Twentieth century existential psychologist Rollo May said, “It is an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.” The more I think about that statement, the closer I get to full agreement with Dr. May. We often think that the faster we work, the quicker we can solve a seemingly unsolvable problem. How many times do we find ourselves lost in our problems and never stop long enough to evaluate our options? In my life I can recall times that I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing there, but I continued to busy my life with frantic activity.
After a very tiring day of ministry, Jesus said to his disciples; “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” He had found himself in a situation where rest was necessary for more ministry to follow. In the same way, we can lose ourselves in good things, works that make a difference, and literally become exhausted and unable to accomplish our goals. In these times we are lost, and hurried activities will not solve our lostness.
We must allow ourselves “breathing space” to think, to rest and to find ourselves. Never have I heard a story of a lost person who found his way by moving faster, but often we find our center as we slow down. If you find yourself feeling lost or overwhelmed, take time to do an inventory. Breathing space can make all the difference in the world.
The Monastery of St. Anthony
The Desert Fathers were a movement of men (and some women) who chose to flee from all distractions of life by seeking the barrenness of the desert. These men lived in a time that they thought that life in the world was so complicated that only by retreat could they experience the fullness of God’s presence. In this setting they could deal with self and only self. The photo in this post is of a present day desert monastery in Egypt. It was in this type of setting that the early fathers sought oneness with God.I will begin to post some of the “sayings” of these holy men in this blog. I will share my thoughts on what we can learn from these men and invite you to do the same.
The routine of my retreat began with a worship followed by breakfast. After breakfast I would retire to my room for a time of solitude and study until about noon. I would then had lunch with the workers of the community and after lunch I would retire, once again, to my room for a time of solitude, prayer and additional study until 4:30pm. My evenings were spent with times of recreation and discussion with Fr.David and friends of the monastery. The topic of study was the Desert Fathers of Egypt. I believe that we Christians can learn much from these Desert Fathers. Their dedication to the purity of Christianity and determination to find God in the dry parched lands of the Egyptian desert is an inspiration to me. They had to get away to find the true wisdom of God. For us they have left behind a wealth of wisdom that can be a real blessing to our rushed and worried world.
What Did I study?
My study book for the retreat is Desert Mystics by Linus Mundy. I am using selected readings from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers by Benedicta Ward SLG.
What Do I Take Home?
A retreat is an intensely personal experience. It is very difficult to really express in just a few words the content that I take home with me. This I can say — that my study of the Desert Fathers led me to re-examine the way I live my life day-to-day. In our world we assume so many things. The world of the Desert Fathers is so different than anything we can imagine. It was a world that required an intense closeness to God. No one could live in the desert without being committed and dedicated to survival each day. That survival was directly link to their relationship with God.
I take home the notion that a relationship with God requires constant attention. We must be willing to allow ourselves to be emptied of all that we are in order that we might be filled with all that He has to offer. It is in discovering the parched condition of our very souls that we find the refreshing nature of God’s Spirit. We begin to get our nourishment from our daily walks and talks with God. Desert spirituality helps us to discover the importance of making the simplest of tasks a spiritual offering to God. The chores we do around the house, the cutting of the grass, the washing of the car and all these other simple tasks are part of our pilgrimage which God.
What Actions Am I Led to Take?
Just a few Thoughts:
- Pray the Psalms every day
- Observe at least 30 minutes of silence a day
- Choose a work that is dedicated to God (something outside of my profession)
- Work with the poor whenever possible
My retreat took place May 10-14. I write this as an attempt to get back into the discipline of blogging. In the coming weeks and months I will attempt to share some thing thst strike me as I study and read the writings of the Desert Fathers.