Continuing our look at Lumen Gentium paragraphs 46 & 47
What do you suppose is the benefit of having hermits in the Church? These are men who live all by themselves as a religious discipline. How does that benefit anyone? Well, I heard a story once on NPR and they were talking about a type of bird that only lives in places in which the wilderness is truly present. (After all these years I don’t remember the bird.) If man starts encroaching at all, they disappear. So if you want to know if a wilderness is truly healthy, you look for these birds.
It turns out that hermits have much the same function. They usually only appear on the scene when the faith is truly healthy in a place. If it is not healthy, they are nowhere or rarely to be found. So we look to them to see how healthy we are. We rely on them to pray for us. They are the canary in the mineshaft.
In a similar way, all religious orders play a vital roles in the Church. Without them we are less in some striking way. Each order tends to live a part of the life Christ in a more dramatic way than most of us can. “Christ in contemplation on the mountain, or proclaiming the kingdom of God to the multitudes, or healing the sick and the maimed and converting sinners to a good life, or blessing children and doing good to all men, always in obedience to the will of the Father who sent Him.” What an absolutely beautiful way to explain religious orders. It almost takes your breath away.
With their vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, they more closely follow the life of Christ, particularly in his poverty and virginity. For this reason the Fathers of Vatican II most strongly lend their support to these ways of life in the Church whether it be in the monasteries, in schools, in hospitals, in the missions and wherever they may be.