The following comes from an Oct. 28 story on the website of the Catholic World Report.
When Sister Mary Diana, 83, of Springfield, Oregon, became a consecrated hermit almost 40 years ago, she was among the first in the US. “There were some, but not like what you’ve got now,” said Sister Mary Diana, who lives with Sister Mary Magdalene, 89, who was also among the country’s first hermits.
If the ease with which hermits and hermitages can be found on the Internet is any indication, more and more people are discerning the call to a life of prayer and solitude with God.
To what does Sister Mary Diana attribute the increase in hermitic vocations? “Let’s hope it is out of pure love of God, and wanting to spend time with him every day of your life.”
One reason for an increase in the hermitic life is the fact that when Canon 603 was promulgated in 1984, it allowed bishops to accept within their own dioceses hermits who were not affiliated with religious orders.
Canon law allows men and women like Maria, who is now in her 60s and who spent the better part of her adult life raising children, the opportunity to discern whether they have a call to the hermitic life.
It was disappointing to Maria to learn that most Catholic women’s religious orders would not accept her because of her age. Becoming a hermit, however, will give her the chance to partake in the religious life.
Maria, who lives on the Gulf Coast, thinks the increase in hermits may also be a sign of the times. “The call was answered in the early Church when there was heresy and persecution,” she said. “The world had become so wicked; people could not exist in it anymore.”
She said it may also be indicative of the loss of religious orders. “Maybe the Holy Spirit is renewing the hermitic life to bring back the orders we need.”
Sister Mary Diana agreed that some may be turning to the hermitic life because of the culture’s moral decay. “You cannot do anything politically because the cards are stacked against you,” she said, but added that prayer, on the other hand, is always a good option, because it is always successful.
Although it would be easy to imagine the hermitic life as a lonely one, Sister Mary Diana cheerfully dispels that idea. “How could you ever get lonely in the Lord’s presence?” she asks.
The sisters, who attend a Byzantine Catholic parish, have no structured schedule at all—which is a common feature of Eastern Catholic hermits—but pray and stay close to the Lord at all times. The Lord, however, brings people to them, according to Sister Mary Diana. She described one day in which she and Sister Mary Magdalene had a strong desire to pray. Soon after they began praying, a man showed up at the door and became part of their prayer. This person was going through a difficult time, so the sisters stopped what they were doing and ministered to him.
Several years earlier, after they built their first hermitage in another area of Oregon, the sisters offered a cabin for retreats to anyone who wanted to spend time alone in nature with God. “There was no advertising, but people found us,” said Sister Mary Diana. “It became a steady stream of them. We didn’t charge anything. Whatever they wanted to give was up to them.”
….Brother Martin, of the Hermits of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel in Christoval, Texas, said that although he does get lonely sometimes, “There are probably people in cities who rub elbows with people every day, and they are intensely lonely.” He added that being in a location where God is placed first and the fact that he has hermit brothers around keep things from being completely solitary.
In living the life of a hermit, Brother Martin said he imitates Christ. “In the hermitic life one retreats from the world, much like Christ did when he went off for 40 days in the desert to pray or when he went to lonely places to pray,” he said.
Some may wonder how the solitary life fits in with the call to evangelize. “Believe it or not,” said Brother Martin, “Protestants seem to identify more with what we do—intercessory prayer. We get a lot of Protestant visitors. They see it in the element of the praying Church. When people come they are evangelized by the place. When people come, they experience the beauty of nature, and Christian art.”
The hermits must stick to a strict schedule, and, according to Brother Martin Mary, it is physically demanding. The hermits rise at 3:30 am each day, and when they are not using that time to pray, they are taking care of the large hermitage, gardening, caring for the goats and chickens, tending the grounds, and digging ditches. There is time allotted for a siesta during the day, but he said that many times they do not end up getting around to it. Bedtime for the hermits is 8:30 pm, if the work for the day has been completed. …
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