How realistic is it for us to pray like a hermit in this day and age? Gregory Mayers, C.Ss.R explains how this can be done in his book, Listen to the Desert. It is the type of book that cannot be skimmed through. Rather, it is one to read slowly and periodically stop and reflect on passages.
The spirituality of the dessert fathers is largely attributed to Saint Antony of Egypt who lived a life of poverty and great discipline. Antony was known to perform healings and inspire followers to join him. In spite of the demands of his lifestyle, monastery life became quite popular not long after his death.
Father Mayers describes the ancient spiritual practices of the dessert fathers and how those practices can deepen our faith and overall life experience today. He tells of Abba Moses’ understanding of wisdom gained from suffering and Abba Joseph’s advice of not judging anyone and being on fire with love of God.
I found the chapter on Abba Macarius’ words on nonattachment particularly interesting. Father Mayers points out that people make themselves physically and emotionally ill in their attempt to preserve something in a relationship. He says that the source of our fear, shame, and anger is insecurity about ourselves. If we let go of the self, we could let go of those painful emotions.
The teachings of the dessert fathers are simple. The practice, is challenging. However, the transformation of consciousness, the metanoia, is worth the effort to at least learn and contemplate.
(Re-posted from Doyle’s Delights)