Each month on Thursdays, I plan to write about a specific theme that helps us discover and explore people and practices that tend the holy. Spending several weeks on a topic will add depth to our spiritual walk. I call it Tending the Holy Thursdays.
One week the background story about the person and/or practice (the who and what) will be given and then followed by a post with practical tips on how to implement the practice or a practice known to that person (the how and why).
The third week will be a reflection of what I learned and ideas on how you can apply this to your walk with God. The last week I will share quotes, prayers and resources related to the topic.
Sound interesting? Let me know in the comments if you like this idea and if you have a person/practice you would like to be featured. Let’s discover and explore together in our journey of tending the holy within us all.
November – Tending the Holy – Desert Mothers and Fathers
Who are the Desert Mothers and Fathers? I read tiny quotes attributed to them in the past but wasn’t until a few years ago I delved deeper into their story. Here is a brief background:
In the 3rd and 4th centuries, once Christianity was adopted by the governments, Christians continued to hunger for a deeper relationship with God. Groups of men and women lived in the desert or just outside of the cities in the Middle East and became known as the Desert Mothers and Fathers.
We now have a collection of their sayings, full of wisdom that gives us a glimpse into how they lived and practiced their faith. Some of the practices were pretty extreme, but many of them can be explored in our faith walk.
Many of these ammas and abbas lived a solitary life but faced interruptions from people seeking their help and wisdom. They, like us, struggled with the demands of the outside world while trying to learn to be humble, quiet, and steadfast in serving God and our neighbors, in listening for and to the Word of God, and in trusting in God alone.
Here are a few examples of their wise sayings:
- Hyperichius said, “He who teaches others by his life and not by his speech is truly wise.”
- A brother said to Sisois, “I want to guard my heart.” Sisois replied, “How can we guard the heart if our tongue leaves the door of the fortress open?”
- Nilus said, “The arrows of the enemy cannot touch someone who loves quiet. But those who wander among crowds will often be wounded by them.”
- Some brothers asked Macarius, “How should we pray?” He said, “There is no need to talk much in prayer. Reach out your hands often, and say, ‘Lord have mercy on me, as you will and as you know.’ But, if conflict troubles you, say, ‘Lord, help me.’ He knows what is best for us and had mercy.”
The next two Thursdays I will share with you what practices they followed that have deepened my own faith and hopefully add to yours.
If you want to get an “infographic” of the Desert Mothers and Fathers practice, click below. It is my gift to you for this journey together.
Have you even heard of the Desert Mothers and Fathers? What have you learned from them?
Hi Jean! As you know, I love the wisdom from these ancients who went before us. I haven’t started the Chittister book yet, but I’m so looking forward to it!
I have read a bit on Charles de Foucauld. He is not an ancient, but I do definitely see him as a Desert Father. Maybe he would be good for your series? You can check him out and see what you think.
Jean Wise says
i have quote by him but don’t know much about him either. will put him on the list. Thanks for the suggestion. I think the Chittister book will be my thanksgiving reading. We have company/family coming but only on Friday. Thursday will be a quiet peaceful day of reading – or at least that is what I am hoping for. Blessings.
Nancy Ruegg says
I had not heard of the Desert Mothers and Fathers, but the glimpse you’ve given us here, Jean, makes me want to learn more. Hyperichius’ quote gave me encouragement today: “He who teaches others by his life and not by his speech is truly wise.” Even the ancients knew: actions speak louder than words! I’ll be looking forward to Thursdays!
Jean Wise says
They were quite a dedicated group – some extreme practices, I am not endorsing those but these were in their world time point of view. BUT lots of wisdom and practiced we can learn and adapt to our time. I have a whole stack of books about them and am just cracking the surface of all there is to know. Can’t wait to share more. Blessings, Nancy
Martha Orlando says
I have heard of the Desert Mothers and Fathers, Jean, but don’t know much about them. Really looking forward to learning from your blog posts throughout the month. Blessings!
Jean Wise says
I love learning about these Christian in our history I never heard of before and what we can learn from them. They did have some extreme practices I certainly wouldn’t try but it is so interesting to explore their wisdom and commitment to the Lord. Have a wonderful weekend Martha!