Saturday, April 25, 2009
Letters from Scotland -4
One of your RSCJ Sisters I’ve known for more than forty years, a missionary like yourself, lives in the North of Ireland. I call her my one-liner friend. She came to mind when you gave your students a whistle-stop tour of the Desert Fathers and Mothers who were part of that great fourth and fifth century movement which we now know as desert spirituality. These Ammas and Abbas were famously sought out for their good counsel. “Give us a word,” the seekers would say. The life giving words that were delivered, like the ones often spoken for me, were short, pithy, insightful, seeing to the heart of situations, clearing confusion, somewhat like sunlight glancing off the still waters of a lake and then reverberating in ripples that enrich our lives, presented always with love that nurtures and leads us to see God in our lives.
Today we find these original desert sayings recorded in accessible and attractive books. Modern day authors, like Thomas Merton, Benedicta Ward and Rowan Williams, have turned to these ancients for inspiration and mined for us, with their reflection and insight, the solid gold of this rich seam of desert spirituality.
Such friends, such Ammas and Abbas, know the desert and its ways; their prayer has made them the people they are; somehow their lives lived have been distilled into wisdom. I hope we all have one-liner-wisdom friends and that when they give us a word to treasure we recognize it for the gift it is and joyfully give thanks. The Holy Spirit truly moves among us.
Your Student, Jane.