through an experiential awareness in faith
that his/her participation in the Paschal Mystery, in the silence of
solitude, secludes but does not separate him/her from the rest of the
Mystical Body, and that it actually furthers the reality of our inward
unity in contemplative love as sons and daughters of God, brothers
and sisters in the Lord?


The tradition of eremitical life is the “Good News” come alive and made real
by the example of the solitary contemplative response to LOVE of our hermit
predecessors. As “contemplative lovers” they have handed down to us, by
way of lived example, as well as by way of oral or written word, a veritable
wealth of salutary maxims concisely revealing both the positive blessings and
the possible aberrations inherent in such a radical form of life response to
LOVE. The long history of authentic eremitism, initiated and nurtured by the
Spirit in the lives of so many men and women over the centuries, from Elijah
and Anna, up to and including the desert mothers and fathers of today, gives
precious witness to the truth that tradition has much to say to us concerning
the essential and constant elements of hermit life as a valid and efficacious
way of fulfilling one’s reason for being. Thus in discerning a hermit call, a
fourth principle for consideration is whether or not the candidate possesses a

healthy repsect for and indicates a willing interest in acquainting oneself with
his/her eremitical roots found in tradition.

• Is the person open and receptive to the wisdom and warnings to be

gleaned from the desert mothers and fathers who have gone before
• Is the candidate able to discern with the help of a competent guide, as
well as implement without scruple whatever legitimate adaptations
may be deemed necessary in our own day and age so that the primary
purpose of the vocational response may be realized?


Canon 603 §1 Besides institutes of consecrated life, the Church recognizes

the eremitic or anchoritic life by which the Christian faithful devote their life
to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation
from the world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance.
§2 A hermit is recognized in the law as one dedicated to God ina consecrated
life if he or she publicly professes the three evangelical counsels, confirmed
by vow or other sacred bond, in the hands of the diocesan bishop and
observes his or her plan of life under his direction.

Entirely new to the recently revised Code of Canon Law, Canon 603 for
hermits provides in its first paragraph a certain definitive base from which the
discernment of an authentic eremitical vocation may be made. Drawing from
the wisdom of tradition, the Church clearly delineates here the essential
characteristics to be found in every authentic response, no matter whether
hermits are members of religious orders; in private vows or promises;
consecrated virgins; ordained priests; Catholic sannyasi; living solitary or in a
laura; with no formal commitment, or with a vowed commitment according to
the stipulations indicated in Canon 603 §2.

• It is noteworthy that in paragraphs one and two of this canon, a

distinction is clearly made between (1) identifying the common
characteristics conditional to an authentic hermit vocation in general
and, (2) identifying the specific legal stipulations conditional to
whether “a hermit is recognized in the law . . .” in particular. In
discerning an authentic hermit vocation, the conditions contained in
Canon 603 §1 are applicable to every form of eremitical commitment
but the stipulations listed in Canon 603 §2 are applicable specifically
only to those candidates who are called by grace and circumstances to
live that particular form of eremitical response.
• Further reference to hermit life is found in Sections 920-921 of the
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994 edition). Section 920 begins:
Without always professing the three evangelical counsels publicly,
hermits devote their live to . . .” there follows a direct quoting of the
definition of hermit life as found in Canon 603 §1, reiterating, it would
seem, that no matter what form of eremitical commitment may be

chosen, in essence it is to reflect the conditions contained in Canon
603 §1.
• Section 921 goes on to give expression to what the Church believes to
be the common spirituality of hermits: “They manifest to everyone the
interior aspect of the mystery of the church, that is, personal intimacy
with Christ. Hidden from the eyes of men, the life of the hermit is a
silent preaching of the Lord, to whom he has surrendered his life
simply because He is everything to him. Here is a particular call to find
in the desert in the thick of the spiritual battle, the glory of the
Crucified One.”
• The Church has always valued the authentic living of the hermit life.
By these most recent teachings in Canon Law and in the Catechism,
she not only reaffirms the validity and blessing of this graced call, but
she also makes clear to all concerned the specific elements considered
to be essential to a genuine eremitical vocation “hidden with Christ in
God”. Thus in discerning a hermit call, a fifth principle for
conisderation clearly emerges. If the call is authentic, the candidate
will be solicitous to align oneself with the mind of the Church in this
regard. Thus one might ask:
• • Is this the desire and resolve of the candidate?
· Is there the desire to dedicate one’s whole life to the praise and glory
of God and salvation of the world?
· Is there the desire to love humanity more deeply by loving God more
deeply—living in greater separation from the world in order to be freer
to move closer to all in purity of heart through assiduous prayer and
penance in the silence of solitude?
· According to one’s personal grace and circumstances, to what
particular form of hermit commitment does the candidate seem to be


• Along with the authentic motives already indicated in the preceding
sections of discernment criteria, further consideration might be given
as to whether the candidate:
• • exhibits an emotionally mature and stable personality as well as
a keen sense of direct accountability to God who is the Source of one’s
eremitical call and response;
• • possesses a relative inner freedom to be able to respond to what
God wants; to be able, with the help of grace, to align oneself, humbly
and patiently to God’s will rather than to seeking or insisting upon
one’s own;
• • displays a spiritual maturity which normally has been long
nurtured in community life experience and/or by a spiritual director
experienced or at least well-versed in monastic eremitical theology and

• • projects the confidence of an interiorly self-motivated person
who by God’s grace is able to keep good company with oneself without
being neurotically dependent upon the constant encouragement of
• • assumes the responsibility of living one’s hermit response as a
‘a sacred trust’ without having to have authority figures checking up
on imposing laws to assure one’s fidelity;
• • reflects a preference for simplicity in regard to material things
and a trust in the providential care of Lord Who provides;
• • requires a lived honesty with oneself, grace-nurtured by self
knowledge and self discipline;
• • relishes “sacred leisure” and values occasion for nurturing inner
silence devoid of “doing” and “projects” so as to be free to just “be”
with God in LOVE;
• • conveys an irresistible need for silence and solitude in order to
better be open and responsive to the inspiration of the Spirit within—to
hearken to God’s call to live through love in His presence;
• • possesses a healthy sense of humor and ability to keep


Finally, in discerning whether a candidate has an authentic hermit vocation,

consideration needs to be given as to whether the person may be:

• running away from people and responsibilities rather than running

toward a closer relationship with God and with others in Him;
• hoping to avoid accountability to a superior; resenting any other
authority than one’s own;
• desiring to be “different”, setting oneself apart from or above others as
“holier than thou”;
• centering immaturely and solipsistically on oneself;
• withdrawing from society because of a poor self image or paranoia or
because one feels like a failure;
• pursuing an illusion of romantic idealism; unable to cope with reality;
• seeking special attention or recognition; displaying oneself as a hermit;
• seeking a respectable escape from society because of one’s
depressive, melancholic or loner-type temperament;
• avoiding sociability and community living in order to be freer to focus
on intellectual or artistic pursuits.

Of course, hermit candidates, like everyone else, are in process so we ought

not to be surprised at the great complexity of motives that may surface
during discernment sessions. What joy to know that we are not alone in this
purifying and transforming work of the Spirit! As Hildegard of Bingen reminds
us with great exuberance of heart: “God hugs you! You are encircled by the
arms of the Mystery of God!”

published in Comité Canonique des Religiuex(ses)—pages 162-181
By the Canonical Committee of Religious established by the Bishops of France
Unofficial translation from the French (1998)

1. A brief history
2. The meaning of the eremitical life in the Church
3. The diversity of hermits
4. The components of eremitical life
4.1 Withdrawal from the world
4.2 The silence of solitude
4.3 Prayer
4.4 Penance
5. The eremitical profession
5.1 The form of the commitment
5.2 The object of the commitment
6. The status established in agreement with the bishop
7. Discernment for the candidates to the eremitical life
7.1 The personality and equilibrium of life
7.2 The spiritual life
7.3 The work project and the modalities of living
8. The entrance into the eremitical life
9. The formation to eremitical life
9.1 Spiritual formation
9.2 Intellectual formation
9.3 Personal formation


A consecrated life “in solitude”, the eremitical life is having a remarkable

renewal in some countries. In 1989, it was thought that there were some 150
hermits in France. According to a poll of the dioceses, of the 118 hermits, 79
were women and 39 were men.

At the request of the Episcopal Commission for Religious (in France), the
Canonical Committee presents a brief historical overview and a few
guidelines that could be useful to the diocesan and religious persons
responsible as well as to the candidates to the eremitical life themselves.


Eremitical life is undoubtedly the most ancient form of monastic life. It

existed already in the third century and its first great expansion in the East
took place in the fourth century. The stories and the sayings of those who
were called the Desert fathers were and still are a source of doctrine and

inspiration for the whole monastic movement. The Life of St. Anthony by
Saint Athanasius of Alexandria (357 AD) proved to be the point of departure
in the West. Moreover, the grouping of hermits around a spiritual guide
became the basis for many cenobitical communities.

These two ways of monastic life were to co-exist for a long time and Canon
Law would sometimes treat them as one In the East, the “Novelles” of
Justinian (527-565) were a turning point: it no longer accepted the eremitical
life unless it was linked to a community. This rule was repeated in the
Statutes of “Typica: ,” and it imposed itself gradually in a lasting way.
Anchorites and recluses continued gravitating toward the large monasteries.
Eventually the passage to a solitary life was seen as the normal crowning
point (if not the habitual one) of the monk’s itinerary.

In the West, the invasions by the barbarians favored a resurgence of the

eremitical life. It knew a great development in Ireland since it was in harmony
with the Irish temperament. As travelers and navigators, the Irish anchorites
emigrated willingly to the Continent. Some hermits played a significant role in
the evangelization of the countryside, especially in western France where
several became bishops.

Even though the Rule of Saint Benedict, which imposed itself gradually
throughout the West, esteems the solitary life, it does not integrate it as the
laws of Justinian did at the same period in the East. Benedict focused his
attention only on the cenobitical life. The eremitical life did, in fact, escape
the growing institutionalization that characterized western monasticism.
There was a greater freedom but also a certain devaluation. The canonical
status of religious life became more defined whereas the hermit, who
remained outside of it, was less esteemed.

The eleventh and twelfth centuries, a period of transition, saw a flowering of

eremitical life with an orientation toward new forms: chapters of Canons;
orders of anchorites (Camaldoli and Carthusians); and finally cenobitical
foundations with the main traits of the solitary life—physical removal from
the world, poverty, simplicity, and manual labor. This latter, which had almost
been abandoned in the large monasteries of the late Middle Ages, became,
as it were, a specialty of the hermits. It is in this sense that we can say that
the religious renewal of the Gregorian period was inspired greatly by the
spirituality of the desert, and at the same time, it greatly transformed the life
styles that it touched.

The eremitical life as such continued to exist. It was alive and well in England
and the Netherlands in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and even in
the seventeenth century in the Catholic countries of France, Italy and Spain.
But in a society where the distinction of social class structured itself with
growing legalism and severity, the accent placed on the essential humility of
the hermit created a strange misunderstanding of the goals of the eremitical
life. Its contemplative and solitary aspects were downplayed.

In the words of J.P. Camus, eremitical life seemed to be especially “the refuge
of those who, having lost face in the eyes of the world, could not be admitted
to serve God in the monasteries” (Hermiante . . . .). “These humble ones are
not made for religious life.” So, outside of the religious state, one could not
imagine, at the beginning of the Tridentine period, the possibility of a call to
perfection. The reforming bishops frowned upon these pious ones who
escaped the structures.

In the eighteenth century, the discredit that fell upon religious life also
touched the eremitical life, which showed a marked decrease. If it did gain
favor in the next century, it was more in the romantic perspective of “a
literary attitude of misunderstanding that stems from a proud and morbid
quest for the ego.”

The twentieth century has seen a renewal of eremitical life, which the Code of
Canon Law of 1983 takes into account. For the first time in modern history,
the Latin Church opens itself to hermits independent of any institute by
granting them a juridical status in the framework of consecrated life (C. 603).


Eremitical life is, under certain aspects, the most complete form of monastic
life and in this sense it is under the sign of gift. Just as the Church does not
contain its goal in itself since its responsibility is above all to “introduce the
human person to the Divine Persons,” monastic society, by opening itself to
the solitary life, shows that it exists first of all to lead its members to be alone
with Christ.

But there is more. More clearly than the other forms of monastic life,
eremitical life is a sign of liberty. Let us quote Don Jean Leclercq who so well
expressed that “the hermit is the person who, in the church, is united to God
with a minimum of structure”. The hermit’s vocation is “the greatest paradox:
a vocation to practice obedience without a superior, charity without brothers,
and apostolate without action.” He liberates himself of the law by going
beyond it: the hermit “who prays unceasingly, spontaneously, in the solitude
of his cell is free from the rule of a prayer that is limited, collective, and
obligatory to which the cenobites are commonly held.” Some calls of the
Spirit are, moreover, incompatible with the most legitimate structures of
community life. A certain monk of the late Middle Ages “chose to flee to the
desert so as to pursue a greater austerity; he feared that the uniqueness of
his life would be a source of trouble for the weak. In the Latin Church that has
always placed high value on institutional life, this sign appears particularly


Of which hermits are we speaking in these pages? Let us first specify those
who do not enter into our consideration.

We shall not speak here of eremitical religious institutes or those that are
semi-eremitical: Carthusians, Camaldoli, or the nuns and monks of
Bethlehem. Their life is in fact governed by the universal legislation that
deals with religious as well as by their own laws.

Neither will we consider those religious families, be they monastic,

contemplative, or apostolic, who state in their rule the possibility of an
eremitical life for certain of their members. For example, the question of
hermits is mentioned in the first chapter of the Rule of St. Benedict. Some
congregations of monastic orders that profess this rule have foreseen in their
constitutions the possibility of monks and nuns being called to a more solitary
existence. Saint Francis of Assisi wrote a rule “for the brothers who wish to
lead an evangelical life in the hermitages” and thus, it is not abnormal that a
Franciscan be a hermit. In the same manner, the Order of the Discalced
Carmelites has “holy deserts.” And we could quote other examples.

The religious who have become hermits lead a solitary life according to their
rule and under the authority of their superiors. The authorization of the
diocesan bishop is not needed provided they install themselves in a place
under the jurisdiction of a house of the institute. However, it is the competent
religious superior and he/she alone who can authorize one of his/her subjects
to enter into the eremitical life, determine its modalities, and assure that it is
supervised. For his part, the diocesan bishop has authority concerning all of
the liturgical life and eventually the ministry of the religious hermit. If the
latter does not persevere in the solitary life, he must be reintegrated into his
community with the agreement of the superior, the bishop having been
advised if this is necessary.

The following pages will speak of the hermits mentioned in Canon 603, that is
to say, the laity or the clerics who have professed a solitary life before the
diocesan bishop and live under his authority.


They are enumerated in Canon 603 §1: “Besides institutes of consecrated life,
the church recognizes the eremitic or anchoritic life by which the Christian
faithful devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world
through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude, and
assiduous prayer and penance.”

4.1 Withdrawal from the world

The withdrawal of the hermit is said to be “stricter.” Must we gather from

this that this is a comparison with consecrated life in general, or even the
monastic life? Regardless of the text of the canon, this “stricter separation
from the world” does not refer only to fleeing the company and contact of
humans, nor does it do so primarily. A group, especially if it is numerous, is
necessarily more deeply involved in the economy and society than an

individual who is isolated. The life style of the hermit should take into
account this requirement by its simplicity and its refusal to “be seen”.

4.2 The Silence of Solitude

This expression of Carthusian origin characterizes the silence of the hermit in

contrast with that of the cenobite which is seen more as a discipline–at least
as far as the external aspect is concerned. For the hermit, silence is assured
essentially through physical isolation. This presupposes a site that is truly
solitary to which the hermit must be faithful, although his vocation does not
exclude all sociability.

4.3 Prayer

Assiduous prayer, says the Code. Solitude fosters a prayer that is more
continuous, freer, less tied down to structured forms. The clerical hermit is
still obliged to recite the canonical hours; one can expect that a commutation
would be legitimate if the interested party feels called to a more simple
prayer. The lay hermit has total latitude in this domain, although the careful
discernment of an experienced spiritual father is necessary. One can only
free oneself from the law by going beyond it.

4.4 Penance
This expression includes corporal ascesis as well as spiritual warfare without
which the former would be useless.

The corporal ascesis of the hermit includes according to tradition, the choice
of a style of life that is rudimentary and lacking comfort. Work has an
important place. The hermit is not dispensed from the law stating that man
must earn his bread with the sweat of his brow (Gn 3: 19), and the Desert
Fathers of Egypt often spoke of the rule given by Saint Paul: “Anyone who
would not work should not eat” (2 Th 3: 10). Oftentimes economic necessity
can burden a hermit, exposing him to the risk of being invaded by work and
the concerns that it entails.

Spiritual warfare demands stability with perseverance in silence and solitude.

This supposes a battle against accidia, this distaste for the spiritual, which of
all temptations, is the most serious.


In the words of the Code, “the hermit is recognized by the Code as dedicated
to God in the consecrated life if he or she publicly professes the three
evangelical counsels sealed by a vow or other sacred bond, in the hands of
the diocesan bishop, and observes his or her own plan of life under his
direction.” (C. 603 §2)

One must underscore the fact that this text does not forbid someone to lead
an eremitical life without publicly professing the evangelical counsels. The

difference is that such a hermit will not be legally recognized as belonging to
the consecrated life.

Note, it is not in the nature of things to substitute the Consecration of Virgins

(C. 604) for the eremitical profession, nor to add it to the eremitical
profession. These are two very distinct kinds of consecration, each sufficient
by itself. Their superimposition could cause them to depreciate one another.

Now that this has been said, two more questions need to be dealt with:
1. What form should the profession take –vows or “other sacred bonds” and
which ones?
2. What is the object of a commitment to follow the counsels in the case of a

5.1 The Form of the Commitment

What could be the “other sacred bonds” mentioned Canon 603 §2? Since a
vow is a promise made to God (C. 1191, §1), we must answer: a promise that
would not be made directly to God but rather “because of God”, a promise
which could eventually be confirmed by a vow or a public declaration similar
to the “sacred promise” of the consecrated virgin (C. 604 §1). This latter form
should be preferred if the obligations proper to a vow risk becoming a
problem of scruples. The text of the formula of profession should take into
account the option selected: “I promise to God” (or an equivalent expression)
for a vow; “I promise before God and His saints” for a promise; “I propose to”
in the case of a declaration.

5.2 The Object of the Commitment

Canons 599-601 define the object of the commitment to be the observation

of the evangelical counsels as they are presented among the common norms
for all forms of consecrated life. They are therefore applicable to all hermits.
Canon 599, relative to chastity, is no problem. This is not the case for the
other two. Canon 600 prescribes dependence in the use of temporal goods;
Canon 601 defines obedience as a submission to the will of the legitimate
superior. How are these norms to be understood in the case of the hermit?

There seem to be two ways. The first–seemingly more in conformity with

tradition–presupposes reinterpretation of canons 600-601. Poverty would
consist in a detachment as effective as possible, determined by the rule of
life of the hermit; obedience would be above all obedience to God in one’s
whole life, in prayer, penance, to this solitary life of prayer and austerity. The
second consists in considering the diocesan bishop as the superior of the
hermit: the superior in the strict sense of the word but not an authority of
guardianship as is the case for an institute of diocesan jurisdiction, for
example. This perspective is partially supported by the text of Canon 603 §2
where it is stated that the hermit will live “under the direction” of the bishop,
but it does not seem to truly respect the basically “non-institutional” nature
of hermit life.


The rule of life or the charter of the hermit has as its goal to state precisely
how he will live out his vocation in concrete circumstances. This does not
exclude mention of the spiritual considerations that express the call of God as
he heard it and that motivate his choice of life in its essential components.
Therefore, this is a personal document, adapted to each vocation, that
undertakes to express in the best manner the demands of a truly eremitical
life, and the personality of the person concerned (former existence, the
needs and possibilities on the physical, intellectual, spiritual, etc. levels).

As regards its nature, we can consider it as a sort of mutual contract set up in

agreement between the hermit candidate (with the advice, if needed, of his
spiritual father) on the one hand, and by the bishop who agrees to accept
him, on the other hand. It could also be modified by mutual agreement so as
to allow for the spiritual evolution of the hermit: the beginner may need
clearer directives whereas the tested solitary may need greater liberty.

Without going into needless details and so as to keep a certain elasticity that
is always necessary, the charter should address the following:

• the place of the Liturgy of the Hours (obligatory for a cleric unless
dispensed) and, if needed, other forms of prayer such as meditation;
• daily lectio divina, taken principally from Scripture and the
commentaries of the exegetes and the Fathers;
• the modalities and frequency of the reception of the sacraments of
penance and Eucharist;
• the relationship with the spiritual father, whose recourse seems
necessary so as to avoid possible illusions that could be especially
dangerous in the eremitical life. The hermit is free to choose, once he
has heard the bishop’s opinion, the spiritual father that seems best
suited to grant ordinary permissions, notably in matters of ascesis;
• the way to live “the silence of solitude”. This deals with the contacts of
the hermit with his family, with persons that he meets; with eventual
• the occasional ministry of the hermit priest;
• the practice of poverty. It is a question of spelling out the usage and
the management of the goods necessary for the daily life of the
• the work. It is often difficult to structure it since economic needs
govern this and yet, the place of work in the day of the hermit needs to
be spelled out in alternation with other occupations;

• ascetical practices (abstinence, fasting, vigils, simplicity of life). One

must be careful to maintain a balance between the asceticism that is
necessary and one’s physical and psychological health.

The hermit must follow his rule of life except if a necessity arises and in that
case, he must make it known to his spiritual father. In the case of serious and

repeated failings, the bishop could re-evaluate the capacity of the person
concerned to continue in the status of hermit; but he shall do nothing before
having proceeded with the usual monitions.


Preliminary meetings with the candidate to the eremitical life are

indispensable even before embarking on hermit life so as to have a true
discernment. During these meetings two points are worthy of attention for a

• Verifying the authenticity of the call. Is it a desire that is only selfish? A

seeking of a spiritual good for only oneself? The projection of an ideal
that seduces?
• Is it the fruit of a spiritual experience lived under the guidance of a
person experienced in the way of God? The response to a call from the
Lord that is clear and gratuitous?
• The risks based on the personal history of the candidate must be
evaluated. The eremitical life amplifies tendencies and favors illusions.
It can lead the person who embraces a too personalistic view to an
independence that is a subtle source of pride and of self-centeredness.

The discernment should deal with the following points:

7.1 The personality and the equilibrium of life

How long has the candidate been seeking this? The link with a religious
community? A parish community? And encounter community? A life
community? Who is the guide? Of what does the project consist? What steps
have already been taken or are to be taken? What do people who know the
candidate well think of this project? Is there an excessive attitude of
impatience or is there a trustful hope in the judgment of the Church? What
steps are anticipated or what seeking “in the church” is planned?

7.2 The spiritual experience

Does the candidate already have an experience of solitude? Of prayer in
solitude? Of silence? Is he attracted by a more strict withdrawal from the
world, by assiduity in prayer, praise, penance, intercession in the name of the
Church? Is he open to having links with a religious community that will be
assigned to him so that he may return to it at regular intervals?

7.3 The work project and the modalities of living

Is the candidate aware that eremitical life presupposes personal work and an
authentic poverty? Can he live this form of poverty and also not be
dependent for support by the receiving region? What kind of work could he
do which corresponds to his aptitudes while respecting the requirements of
his form of life?

This discernment must be made over a long enough period of time so that
the bishop can authentically accept the commitment to the eremitical life of

the one who seeks God’s intimacy according to the norms set forth in Canon


The Code of Canon Law does not spell out the conditions for admission to
profession for the eremitical life. One cannot conclude because of this that
we are faced with a juridical void. On the contrary, it would seem that one
has to look to the norms relating to religious institutes while adapting them.

In order to enter into the eremitical life recognized by the Church, one must
be a Catholic, have a right intention, and have the required qualities: health,
a temperament adapted to this way of life and sufficient maturity (C. 642).
Moreover, prudence demands that a special attention be given to the
equilibrium of affections since solitude presents special dangers for fragile
psyches. It is appropriate that the candidate have received the sacrament of
Confirmation (C. 645).

The following would be obstacles to admission.

• an insufficient age. The age of twenty-one seems to be required for a

definitive commitment (C. 658 §1);

• being married (C. 643 §2). It is understood that a dispensation can be

given by the bishop after certain conditions have been fulfilled; one of them
being the free consent of the spouse and eventual dispositions on the civil

• A secular cleric could not be admitted without the consultation of his

proper bishop nor, because of a question of justice, a person laden with debts
and who is insolvent. (C. 644)

• What about religious whose Constitutions do not foresee eremitical

life? We must distinguish two cases

1) if the competent superior authorizes the religious to live as a hermit while

remaining in the institute, the religious concerned will need to obtain (in
order to do so) either a leave of absence, or an indult of exclaustration, for a
specific time (this seems more prudent at first) or an undetermined time.
The leave of absence may be preferable in the case of a religious cleric; he
will thus remain in a stricter dependence upon his superior who will see to it
that he does not enter into a ministry incompatible with solitary life.

2) if the religious cannot receive from one’s superior the required permission,
two options are offered; either an indult of departure or an indult of passage
from the religious state as such to the eremitical state. This latter is in fact
an indult of departure that takes effect at the moment when the interested
party makes the profession of eremitical life into the hands of the diocesan
bishop. This form is psychologically less difficult than departing the institute.

But an indult of passage can only be reasonably requested after a period of
eremitical probation; this presupposes a preliminary period of leave of
absence or exclaustration.

3) The case of contemplative nun-hermits presents a special problem, at

least when they feel
that they are called to a greater solitude than that offered by the often very
restricted enclosure of their monastery. To date, the Holy See has not yet
approved any Constitutions foreseeing the possibility for contemplative nuns
to lead an eremitical life outside of the canonical cloister. It is the only
competent authority for the exclaustration of contemplative nuns (C. 686 §2),
and it refuses to prolong it beyond a limited time, generally some three
years. Beyond this term, the interested party must return to the monastery
or have recourse to the indult of departure or of passage.

4) A member of a secular institute who aspires to eremitical life must, in

principle, first leave the institute, for there is absolute incompatibility
between the “secular” vocation and the eremitical life. This latter would not
seem to be compatible with a society of apostolic life.

Before embarking on eremitical life, the candidate must deal with the
following questions:

1) A dwelling place. It should permit a strict separation from the world so as

to safeguard silence, without being of too difficult access, nor being too far
from a place of worship if the aspirant is not a priest. In the hermitage, a
place will be set aside for prayer as well as for Eucharistic reservation for
communion and adoration, with the authorization of the bishop, or even for
the celebration of Mass in the case of a priest. This place must be approved
by the bishop and cannot be changed without his approval.

2) Choice of work. Intellectual work is not excluded, especially if it favors a

spirit of prayer. The way in which the product of this work will be distributed
must also be foreseen.

3) The social security of the hermit must be assured. The bishop who
received the hermit should see to this.

4) The personal goods of the hermit. If he cannot get rid of them (for
example, because the produce of one’s work is not sufficient for one’s
subsistence) one must entrust to whomever one wishes the administration of
one’s goods, and decide, normally in writing, who the beneficiaries of the use
and the fruit of these goods will be, in analogy with the laws that govern
these matters for religious (C. 668 §1).

Modifications can be made later if necessary, with the agreement of the



Before commitment to eremitical life, a period of formation in a monastery or

community life is essential. This period could vary depending on the
personality and the background of each person. The candidate must be
under the care of either the Superior of the community or a member who has
been named by the Superior to personally care for the aspirant-hermit and to
follow the hermit’s evolution.

During the whole period of probation, formation is necessary. It will consist of

regular stays in the community, under the care of one of its members, as was
mentioned above.

During the whole life in the hermitage, a “continuing formation” is to be

desired. It will be given according to the means and the Rule of Life
approved by each.

Of what should this formation consist?

9.1 Spiritual Formation

It should begin in the community in whose care the candidate has been
placed for the first formation and may continue in this format but also under
the care of an experienced hermit through stays or regular meetings that will
permit guidance as well as initiation into the laws of the spiritual life.

9.2 Intellectual Formation

Studies that are necessary so as to have a fruitful lectio divina can also serve
as a protection against acedia and the seeking of distractions. The hermit
must also receive a formation that is biblical, patristic and theological
according to one’s capacities, as well as a liturgical formation that is
indispensable to pray in the Church and to live according to the rhythm of the
liturgical hours and seasons. The hermit must also familiarize oneself with
the documents of the Church so as to have a prayer of praise centered on the
Church and a mission of intercession in her name. It is useful to take
correspondence courses and to follow sessions that will meet specific needs
and one’s comprehension of the “church community.”

9.3 Personal Formation

This life project is confronted by the riches and the risks of solitude, the
demand for a balanced life and a certain insecurity of life. The hermit is not a
religious yet the hermit’s life project approved and recognized by the bishop
must provide for this formation.


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