Prayer Podcast

Learning from the Desert Fathers and Mothers

06/03/2015 11:25 am

Desert landscape in the Middle East North Africa region

Canon John Udris, Spiritual Director at Oscott College, talks to us about the Desert Fathers and Mothers.

As the persecution and martyrdom of the early Christians came to an end at the beginning of the fourth century, a new form of heroic holiness began to emerge in the deserts of Egypt.

Its most famous icon was St Anthony the Great, sometimes known as Anthony of the Desert.

Imitating Jesus who went into the wilderness to pray and do battle with the devil, Anthony embraced a life of solitude and would inspire countless others who became known as the Desert Fathers and Mothers.

Silence doesn't figure prominently in our lives today, but silence was the chief feature of the desert into which Antony and others retreated - not to escape reality but to face it.

Canon John Udris:

"Noise is one of the distracting ways we avoid the most important issues about life and God - about others and ourselves. In the desert there are no distractions. Clarity accompanies the quality of its quiet".

In this five-minute podcast for our 'Schools of Prayer' series, Canon John Udris reflects on the Desert Fathers and Mothers, recalls stories to help us visualise their prayerful lives.

"One of the specific methods of prayer from the Desert tradition is what they called 'Talking Back'. Just as Jesus, when he was faced with the devil's temptations countered each one with words from scripture, the Desert Fathers and Mothers would do the same.

"They imagined themselves like the young David facing the giant Philistine Goliath and defeating him with nothing but a sling, a stone and his trust in the Lord. And so they proposed, as weapons against specific temptations, words from Scripture like stones to throw against those thoughts."


Listen using the player to the right of this article. You can download the MP3 using the link below:

Desert Fathers and Mothers 4.26 MB

Duration: 5m 34s


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This podcast series is a joint Bishops' Conference and Clifton Diocese production.