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Words of St. Teresa of Avila, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
Let nothing disturb you,
Nothing frighten you;
All things are passing;
God never changes;
Patient endurance attains all things;
Whoever God has/whoever has God
Wants nothing;
God Alone suffices.

Who We Are

This website is about the works of  Eremitics of St. Augustine, and about canonical individual consecrated life, in particular eremitic consecrated life.  It is authored by one who is an anchorite consecrated by vows received in the hands of her bishop, in a Mass for Religious Consecration.

Eremitics of St. Augustine is directed to purposes befitting the Church's mission, to meet the substantial requirements in the community and state of persons who live in or are attracted to individual consecrated life; in particular eremitic consecrated life, a religious life in greater withdrawal from the world, a life of prayer and penance, in silence and solitude; and befitting other works of piety of the apostolate of the Roman Catholic Church, or charity, whether spiritual or temporal.

The community of an individually consecrated person in the Catholic Church is the parish and diocese.  Therefore,   Eremitics of St. Augustine, Inc., is a canonical aggregate of things in a religious auxiliary organization, a canonical entity and civil corporation.  This is more suitable to individual consecrated life than, for example, a canonical association of the faithful, which posits a community separate from the parish and diocese.  More > >

History of Eremitic Life


Harmonizing through ancient sources

The disharmony of cc. 603-605 CIC83 with c. 487 CIC17

By Sheila Richardson ESA, j.d., j.c.l.

Professor and Dean Roland Jacques, J.C.D., O.M.I.

DCA 5101b

Winter, 2004

St. Paul University

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

© 23 March, 2004; all rights reserved

The subject of this paper concerns the state of life now called "consecrated life," and the harmonizing through ancient sources of the disharmony of cc. 603-605 in the 1983 Code with c. 487 of the 1917 Code. Canons 603-605 of the 1983 Code encourage individual consecrated life, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, a benefit for the Church and the consecrated people. The remote sources help the canon lawyer interpret correctly the text of the canons in our time. If we simply review the concept of religious life over the last two centuries, cc. 603-605 appear to be a departure. The more remote sources indicate that what we now call "consecrated life," except for that period from sometime well after the Council of Trent to sometime after the 1917 Code, included individual consecrated life entered into by a liturgical action of the Church. Consecrated life was in part greatly limited communal life and in part individual consecration.

The 1983 Code on these subjects is part of a renewal of this doctrine of the Faith, for good reason. We live in a time when the religious life of the last few hundred years is in a state of decline, in numbers, in large and close community life, and as identifiable public witnesses for the Lord and His ways. They are still successful in terms of large numbers of Catholics living a way of life; but they are not growing in terms of new members from Anglo-Americans, Franco-Americans, Europeans and/or European-Americans in their 20's or 30's joining a religious institute.

The Vatican II Fathers were truly prophetic in their only dogmatic teaching on consecrated life, LG , nos. 42-47. John Paul II has re-interpreted the development of the strict concepts of religious life along with the earlier concepts of states of life important enough to enter through a liturgical action prescribed by the Church. The Vatican II Fathers and the 1983 theological canons on consecrated life, cc. 573-575, give no corresponding canons or cites to any Church writings during the Second Millenium of Christianity.

We once again have individual consecrations as a state of life, as Hippolytus described in his Apostolic Traditions. (1) The writings from the Holy See on the canons on individual consecrated life give generous interpretation to those canons, that there are consecrated widows, eremitics and virgins in the life of the Church, and some of them are in that class of people who ought to act in the name of the Church when they make their vows to their diocesan bishop, or according to the proper law of institutes of consecrated life, or according to delegation to experienced directors, all as approved by competent eclesiastical authority. This is quite different from the strict interpretation to the meaning of religious life given from sometime after the Council of Trent to the 19th century, and into the 20th century prior to Vatican II, and sometimes given by various ecclesiastical and extra-ecclesiastical authorities in our time. The general norms on consecrated life are contained in Title I, cc. 573-606; and the 1983 Code limits that former strict interpretation to institutes of religious life. (2)

The remote sources help the canon lawyer interpret more generally the present-day laws of the Church. For example, it makes plain how the entire history of canon law must be considered when someone believes there may be a basic change in canon law. A review of the historical sources discloses the "new" law is not a repudiation of the "old" law, but a re-interpretation of the priorities in the entire subject, in light of changed circumstances.

The first reference to people living certain individual vows in Christian life is from Luke. (3) St. Paul sent four "vowed ones" with those who were to teach. These four would renew their vows prior to this mission, and give a sign of undertaking a new vow which begins when they shave their head. These are nazirites [not from Nazareth], upon which there is a body of writing among Jewish scholars over the many years; from the descriptions of Samuel and Samson, until our time. In the Jewish scholars' writings at the time of Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother, the tradition included both men and women. They made four vows, sometimes for a period of time, sometimes for life, and this practice became a vowed life lived among Christians during the time when the Christians were a sect of the Jews who worshipped in the Synagogues. St. Paul describes himself as having shaved his head as a sign of a vow he had taken - the sign of the Nazirite on a new mission. His vow was apparently for a purpose to be accomplished, a temporary vow. These "vowed ones" are also remote sources of consecrated life.

Hippolytus describes in the Apostolic Tradition the distinctions which indicate various states of life dedicated or consecrated in varying degrees to the Church and God. Cf. no. 9 concerning deacons, not ordained to the priesthood, and the bishop alone laying his hands upon them; with widows [no. 11], lectors [no 12], virgins [no. 13], and subdeacons [no. 14], who enter their state of life by the act of dedication or consecration, but they are not going to serve the liturgy. They are appointed "by the word alone," and at least some by calling or giving their name, except the virgins whose way of life is one of self-dedication. There is no laying on of hands for any of these ways of life. Hippolytus describes laying on of hands as reserved for what we know as the developing sacraments [ordination to priesthood, to episcopacy, baptism, confirmation] and for purifying catechumens.

There were three lines of developing dedication or consecration to God through the Church in Hippolytus' experience. One is through a developing sacrament; the second is by ceremony performed by presbyters or the bishop, and the third is by self-dedication which is acknowledged by the presbyters or the bishop. Another group was not called in a ceremony, and no hands were laid upon them: those who have received the gift of healing for the community [no. 15]. They were simply tested to see if the gift were true. This does not appear to be a separate consecrated life then, as, for example, the dedicated or consecrated widows. The widows' state of life is described at various places, how they are to congregate, where they go, the community may undertake to feed them, various technical rules applying. The virgins appear to be on the cusp of consecrated life, which is the state in the Code today; they do not make the vows of all three evangelical counsels and do not come under c. 573, §2, 598, and 600; they are obliged to make only one vow, perfect chastity, although some of them also make the other two vows of the evangelical counsels, as eremitics.

The collection of Bishop Burchard of Worms, in the collection Decretorum Libri XX [completed approximately 1012 a.d. (4)], Liber VIII, on men and women dedicated/ consecrated to God, indicates the canonical concerns with consecrated life had become more of technicalities. (5) There were, however, both consecrated virgins (6) and women religious (7) at least some of whom were cloistered. (8) At the end of the first Millennium of the Faith, then, there were both communal and individual consecrated life acknowledged in the Church. "Monk" still meant "one who lives alone," either in the sense of individual consecrated life, or in the sense of communal consecrated life.

At the time and place of the Collection of Seventy-Four, there were several groups of women dedicated or consecrated to God: virgin, nun, deaconness, and presbyteress. (9) Each group appears to have a distinct function, although we are not told what that is. There is no indication that the deaconnesses and presbyteresses were consecrated for the liturgy by laying on of hands. Also, later, the Augustinian Beguines, individually consecrated women, were purchasing property in their names, as Beguines, until well into the 13th century. The Augustinian surviving writings about 16 Augustinian Hermit Orders who joined the Union in the 11th century [not a consolidation of all the orders, but all remaining eremitic] indicates they were founded by a hermit, a consecrated man, and continued in eremitic life during the time in question. The important factual observation is that in these times and places then, consecrated life was not formally structured in one way to the exclusion of all others, as it became more and more in the West from sometime around the 14th century on, and particularly following Trent. Gratian, who was reported to be a monk, makes entries on both "religious" life in its forms which are known to have existed then, and extensive entries which describe monks and monasteries. (10) He obviously intended to describe two ways of life.

Consecrated life was not included among the states of life entered by a sacrament nor as part of the hierarchical structure of the Church, but it was referred to in various places in the documents of the Council of Trent. For example, Twenty-fourth Session, cc. 6, 9, and 10 concerning marriage, clerics, and religious [called regulars, see Twenty-fifth Session, ch. II], and the Twenty-fifth Session concerns reform of regulars, and addressed technicalities of religious life, but not specifically the state of life as entirely separated communal state outside the consecrated person's membership in a parish community. A number of these canons were obviously based on the canons of Bishop Burchard's collections.

The 1917 Code, in the Pars Secunda De Religiosis, c. 487 describes the "status religiosus," based on the evangelical counsels, and stated in the narrow interpretation customary in the face of tremendous growth and success in holiness and service among religious institutes which were acknowledged as juridic persons in the Church following Trent. Canon 487 changed from Pietro Cardinal Gasparri's Schema of 1916 (11) to the final form of the 1917 Code, to restate the meaning of status religiosus for the first time in canon law as the same as stabilis in communi vivendi modus. In the experience of hundreds of years of growth and success in holiness and service, that modus vivendi was manifestly superior in the European and American cultures co-existing during that time. The additional fontes cited to c. 487 (12) for this exclusionary language is to three paragraphs of the condemnation of John Wicleff, (13) in 1418, which appears to be some sort of condemnation of mendicants. The distinguishing mark of mendicants which offends in our post-modern era is begging for alms, not their individual consecration.

One of the explanations for the differences between the 1917 Code, c. 487, and the 1983 Code, cc. 603-605 encouraging individual consecration, may be found in the immense changes in cultural practices among European and North American nations since the 1917 Code. These required a review of the basic assumptions regarding discipline of consecrated life. The most fundamental was that between the two Vatican Councils, the birthrate went from five to eight children, as an average per woman, to less than two, as an average per woman. People since 1960 have been raised in homes where they are usually an only child, or the only child of their sex, and during their formative years their mother usually worked outside the home at least a half day for an income. Their grandmothers and aunts did not live in their parents' home, nor provide child care while the mother worked. The 2000 Census disclosed that one household in four in the U.S. is composed of one person. Such Catholics' concept of "community" is built in that context. The European and North American family cultures which had co-existed with and produced candidates to religious institutes, no longer co-exist.

The dogmatic teaching of Vatican II on the renewal of religious life, Lumen Gentium, nos. 43-47, (14) skips over the 1917 Code, c. 487 on religious life being the same as community monastic life, and cites to documents on individual consecrated life such as Vitae patrum and Historia Lausiaca, both in the Patrologia Graecae. (15) The Conciliar fathers addressed the evangelical counsels under the call to holiness, before discussing religious life, and gave encouragement to "various forms of religious life lived in solitude or in community." (16) This is the foundation of the discernment of individual consecrated life.

We are experiencing a renewal in the concept of "stability" as the Conciliar Fathers' taught, "the more stable and firm these bonds are [of the evangelical counsels, the union that exists between Christ and his bride the church], the more perfect will be their religious consecration." (17) In our time that concept does not begin and end with communi vivendi modus; it begins with fidelity to the evangelical counsels which are the basis of consecrated life. (18) Interpretation of canon law on that concept must follow the doctrine of the Faith: broad and generous for a gift of Divine institution, through the Holy Spirit, for the benefit of the Body of Christ.

1. Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, B.S.Easton tr., [city not given] Archon Books, 1962, pp. 40, and 41; and cf. pp. 38, 83, and 84.

2. Cf., Title II, cc. 607-709.

3. The Acts of the Apostles, 21:17-24.

4. J.A.Brundage, Medieval Canon Law, New York, Longman, 1997, p. 32.

5. See, Burchard of Worms, "Collection of Burchard von Worms," in the collection Decretorum Libri XX, Scientia Verlag Aalen, 1992, Lib. VIII Cap. ii, xv, xviii, xxii, xxiii.

6. See, Burchard of Worms, cap. xv, xviii, xxiii, lxxv.

7. See, Burchard of Worms, cap. xix.

8. See, Burchard of Worms, cap. lxxvi-lxxix.

9. See, Anonymous, The Collection of Seventy-Four Titles, a Canon Law Manual of the Gregorian Reform, J. Gilchrist, tr., Toronto, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1980, Titulus 51, capitula 245, 248, 276, 277, and 278.

10. Cf. C. XX, q.1, cc. 1 and 8.

11. Endnote This document was under papal secrecy during the time of the 1917 Code and until shortly after this century began. I refer to it because, as a papal secret document, it was available to our Legislator, John Paul II in creating the final draft of the 1983 Code. It is relevant to his state of mind in incorporating individual consecrated life again into those states of life acknowledged by the Church as acting in the name of the Church.

12. Cf. Schema, c. 487, and 1917 Code, c. 487.

13. See, Martin V, Inter cunctas, in P. Gasparri, Romani Pontifices, p. 51.

14. See, LG, nos. 43b, 43d, and 46c.

15. Vatican Council II, Vatican Council II the Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, A. Flannery ed., Collegeville, MN, The Liturgical Press, 1975, fn. 1, p. 403.

16. See, LG, no. 42c-d, LG43, n.3: citing as sources on consecrated life cc.487, 488,4º;

PiusXII, Allocution Annus sacer, 8 December 1950; AAS 43 (1951) p. 27 f.; and -- Apos Const Provida Mater, 2 Feb 1947; AAS 39 (1947), p.120 ff..

17. See, LG, no. 44a.

18. See, John Paul II, The Theology of The Body, Boston, MA, Pauline Books & Media, 1997, pp.263-302.

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