Fathers of the Desert by Marcel Driot (St Paul Publications, £5.75) Sr Miriam ODC
FR DRIOT decided to write this book when, after choosing this subject for a series of retreat talks, he realised many people had no idea who the Desert Fathers were.
The book is full of the wisdom, humour and simplicity of those third century men and women who went out into the desert in face of persecution, in the manner of the Maccabees under Matthathias, the great Jewish leader, who exhorted his followers to come after him and wage war against the enemies of the Lord from his desert strongholds.
The difference was that the warfare of the Fathers of the Desert was entirely a spiritual one against the world, the flesh and the devil; or as we would say today, against materialism, selfishness and the insidious temptations of the evil one.
The essential theme of their spirituality was to restore the lost harmony, between God and man, between man and man. and between man and the rest of creation. Their weapons were prayer, meditation of the Scriptures and asceticism in a word, those of the Gospel of Christ.
The text has plentiful examples of their sayings and anecdotes, witty, humorous and very much down to earth. One of the most endearing features of their life is their relationship with untamed animals: lions do more than live peacefully together with them; they simply and absolutely wait upon them, even going so far as to dig the grave for Paul, the first hermit, at the request of his friend Anthony.
In this they anticipate St Francis of Assisi, that great lover of all living creatures. Together with him, these men and women of the desert may teach us and guide us in our eleventh hour efforts to restore our earth to its original freshness.