This is an excerpt from the beginning of my Rule of Life, in which I present a justification for such an odd-sounding vocation as “lay anchorite”. Combining the married vocation with the eremitic may seem oxymoronic, but it seems to work for me. It hasn’t been easy, of course.
Justification for a “Lay-Anchoritic” Rule of Life
The Lord said in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried
about many things. There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
A cursory reading of the section of Lumen Gentium on the laity (chapter IV), combined with an awareness of the structure of American society today, might lead one to assume that the Church prescribes as the primary role of lay people an involvement in evangelizing the world around them in the context of their work situations, their social circles, and their families. While this may be true to a large extent, the document also continually underscores the fact that individuals “share diligently in the salvific work of the Church according to their ability and the needs of the times” (LG, 33, emphasis added). Given the variety in life circumstances of the laity, their role in the evangelization of the world cannot be confined to a narrow description or a simplistic definition. “If therefore in the Church everyone does not proceed by the same path, nevertheless all are called to sanctity and have received an equal privilege of faith through the justice of God” (LG, 32).
A review of my life history would afford a multitude of examples of ways in which I have been called to and prepared for my current lifestyle. These are too numerous to mention and explain here, but they have all contributed to my on-going discernment of a vocation to the anchoritic life. While such a vocation would seem to be completely at odds with the vocation of wife and mother, I think my own situation shows that elements of the two can be combined, just as there are examples of married couples who have chosen celibacy within their marriage. There may be a constant tension between the two vocations as one tries to live them both at the same time, but these are tensions that would probably be present in the marriage regardless of a perceived vocation to a life of prayer and penance (e.g., one spouse preferring silence and solitude while the other prefers to always have some sort of background noise). Having a clearly defined Rule of Life could actually relieve some of the tension, as it brings into the open the differences between the partners, and may encourage a dialogue which would help them to understand each other.
Currently, I am in a unique situation: we live in the country, which provides some minimal isolation; I do not work outside the home; and there seems to be evidence from my personal history indicating that I have been called to a life of prayer and penance.
In sum, my current “lifestyle”, as described by my Rule of Life, seems to be the natural culmination of years of seeking God’s will.
Clearly, when God calls, we must obey; every willful resistance places even our salvation in danger. After sin, the greatest misfortune that could befall us here below would be to miss our vocation... ‘If we wish to make our sure of our salvation,’ says St. Alphonsus, ‘we are obliged to obey the divine call by choosing that state of life in which God has prepared for us those more abundant helps which are necessary to save our souls. How many souls shall we not see condemned on the day of judgment for not having obeyed God’s call!’ ” (The Carthusians: Origin, Spirit, Family Life, p. 30)