One great tree, with many branches
“From the God-given seed of the counsels a wonderful and
wide-spreading tree has grown up in the field of the Lord, branch-
ing out into various forms of the religious life lived in solitude or
in community. Different religious families have come into exist
ence in which spiritual resources are multiplied for the progress in
holiness of their members and for the good of the entire Body of
From the very beginning of the Church there were men and
women who set out to follow Christ with greater liberty, and to imitate
him more closely, by practicing the evangelical counsels. They led lives
dedicated to God, each in his own way. Many of them, under the inspira-
tion of the Holy Spirit, became hermits or founded religious families. These
the Church, by virtue of her authority, gladly accepted and approved.
Bishops will always strive to discern new gifts of conse-
crated life granted to the Church by the Holy Spirit; the approval
of new forms of consecrated life is reserved to the Apostolic See.
The eremitic life
Without always professing the three evangelical counsels
publicly, hermits “devote their life to the praise of God and salva-
tion of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the
silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance.”
They manifest to everyone the interior aspect of the mys-
tery of the Church, that is, personal intimacy with Christ. Hidden
from the eyes of men, the life of the hermit is a silent preaching of
the Lord, to whom he has surrendered his life simply because he is
everything to him. Here is a particular call to find in the desert, in
the thick of spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified One.
Consecrated virgins and widows
From apostolic times Christian virgins
called by the Lord to cling only to him with greater freedom of
heart, body, and spirit, have decided with the Church’s approval
459 Cf. CIC, can. 605.
460 CIC, can. 603 § 1.
462 Cf. John Paul II,