Suarez continues his examination of the types of solitaries, and I felt a small bit of gratification in that he points out that the domestic solitary, that is the isolated lay person has no merit in being solitary, unlike the religious. Let me explain, as this fits into my long posts on the fact that there is not a vocation to the single life as a usual state.
Vows bring grace. No vows, no extra grace. Vows bring a status in the hierarchy of the Church and indicate that one is committed to becoming perfect.
Here is the rub for the lay person. The ordinary way for our perfection is through domestic relationships-that is, dying to self and rising to Christ by the denial of self in marriage as a spouse and as a parent. This is why I went to the Benedictines. In a religious order, one had vowed one's self in becoming perfect. In marriage, one vows one's self to becoming perfected in the marriage state.
No vows, no extra grace and no vocation, except, rarely, as in the caring for aged parents. The protection that SHOULD be in the monastery or convent in order to pursue holiness is a huge advantage, as is the state itself. The "continuous inflow of obedience, the support of other brethren by means of their example and correction, other works of charity, may occasions of exercising all the virtues, especially those of humility and charity, great custody and vigilance in the pursuit of perfection and the avoidance of defects..." help the nun or monk in ways we must experience to understand to a point.
However, I am convinced by the great saints and writers that the laity may aspire to these as well.
Patterns of sin so common in the world are broken in the monastery or convent.
But, in an excellent marriage, those same patterns may be broken. But, living alone does not help us reach perfection.
It is, as a young person with a room-mate told me recently, hard to live in peace and harmony with others. Yes, and that is the whole point.
If one can give one's entire soul, heart and mind to God being alone, that is a beginning. But one must interact with others in order to die to self-love and self-will. May God lead us all to the place where we can live out the vocation to perfection.