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Caitlin Kennell Kim
Fr. Rick Malloy, SJ
General Questions
Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP
Ecumenical, Interfaith
Neela Kale
Culture, Moral Theology
Ann Naffziger, M.A., M.Div.
Mike Hayes
Our readers asked:

What are hermits?

Neela Kale Answers:

What are hermits?  And do they have anything to do with Catholicism?

A hermit is someone who has withdrawn to a solitary place for a life of religious seclusion. The word comes from the Greek “eremos,” meaning desert – hence a hermit is a person who lives in the desert. The idea of pursuing a reclusive lifestyle for religious reasons exists in many spiritual traditions.

In Catholicism, the hermit’s life recalls the biblical examples of the prophet Elijah, John the Baptist, and of course Jesus, during his forty days in the desert. As early Christian monastic life developed in the third century, many people were drawn to this lifestyle, inspired by the example of St. Anthony and the other desert fathers and mothers. The tradition continues today in cloistered, contemplative religious communities such as the Carmelites and Camaldolese.

The Church recognizes the vocation to the hermit’s life as a form of consecrated life, by which “the Christian faithful devote their life to the praise of God and the salvation of the world through a stricter withdrawal from the world, the silence of solitude, and assiduous prayer and penance.” A hermit can attain this recognition if he or she “publicly professes in the hands of the diocesan bishop the three evangelical counsels, confirmed by vow or other sacred bond, and observes a proper program of living under his direction” (Code of Canon Law, canon 603).

The Author : Neela Kale
Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.
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  • Friend from CA

    It seems like to become a hermit is a God’s gift to anybody. It is not easy to withdrawn all your friends. I am discerning on how to become a hermit , but the desert that I am belong right now is what I’ve called my HOME. I want to be with my family all the time and this is my desert. A “desert” with full of love, faith and hope. Thank you very much Miss Neela Kale for being a friend to me. I’ve learned a lot from you because you are the real YOU.
    God bless!

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