Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"The better part"

Maryann posted the following:

“My last question has to do with hermits and hermitages. I know very little about their lifestyle and find it intriguing. The little I have read offers a picture of a life of solitude, removed from the outside world. Their days are filled with God through prayer/chants, reflection, reading and studying scripture, solitude, manual labor for their hermitage, writing, plus many more obligations I’m sure I didn’t mentioned. I have heard that some, if not all, do not have access to telephone, internet and other forms of modern communication. I do believe they make things and sell them to the public to help provide for their basic needs, and I do believe they can accept donations for the hermitage, not for individual hermits; I don't think they own anything. I don’t understand how they share their knowledge, love and commitment to God with the public. How are they disciples? Through prayer and their simple lifestyle, that only they experience? My question is not meant to sound disrespectful or demeaning in any way, I simply don’t know the answer or how to phrase my question more eloquently.”

I would recommend the section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which addresses consecrated life in general terms (# 914- 945) and presents much of the Church’s theological and historical background concerning consecrated life. A beautiful, general statement of how a consecrated person (a hermit, e.g.) is a disciple comes from # 945: “Already destined for him through Baptism, the person who surrenders himself to the God he loves above all else thereby consecrates himself more intimately to God’s service and to the good of the whole Church”.

An important point to make is that the consecrated life is not for the person only; it is lived for God and others. So, the intense life of prayer and penance is offered up to the Father for the sake of the Church. The spiritual practices that Maryann mentioned are not just for the individual; they are powerful prayers for the salvation of the world. Those who live the consecrated life in solitude (hermits, e.g.) have devoted their lives to praying for others. Intense amount of prayers and penitential practices are their service to the Church. This is the discipleship to which the Father has called them. Their discipleship is as fruitful as those of us serving in the world. I would argue that it’s more fruitful because they are praying on a daily basis for the fecundity of our service; fruitfulness in our ministry is most likely a result of their prayers and sacrifices. Jesus does call a life of prayer “the better part” (Lk 10:42). Wise priests often turn to cloistered sisters to pray for their ministry knowing how powerful their prayers are.

The Catechism (# 918) indicates that “From the very beginning of the Church there were men and women who set out to follow Christ with greater liberty, and to imitate him more closely, by practicing the evangelical counsels (chastity, poverty, obedience). They led lives dedicated to God, each in his own way. Many of them, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, became hermits or founded religious families. These the Church, by virtue of her authority, gladly accepted and approved (Perfectae caritatis)”.

One of the hermit communities is the Hermits of Bethlehem which I have visited twice for retreats. To learn more about this community and the life of hermits, please click on today’s title.


At 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is the life of a monk-priest lived out? Are there any orders that interact with the community as well as participate in the solitude and brotherhood of their own order? How does one go about being a missionary monk?

I know those are many questions but I am interested in the monastic priesthood and life and you do not hear details about it as much as the diocesan priesthood.


At 12:37 AM, Anonymous Maryann said...


It sounds like the Catechism of the Catholoic Church is a reference I need to become more familiar with when I have questions.

I haven’t had the time to read any of your Catechism references yet, but, if I understand your post correctly, hermits are disciples through their solitude, silence and simplicity. The contributions or knowledge their lifestyle gives to the world are not tangible, thus, their power can be very difficult to comprehend.

At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question-

Someone was telling me that her daughter and future son-in-law, who are planning to marry outside, cannot be married by a priest because they must have a consecrated altar. So, I was wondering, when we have masses outside, the Blessing of the Animals, for example, what is used for the altar?

At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The “latest news” headline on www.zenit.org has two brief excerpts that reflect on the power of the Eucharist (6/19/08). Having read Vietnamese Cardinal Van Thuan’s book Testimony of Hope, it occurred to me that he lived the life of a hermit for 13 years, by force, not choice. Van Thuan’s hermitage was a cramped, filthy room, with guards posted outside, 24 hours a day. His hermitage offered no privacy, no comforts, minimal food and kept him isolated from the outside world.

Van Thuan’s thoughts during his years as a “hostage hermit” reflect his deep, fervent faith in the power and love the Eucharist offers. The devil may have thought his nasty, inhumane hermitage would win the Cardinal’s faith and perhaps his life, but, the devil failed to remember the mystical power the Eucharist possesses. Whether called to be a hermit through God’s love or the devil’s hatred, Van Thuan’s Testimony of Hope captures the essence of a hermit, total surrender of self to God and His Church.

At 11:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where the bride and groom got their information from, but, as I understand the "outdoor wedding question", the answer is dependent on more than one source.

Here are two Canon Laws that apply to the celebration of a marriage:

Can. 1115 Marriages are to be celebrated in the parish in which either of the contracting parties has a domicile or a quasi-domicile or a month’s residence or, if there is question of vagi, in the parish in which they are actually residing. With the permission of the proper Ordinary or the proper parish priest, marriages may be celebrated elsewhere.

Can. 1118 §1 A marriage between catholics, or between a catholic party and a baptised non-catholic, is to be celebrated in the parish church. By permission of the local Ordinary or of the parish priest, it may be celebrated in another church or oratory.

A couple should also check with their diocesan, parish and individual priest’s policy on outdoor weddings.


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