Friday, June 26, 2015

The Church Needs Hermits

The Church needs hermits. People used to know this, and understand the counterpoint the anchoritic life provided to the life of the laity.

For 10 years, I’ve had one foot in the lay world and one foot in the monastic world. After my daughter graduated from high school, the balance shifted a little more toward the monastic world. She was pretty independent then, but still need guidance (or at least, I offered it whether she wanted it or not!). And I still have a husband, of course, and I have always taken care to make sure that I am putting my primary vocation of wife and mother before my vocation of “lay hermitess”.

Last week, when I embarked on the child care adventure I described in the previous post, I became more aware than ever of the fact that we need hermits, and why we need hermits. I was working hard to keep my prayer schedule intact, and to also watch over the children. This included driving to and from one house to the other, sometimes with the children, and sometimes without; trips to the park; witnessing an single-car accident (see below!); and generally being forced to be a better manager of my time.

The whole situation was complicated by the little boy’s autistic behavior, and by my desire to help his father find some help for him. I wanted to observe him, encourage him to use words, and encourage him to interact more socially.  I was also trying to engage the girl in various ways, to fulfill her needs for companionship and intellectual stimulation. Besides, she continues to be interested in becoming Catholic, and I am thrilled every time she asks questions about our faith!

All of that takes time and lots of energy! And while it was all necessary and vital to the children’s well-being, it distracted me from prayer. I still prayed most of the hours, but not with the attention, reverence, and devotion I would have liked to maintain!

And that is why we need hermits! Hermits are not distracted by the day-t0-day care of children, the little details of daily living that are constantly popping up in family life, and the attendant worries that go along with all of that. It is good that they are not distracted by more worldly events and occupation! They are thus able to focus more fully on prayer, on listening to God, on heeding His voice as they pray for the salvation of souls.

I stood in my chapel praying vigils one night in the midst of a few days of watching the children, and realized just how different the two sides of my life are, especially with the current situation (I do not care for them all the time; just a couple days here, a couple days there…so far it’s been somewhat irregular). Both sides are necessary for the Church; it’s something along the Mary and Martha dichotomy that is the biblical characterization of the contemplative vs. the active life.

The culture today, both within and outside the Church, has swung far to the “active” side of daily life. So many people today aren’t even aware that a contemplative life is still lived by some! And so many of them are not too concerned about their spiritual lives – not in the present, and not even in the future, looking down the road to the end of their time on earth. They don’t realize that the hermit prays for them, for the salvation of their souls. The hermit does penance for himself and for the world, and he doesn’t have to know the exact circumstances of those for whom he is praying. “God’s will be done” is a great prayer! Sometimes the hermit may have some spiritual insight as to what God’s will actually is in a particular situation, and he can pray for that.

But the point is, the Church needs hermits, and the Church today has lost touch with that fact. Even many bishops and priests seem to be oblivious to the value of the eremitic life.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

This is the roll-over we witnessed - I was so afraid that the swerving car was
going to hit us as it approached us. There were no injuries; the driver
climbed out the passenger door, and there were no passengers.
Thanks be to God!

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