Lay Hermit Rules/ Plans of Life


Well, as some of you might know, I’ve been seeking to become a Lay Hermit. After a lot of counceling [thank you every one!] and a lot of poking arround the internet [who’d knew that researching such a theme would give out so many definitions of the word and tutorials on how to become a secular, misanthropist recluse!], I’ve began drafting my personal Plan of Life, based on the celtic tradiction.

I’ve been following the following for a few months:

1 - Starting the day with the daily offering and the Lord’s prayer.

2 - An early walk though the forest. Silence to enjoy God’s work in Nature. Sadly, the areas of untouched wilderness are disappearing and it’s getting harder and harder to do. It’s my way to remember myself that God is everyehere and we are constantly in His presence.

3 - I do daily Lectio Divina, and writte both what I’ve studied as my findings down.

4 - I pray before my meals and before preparing the food.

5 - Daily mass, and if that’s not possible, I pray the 1896 Spiritual Mass discovered by Suzane Umlor, which is what I usualy do, since I live in a remote location outside any parish.

6 - I make Sobriety, Simplicity and Solitude as my vows. Sadly, since some of my friends have been having mental breaks [and one even tryed to kill himself], I’ve been breaking away from solitude to help them, and this works as my charity work.

7 - I pray the Divine Mercy chaplet often, sometimes several times a day.

8 - In my prayers, I’ve adopted the habit of rarely “asking” something for myself, praying for others instead. This prayers may range from help for healing to prayers of Spiritual Battle.

9 - A Yearly retreat will be made by myself. This can be ocasionaly replaced by a Pilgrimage, under advisement

So? Any comments, any suggestions will be welcomed.


Well, I would add in a regular confessor or spiritual director that you meet with at least once a month.

You are free to reject this advice, but I think you should speak to a knowledgeable priest or find a spiritual director before undertaking such a serious step in your life.

Your resolutions are commendable.

God Bless!


8 - In my prayers, I’ve adopted the habit of rarely “asking” something for myself, praying for others instead. This prayers may range from help for healing to prayers of Spiritual Battle.

It is good that you are praying for others, but altho not praying for oneself sounds unselfish, it entails another problem: that one is relying on oneself for one’s spiritual needs. We should instead consider what our spiritual needs are and ask for God’s help. So many saints discuss the need to rely on God and His grace to enable us to achieve anything, and Christ Himself says: Without Me, you can do nothing.


Of the things that jumped out to me, one has already been mentioned – a spiritual director.

The second one is that I see no mention of the Liturgy of the Hours. While there are many forms of prayer, it seems that if one is following a religious vocation then praying with the Church seems basic.

Perhaps there should also be some mention of confession on a regular basis?

Also, have you considered anything special/different during different liturgical seasons such as Lent, Advent, Easter, and Christmas?


All excellent points, especially the Liturgy of the Hours!


Let’s be gentle with the newbie, as per St. Paul’s instructions. I think it good that SA prays for others. Newbies have to learn to pray for others, but should also remember a prayer or two for their spiritual growth and temporal needs.

The following is usually what I suggest people start with – the Spiritual Directory of St. Francis de Sales:

Such is what the Visitation nuns usually suggest to discerners.

Another checklist:

Interior silence and “cloister of the heart”

Morning Offering & Angel Guardian prayer

Grace at meals

Angelus – 3 times daily, usually 6am, 12 noon, and 6pm

Divine Mercy chaplet – After acknowledging Our Lord’s death at 3pm

Liturgy of the Hours – canonical personnel are required to pray the 4 volume LOTH or the one volume Christian Prayer (the Dominican friars prayed Vespers within the 5:15pm Mass using the CP book)

Some orders have their own breviary. That of the Visitation was written over a number of years by a Benedictine monk.

There’s also the Monastic Diurnal and the Anglican Breviary. The latter has the ancient feasts.

As said previously, interior silence is a must. Jesus speaks in whispers. There should be set aside time for contemplation.

Direction of attention before devotional exercises. Quieting of the will and thought.

Lectio Divina – I recommend doing so with the daily Mass readings.

Examen – midday and evening

Spiritual reading

Spiritual Director – Dominicans are very hands-off, and refer the directee to the spiritual classics. If there is a problem, the directee reports in. Having a monthly meeting is viewing the situation through more of a Jesuit lens.

Offering of the pure heartbeats of sleep & Angel Guardian prayer. Our prayers are purest during sleep, when we are not committing faults or sinning.



The monastic breviary of Saint Benedict has been modernized and adapted to the post-Vatican II calendar. It is now known as monastic Schema A; in the Solesmes congregation it is used very frequently. There are also post-VII Benedictine schemas that spread the psalter over 1 (Schema B) or 2 weeks (a variant of Schema B or Schemas C and D). The Diurnal is the pre-VII version and as such will not be prayed by very many communities (Barroux and Fontgombault in France and Clear Creek in the US are three that I know of). The calendar will be out of synch with the Ordinary Form Mass celebrated in most communities and parishes. I would only recommend it for those normally attending Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

The monastic breviaries may be tough for someone not in community; a hermit may have more time or may not depending on his or her workload in sustaining that lifestyle. A community can spread the tasks and of course offers mutual encouragement for reciting the Office.

As such I recommend starting with the Liturgy of the Hours and working towards a schema of the community we’re attached with.

Though I’m married, I live a pretty solitary life during the day, working part-time from home. Even under those conditions I find a monastic cursus hard to maintain, but the LOTH is very doable and I can say I’ve developed a solid habit of it.

I think with the Divine Office, the building of a solid, sustainable habit is more important than becoming a kind of psalm machine. Liturgy is a whole-body experience (I find it helps to do the gestures even solo) that should be fluid and prayerful. It’s easier to do that if starting easy and working up.

This is all MHO of course, tough what I said about the different Benedictine versions of the Divine Office is factual.


OraLabora, I think that what you’re saying is important and something not addressed by the OP.

How does the OP intend to support himself? What does his workday look like?

Monastic communities often support themselves through some type of repetitive manual labor that allows them to pray/meditate/contemplate while working – it occupies their bodies but not their minds. But depending on how the OP supports himself, that part of the day may be different.

I hope the OP will come back and respond to some of these comments to let us know what he thinks about them.


First of all, thank you so much for all the feedback! Whoa! I wasen’t expecting so much!

Okay, to the replies:

I forgot to mention that I already have one. He’s a very wise German priest. Problem is, his parish is over 30 km away, making it hard for us to meet once a month. He’s aware of my decision, of course. We’ve arranjed our meetings in a more Domenican way, as Cloisters pointed out.

I pray not for myself, for I put my needs in the hands of the Lord, and trust entirely in Him to know what’s best.

I’ve been following the Little Office of The Blessed Virgin Mary, with the apropriate changes for liturgical season taken from the Liturgy of the Hours. I was intending to follow the Liturgy of the Hours, but I couldn’t find the rubrics for the tome that I inherited, so I had no idea what was I supposed to change.

Those are some pretty good ideas, Cloisters. I’ll check on the link once I have some time and the Anglican Breviary, if I manage to get it.

That’s the idea. I always fealt more drawn to the extraordinary form - Not stating that it’s better than the Novus Ordus mass, just different.

At the present moment, I’m studying, which makes it a little complicated. I already have a job offer from a friend of the family once I finish my degree, though, which might allow me some schedual flexibility to pray.

Also, what do you mean by “OP”?


“OP” is “original poster”, not Dominican!



Is a personal life plan equivalent to a Rule? Can a hermit still work full-time (e.g. in an office) and live in heavily populated areas? Admittedly not the best scenario but is it possible and eventually allowed by a bishop should the lay hermit want to be recognised by the Church?


It can be. The hermitage within is more important than the one outside the body. Our religious used to be taught to carry the convent in their souls so they would always maintain their balance out in the world. If you can find a copy of Fr. Collins’ “The Practice of the Rule,” it might be helpful. He discusses religious life as a ‘state of perfection’, but all vocations are now seen as a deepening of our baptismal promises.

Heavily populated areas can be most interesting for a hermit. In the US northeast, a lot of people ignore each other.

How long you’ve lived the life; whether or not your job interferes with your interior solitude; your growth in holiness/humility; whether or not our Good Sweet God radiates from you as a result of what you’ve been doing; and whether or not you’re attracted to canonical eremitism are all taken into consideration. For the canonical, you’ve got to have your own insurance and means of support. I know of canonicals who asked to be released from their vows because they couldn’t find the balance between active remunerative work and prayer.



Thank you for your encouraging reply.


A hermit cannot work a full time job outside the hermitage that includes much interaction with others as that goes against the whole idea of being a hermit. Read what I wrote on the subject on my website:


Disagree as do others. Living the life apart is vital. Contradiction in terms.


Thank you for this reality and sense.


to clarify, we’re talking about lay hermits in this thread. let us please remain on topic.

if anyone has anything to say to me personally, please pm me. thank you.



perhaps we could post books which have been helpful:

anchoritic spirituality

nazarena: an american anchoress

monastic practices

silence, solitude & simplicity

the hermitage within

any others?



Although there are no “rules” for lay hermits to follow since by definition they are lay, if they wish to pursue the authentic praxis of eremitic life, they will ensure the solitude that is the hallmark of hermit life. Canonical protections that the Church has for individuals who are professed under canon 603 - like insuring that people have enough financial stability to maintain solitude without a job that requires interaction with society - are there to help preserve the lifestyle of authentic solitude and not just a metaphorical concept of cell in the heart. The living tradition with its essential elements of eremitic life isn’t just up for anyone to adjust and label it “eremitic” just because they feel like it or want to be known as hermits. Rather, it is for the person to discern whether he or she “fits” with what is authentic praxis not the other way around.


I have no way of knowing how much solitude those reading this thread have available to them. From the interactions I have had with such folks, they seemed to practice solitude, both interior and exterior.

I personally feel it imprudent to reveal how and when I observe solitude, but I certainly do so. That is between me; God; my spiritual director; and my family, who respect what I do. I know solitude is the authentic praxis, and I have been attracted to solitude most, if not all, of my life. I am looking at cottage industries for support when my spouse is called to his Creator. I simply cannot know right now if I would pursue c603 when the time comes.

God instructed St. Catherine of Siena to build ‘the chapel of the heart.’ Benedictine monasteries are now offering support for ‘monasteries of the heart.’


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