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.

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