My Desert Mother

I was lucky enough to spend this past weekend with other younger Sisters (in our 20s & 30s) for prayer, discussion and celebration. Our prayer time together was guided by one of our own, Sister Sarah, a Dubuque Franciscan who is in parish ministry in Texas.

Sarah began our time together by inviting us to reflect on this passage from Hosea:

So I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.

She also gifted each of us with a Desert Mother, an Amma who was herself led into the desert to listen to God in her heart. These women are such a rich part of our tradition, although I'll admit to not knowing much about them!

This is an icon of "my desert mother," Synceltica of Alexandria, Egypt. I'm planning to spend some time with her in the coming weeks, getting to know her and asking her to journey with me. Like most of the desert mothers, even though she went into the desert seeking solitude, she was soon surrounded by other women seeking to learn from her! I'm sure she won't mind being a spiritual friend to me. :)

Amma Syncletica was born in the 4th Century to a well-respected Christian family. When her parents died, she distributed her family's wealth to the poor and took her little sister (who was blind) to live with her in her family's tomb outside Alexandria. She began her life as a desert ascetic, but soon women began to gather around her. She reluctantly agreed to serve as their spiritual mentor. She died in her 80s!

Many of her sayings have survived. Here's one that I found online that is definitely worth some thought (and prayer).

There are many who live in the mountains and behave as if they were in the town, and they are wasting their time. It is possible to be a solitary in one's mind while living in a crowd, and it is possible for one who is a solitary to live in the crowd of his own thoughts.


Garpu said...

The desert monastics are way cool...think I first learned about them the summer after I first discovered the Rule of St. Benedict. (Merton's book, no less.)

Eliza said...

One of my favorite moments in my education was talking about St. Benedict...

So, Benedict wanted to be alone and think about his God and listen so he went away... and his friends and followers thought that was a Stupendous idea and followed him... bringing the noise of people with them... so, unofficially, one morning Benedict had had enough... Ok! FINE! We can be here together, but SHUT U.... I mean... Silence! That's it! We should.... yeah! Be silent! So.... um... we can listen to God more! Yeah!

and that is how St. Benedict's Rule started...

Not the accepted version, I think... but sure made an impression on me!