Solitary Bird (solitarybird) wrote,
Solitary Bird
solitarybird

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Where I am now

For new readers, here is a quick summary of where I am right now. (If you want some backstory, feel free to go back to previous entries and find out what transpired up to this point.)

If there were Episcopalian Carthusians, I would get rid of all my possessions and simply show up on their doorstep tomorrow. I would happily enter the monastery forever, never to leave, and abandon myself to the life of a monastic hermit. But after exploring the available religious communities for women in the Episcopal Church, I found that there are very few options for someone seeking a contemplative, eremitic life, as opposed to one devoted to community living and charitable service. In fact, there were only three tiny contemplative orders. Upon review, I felt that none of them are right for me.

Therefore I decided to move forward as a Solitary. I will continue to live alone in my current apartment, and convert my life into an eremitic one, insofar as possible, by the grace of God. For the most part, I am already living the life.

I discovered that my own diocese, the Episcopal Diocese of New York, created a program for the Solitary vocation. The process requires an application, written statement, letters of recommendation, several interviews, medical and psychiatric evaluations, and a background check. The program calls for annual vows for a period of five years, before making a Life Profession. The program seemed promising at first, but turned out not to be a good fit for me, so I elected not to move forward with that option.

Becoming a Solitary involves a radical re-ordering of my present life. There is much to do on a practical level:

  1. Convert my schedule to liberate enough time for daily office, lectio, centering prayer (done!)
    1. Try to work from home instead of commuting 20 hours a week (done!)
    2. Craft an appropriate rule of life and horarium (done!)

  2. Convert my apartment into a hermitage
    1. Get rid of unnecessary possessions (pretty much everything) (working on it)
    2. Arrange the space to support prayer and study as primary activity (working on it)

  3. Seek formation
    1. Further study in contemplative spirituality
    2. Find a mentor who is a hermit for guidance on solitary life (working on it)
    3. Nurture relationship with spiritual director & wise friends (working on it)

  4. Find a support system of confreres for encouragement and counsel
    1. Internet connections (working on it)
    2. Associations of solitaries (working on it)

Even these initial steps clearly constitute a multi-year project.

As I take each step, I'll have a question in the back of my mind. Is this step irreversible? If I'm wrong and I need to go back, will I be able to? Should I keep the option open? Is it wise to have an exit strategy, or is it faithless? To what extent should I abandon myself to this process, never to return?

There is a lot I can do, however, before I reach a point of no return. So I begin.

Here is a journal entry reflecting on my life as a Solitary as of July, 2009.

updated January 1, 2011
Tags: discernment, eremitic living, process
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  • 23 comments

  • Five years and counting

    Yes, I do try to post once every three years or so... Hard to believe that it has been five years since I began this path. If I were in a community,…

  • A Hermit of the Heart

    A Hermit of the Heart With no convent but the city itself, one woman finds a prayerful solitude as a contemplative order of one. By Paul…

  • The Solitary Witness

    The application asks: Describe what you believe the Solitary witness is… what it involves, and how you believe it differs from other lay vocations.…