The Desert Fathers: Audiobooks, Sayings, Articles

What can we Learn from the Desert Fathers today?

St Paul the Hermit

We can learn what the Apostle of Rome learned. St Philip lived over 1000 years from the time of St Anthony the Great and St Paul of Thebes, yet in his cassock he always carried a copy of the writings of the Desert Fathers.[2] St Philip Neri, shortly before the feast of Pentecost, received the Holy Ghost in a superabundance (as a globe of fire) that enlarged his heart so much it physically broke his ribs and as his ribs healed to account for his oversized heart they formed a permanent arch.[1]

We can say that the Desert Fathers were an example to this great Saint whose heart literally burned with love for Jesus. The Desert Fathers were the heros of the Saints. They walked manfully in the way of perfection, and after listening to their stories and sayings it sometimes appears that the least of these holy monks would be counted as “great” today. We learn from the Desert Fathers a pure and heroic Christianity that unites itself with the crucified Christ.

Some might be tempted to dismiss many of the stories of the desert Fathers as mere legend that have been greatly exaggerated or romanticized by fanatical believers and peasants. This could be easy to believe unless you consider the fact that their example is still making Saints today, such as St Sharbel who died 1898 after living a life on par with the Desert Fathers. The many miracles of St. Sharbel, both during his life and after death, testify to how pleasing this manner of living is to God.

What school of theology do the sayings of the Desert Fathers come from? The school of the Cross. The sayings of the Desert Fathers are not puffed up statements from men who have spent time in universities, but rather in weeping, praying and working. The wisdom of these Desert Fathers speak with that same simplicity which comes from our Lord Jesus Christ “If any man will follow me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross” (Mark 8:34)… “Unless ye do penance, ye shall likewise perish.” (Luke 13:5) “But let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil.” (Matthew 5:37).

The words and stories of the Desert Fathers shall not die out. There have been numerous holy writers, St Alphonsus for example, who used the sayings of Desert Fathers to teach (see his book Conformity with the Divine Will). Thomas A Kempis, in the Imitation of Christ, held them out as an example of perfection.[3] We are also told by Blessed Raymond of Capua, the biographer and friend of St Catherine of Siena, that she was schooled by the Holy Spirit in the ways of the Desert Fathers when she was just a little girl. [4] If it sanctified the early Church, the medievals, and even modern Saints, shall we not also listen attentively today?

When we compare ourselves to the Desert Fathers, we see how cold, weak and indifferent our own love for our Crucified Savior really is. But keeping their life before our eyes, we can start making resolutions to truly becoming heirs of heaven and children of God.

All you Holy Desert Fathers, Pray for us!

The Stories and Sayings of the Desert Fathers

On Voluntary Poverty

Audiobooks on the Desert Fathers

The Desert Fathers on Poverty and Hospitality

On Voluntary Poverty Part I


[1] “St. Philip Romolo Neri.” CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA:. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <>.
[2] Miller, Frederick. “Library : Saint Philip Neri and the Priesthood – Catholic Culture.” Library : Saint Philip Neri and the Priesthood – Catholic Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2012. <>
[3] Kempis, Thomas, The Imitation of Christ, The Example set us by the Holy Fathers
[4] Blessed Raymond of Capua, Life of Saint Catharine of Sienna. New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1862. 29. Print.

Image in the Public Domain  St Paul the First Hermit By Mattei Pretti Source

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