A diocesan hermit is defined as a lay or cleric (man or woman) who has dedicated themselves to poverty, chastity and obedience. The individual is then consecrated by the bishop, or in rare cases by the patriarch. A priest can not consecrate a hermit because the hermit is in the hands of the bishop and it is the bishop whom the hermit looks to as his/her superior.
A period of discernment is necessary before one can become a hermit. For some, the process of discernment may take up to three years, however, if a person has transferred from another diocese and has already been living such a life, the bishop may receive him/her at his discretion. For newer candidates to the eremitic life, a period of discernment is necessary.
Physical and mental health, church membership and other factors (including a background check) are considered before a person can be approved as a diocesan hermit. A candidate for serving as a diocesan hermit must be single and have no family obligations (including child support).
A diocesan hermit must live by a rule that he/she has written and been approved by the bishop.
Members of contemplative religious orders observe enclosure, although some might not be strict enclosure. There are some hermits who are not members of a community of hermits. Either way, the consecrated individual should never be too involved with worldly affairs. Medical appointments, emergencies and family situations (weddings, funerals) are permitted.
One may live as a consecrated contemplative if he or she still lives with her/her parents but it will be difficult to observe strict enclosure and the life of a true hermit. In the latter case, he/she is likely not to be approved for serving as a diocesan hermit, however, various situations may dictate otherwise. The matter is left up to the bishop. If one is unable to be received as a consecrated hermit by the bishop he/she can still be a hermit, but would not be granted the legal term “diocesan hermit.”
In some cases, a priest can not serve as a diocesan hermit because of his many duties and other obligations.
The bishop and the consecrated hermit will decide together on what type of habit he/she will wear (if any habit at all). Those who are living as hermits, but not as diocesan hermits, should not wear a habit so that it does not confuse others.
Some diocesan hermits may not be able to attend daily Mass. If the hermit is already a priest, this would not be a problem since he already celebrates Mass in his home. However, the layperson may be required to observe such strict solitude that he/she is not able to attend Mass. Attending on the holy days is required. In some cases, a priest may bring the Body of Christ to the hermit.
Lay hermits are not given special ecclesiastical authority and should not make it appear to others that he/she has been granted authority. No one should use the names “diocesan hermit” or “Catholic hermit” (the latter being rare) unless he/she has been given such a title by his/her bishop.