The Desert Fathers (Favorite Passages)

22 thoughts on “The Desert Fathers (Favorite Passages)”

  1. Eric, it’s a tough call. I guess it depends on the monk, and on the day. One of the passages does say monks could get a little snobby, bragging out their learning or ascetic feats, or in imagining themselves preaching before adoring masses; and certainly later medieval monasticism in Europe believed monks were immensely superior & more pure than people “in the world,” and some of this must have existed here. But I get the sense from a lot of these passages that they felt more weak than strong in leaving the world. One of them says that those who can live a holy life in the world are stronger than them; but more importantly, many of them say you don’t have to leave the world to serve God–that’s just what they’ve chosen to do, but it’s not for everybody. We all know quiet people who don’t get on well in social or public life of any kind, and all things being equal, I don’t think such people are any more or less selfish than those who are extremely outgoing and sociable. The same here. Monasticism is a way, and for many of us an impossible one, & by & large I have admiration for those who at least tried, trading one set of difficulties for another.


  2. This is fantastic!

    On keeping silent, please allow me to tell you what the bhakti (devotion) masters and scriptures say. Silence means chanting the holy name of Krishna always. It’s Sajalpa (highest talk = worldly silence). And Prajalpa would be to keep talking about worldly stuff.


  3. Hi Tim, thanks for following my blog. I’m enjoying yours. I first learned about the Desert Fathers from the book, “The Spirituality of Imperfection,” by Ketcham and Kurtz. Hope to see you around the blogosphere again.


  4. “They told a story of a hermit who was dying in Scetis. The brothers stood round his bed, and clothed him, and began to weep. But he opened his eyes and began to laugh; this happened three times. So the brothers asked him, ‘Abba, why are you laughing when we are weeping?’ He told them, ‘I laughed the first time because you fear death; I laughed the second time because you are not ready for death; I laughed the third time because I am passing from labour to rest, and yet you weep.’ As he said this, he closed his eyes and died.” (128)

    Pursuing the readings. At present, this one speaks to me.
    Thank you for this.

    Seek peace,



  5. Thank you first of all for the follow. I’ve read many of the Desert monks. I’ve come to the conclusion that while there are some “pithy” statements and some “inspirational” ones I really like, I’ve decided that we could all come up with some great thoughts if all we had to do is sit and contemplate our navels. I don’t mean that disrespectfully at all. I truly do appreciate much of what they write but I prefer to read the thoughts of those who are living life in the trenches. Those who have jobs, families, etc. Just saying. God bless.


  6. Let us always bear in mind that at our baptism we became temples of the living God and that every time we turn our minds to worldly things, to the devil and the flesh which we renounced at baptism, we are profaning this sacred temple of God. -St. Padre Pio

    St. Padre Pio was not cloistered as he was in charge of a Parish. When I read this the other day I found it to be a difficult directive to follow unless one is a Monk.


  7. Your confusion about Pio is understandable. Although it sounds sloppy & modern, so much of religion really is just pick-and-choose, & always has been. As I hope my selection shows, even monks had various ways of living; I’m not sure that there’s ever just “one” way, so much as there is the sincere searching for meaning, which usually means some form of discipline, usually self-imposed but said to be from above. It’s just what many of us need to do.


  8. Perhaps there is a line certain vocations need to draw – it is literally impossible for those called into Marriage to apply this to their lives. But if he references falling into a state of sin – as worldly – then it can make some sense. But still I understood his desire to think only on God all day and to be in constant union with Him, which can be a challenging task.


  9. You may like the section on Living in the World, in my posts about Zen & Ramakrishna. Both of them seem to suggest that a religion, almost as a supreme fiction, *has* to pretend to huge & almost impossible standards, but that the real journey isn’t achieving it, but discovering how far we can realistically go, doing “the best we can” & allowing that to be enough. This about says it: “You do not have to abandon worldly activities in order to attain effortless unconcern. You should know that worldly activities and effortless unconcern are not two different things—but if you keep thinking about rejection and grasping, you make them into two.”


  10. One can tell that Abba Poemen had a sense of humour from his replies. I think as a novice I would never have dared to ask him anything 🙂 I came across your blog quite by chance whilst trying to confirm a quote for my own WordPress article. I’ll therefore add it to yours. Prayers and Blessings.

    “A brother goes to see Abba Poemen during Lent. Wanting to consult him on some thoughts he’d had, he promptly asked Abba Poemen: “Abba, I hesitated to come to you at this moment. But I reminded myself that during Lent you perhaps lived as a recluse.” Abba Poemen replied: “I have never been taught how to keep a wooden door closed, but rather how to close the door of my mouth” (L’Evangile du desert, 120).

    Liked by 1 person

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