“From the earliest days of the Carmelite Order, our Lady, as the Queen of Hermits, has communicated to certain souls a particular charism and grace to live a solitary and hidden life in the austere wildernesses of Carmel. In the solitude of the wilderness, these men arise as fire, men consumed with the love of God like their Father St. Elias. These hermits live, not as men of this world, but as souls set apart to begin to taste the fruits of heaven even in this life. As the Lord’s intimate friend who has been drawn into the wine cellar of his love, where he inebriates him in his charity, the life of the hermit is consumed in love for God and for the entire world. The hermit can repeat with the prophet Jeremias, “Thou hast captivated me, O Lord, and I have let myself be captivated.”
The majority of the choir monks will find their sanctification in the common way of life, since this is truly the safest path to authentic holiness. Nonetheless, since the Holy Spirit may call some of the fathers to the solitude of the wilderness, the Prior upholds the eremitical vocation as the crown jewel of the Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Even if in our own time there are few who are able to persevere continuously as hermits, the eremitical life remains revered as a unique charism within this community that has the ability to perpetuate the life of the first fathers on Mount Carmel.
The Church, in which there is a diversity of charisms, esteems the life led by these hermit-monks as a mysterious source of apostolic fecundity. Although the hermits spend their lives in hidden contemplation, we are reminded in the Catechism that these hermits “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 . . .” St. John of the Cross reminds us of the mystical effectiveness of the hermits when he writes, “An instant of pure love is more precious in the eyes of God . . . and more profitable to the Church, than all other good works together, though it may seem as if nothing were done.”
“Some form of community life is an essential aspect of the Carmelite charism, but some people within the Carmelite Family have a particular call to place greater emphasis on the solitary vocation which is also emphasised in Albert’s Rule.
Such people have always existed throughout the history of the Church, but the 1983 “Code of Canon Law” made particular provision for men and women who feel a calling to consecrate themselves to God through the eremitic or anchoritic life without necessarily being a member of a religious congregation or institute. Canon 603 states: “§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 [i.e. chastity, poverty and obedience], 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.”
There are therefore a number of “consecrated hermits” or “solitaries” within the Carmelite Family who make promises to the local bishop and who live in the spirit of the Carmelite “Rule of Saint Albert”.
Sr. Elizabeth Ruth Obbard, a Solitary, with Friars at Aylesford Priory.
In Britain one such Solitary lives alongside the friar community at Aylesford Priory, and contributes to the Order’s pastoral outreach.”
“The Hermits are a community of men called to a life of silence, solitude, prayer, and penance for the good of the Church and the salvation of the world. The hermits live in a Laura, a colony of Hermits living in separate dwellings around a central chapel, following the original Carmelite rule.
The vocation of the Carmelite Hermit is the contemplative vocation, and the foundations of his life are the Eucharist, Sacred Scripture and devotion to Our Blessed Lady under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For the hermit the cell is the place of encounter with God.
The Carmelite Rule states “Let each one remain in his cell, or near it, meditating day and night on the law of the Lord and keeping vigil in prayer, unless occupied with other lawful duties.”
The cell is also the place where the hermit sleeps and takes his meals alone, except on Sundays and special days where the hermits eat in a common refectory. The cell is composed of a study, chapel, bedroom, bathroom, and porch. Each cell is separated from the next by an enclosed garden.”