Ignacio Zuloaga y Zabaleta 1870 - 1945
L'anachorète ou Un ascète / The Anchorite or The Hermit 1907
Oil on canvas
188 x 115 cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Further to the post below about Mother Julian of Norwich, some might think that hermits and anchorites were peculiarities of Medieval times
When Pope John Paul revised The Code of Canon Law in 1983 there was provision for hermits and anchorites:
"Can. 603 §1. In addition to 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 the salvation of the world through a stricter withdrawal from the world, the silence of solitude, and assiduous prayer and penance.
§2. A hermit is recognized by law as one dedicated to God in consecrated life 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."
On 6th August 2010 the Italian Catholic Bishops` newpaper L`Avvenire reported that there were about 200 hermits ("solitari della fede" or "pellegrini d`assoluto") in Italy
The article in L`Avvenire tells the story of a Frenchman called Frédéric who lives a hermetic life in Calabria in Southern Italy. He describes the way of life as not being the result of choice but a task which has to be done.
Famiglia Cristiana in 2006 had an article describing the life of Tadeusz from Poland who is a hermit in Umbria. He describes his calling as "following a voice" In 1990 he spent eight months with the Camaldolese monks in Rome but it was not what he was searching for. He stressed the difference between the life of a hermit in a community of hermits and that of the solitary hermit.
But even Tadeusz does see people. Each day he walks 5 kilometres to help the parish priest during Mass, some families invite him for lunch, and some seek out his help
On its website the ancient Archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia has a special section on its Hermits who are listed along with the Clerics, Monasteries, Institutes of Consecrated LIfe and so on.
Here is a photograph of the Archbishop and some of the diocesan hermits in 2009:
The Archbishop describes the presence of the hermetic tradition as being very strong in his Archdiocese. It has been that way in his Archdiocese from the very early days of Christianity: the monk Spes and his two disciples Eutizio and Fiorenzo from AD 517, as well as including the birthplace of St Benedict of Norcia. The archdiocese has seven hermits: five women and two men.
The Archbishop describes their presence as not only as a benefit for the Archdiocese but also the whole of the Church.
The life of one of them, Cristina Emanuela Zecca is described in more detail here
As Pope Benedict XVI said in his address on Mother Julian of Norwich:
"We might be surprised and even perplexed by this decision to live as a "recluse," as this was called in her time. However, she was not alone in making this choice: During those centuries a considerable number of women opted for this kind of life, adopting rules elaborated purposefully for them, such as that composed by St. Aelred of Rievaulx.
The anchorites or "recluses" dedicated themselves within their cells to prayer, meditation and study. In this way, they developed a very fine human and religious sensitivity, which made them venerated by the people. Men and women of every age and condition, in need of advice and comfort, sought them devotedly.
Hence, it was not an individualistic choice; precisely with this closeness to the Lord, what matured in her also was the capacity to be a counselor to many, to help those who lived in difficulty in this life. ...
The women and men who withdraw to live in the company of God, precisely because of this decision, acquire a great sense of compassion for the sorrows and weaknesses of others. As friends of God, they have a wisdom that the world, from which they distance themselves, does not have. And with kindness, they share it with those who knock on their door"