The Eremitical Life

Commentary on the eremitical life from a Roman Catholic Diocesan Hermit at Emmanuel Hermitage –
emmanuel hermitage
Hermits live a simple lifestyle but still have to work to support themselves in their financial needs. To that extent they engage in some kind of manual work, crafts, computer work, writing, or other occupations compatible with the silence of the hermitage and their primary task which is prayer. The hermitage or hermit’s dwelling is the sacred place of communion with God where the hermit prays, works, studies and reflects, plays, rests, and lives in solitude. It may be located in an isolated or remote place but quite often it is in the midst of an urban setting where the eremitical desert is found in the anonymity of the modern city.

The eremitical life is centered on prayer and the search for God, like other forms of contemplative life. There are many forms of and aspects to prayer and here too every hermit has a personal way or emphasis which is expressed in the Rule.

Prayer is constantly nourished by spiritual reading and the sacraments. Hermit priests have the privilege of celebrating the Eucharist in their solitude.

Beside the Eucharist, hermits usually expend significant time with Lectio -the meditative reading and praying of Scripture; the Divine Office or official Liturgy of the Church -which some hermits chant even in solitude; centering prayer or other forms of very simple and contemplative prayer; the Jesus’ Prayer or prayer of the heart -so characteristic of the Eastern Church; and many other expressions and devotions that allow for a frame to a life of prayer which permeates every activity and moment of the day.

They pray wholeheartedly for the intentions entrusted to them; they pray -from the distance- together with those who pray, and they pray as well for those who don’t pray or don’t know how to pray. There is a mystery to prayer that they cannot probe but they pray following an inner urge as well as the gospel invitation and the requests from our contemporary world. And in the process something happens to them as well as to the world. Indeed God’s power is fully present behind the apparent powerlessness of prayer.
The eremitic vocation is a gift, a daring call to live alone with the Al-one. It is a life of faith tested again and again. It is a life of naked spiritual poverty aimed at crafting an empty vessel to hold the unceasing prayer of Christ in us through the Spirit. This is how the hermit serves the Church, the society and the world.

And yet the hermit is not spared any of the challenges of life because they enter into solitude with the same baggage of humanity that everyone has to deal with, which means with the same anxieties and fears of all people. Hermits have to confront these and make peace with them in a relentless process intensified by the eremitic lifestyle and the absence of distractions. True search for the Absolute cannot bypass the inner self and the humanness of the seeker; thus the accompaniment of a spiritual director is a needed blessing in the initial discernment and most beneficial through the life-long process of growth in response to the vocation. Although condensed in the life of the hermit, this intense process is no different from the transformation called forth in every person through life where we all journey towards union with God and identification with Christ. This, I think, makes the eremitical life particularly relevant to our world.


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