Archive for May, 2013

New Franciscans

Posted in Uncategorized on May 30, 2013 by citydesert

I found by chance some beautiful liturgical chant by a Brazilian Franciscan (Roman Catholic) community, Toca de Assis:
The social vocation of the community is to rescue and treat people well of extreme poverty and social neglect, especially beggars, and the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
toca de assis
Specializing in sacred sculpture in wood, currently, the way it operates has included the music , the dance and theatre as means of evangelization.

Toca de Assis has several shelters for the poor and formation of religious brothers and sisters throughout Brazil and abroad. These brothers and sisters operate care homes providing medical assistance, psychological and religious service, welcoming the poor. They also engage in preaching and prayer groups and serve to the poor who live on the streets, giving them food, haircuts, shaves, as well as dressing wounds and welcoming all those who are weaker.

I found some more (less appealing to me) modern music from them, some of which includes dance – yes, dancing Monks and Nuns! For example:

Dinner in the Desert: Program

Posted in Uncategorized on May 27, 2013 by citydesert

Comments and calls on Dinner in the Desert have been very encouraging, so I have planned an evening of prayer, food and discussion!

Prayers of the Eleventh Hour
Prayers before a Meal
Talk: “Culinary Asceticism: Principles for an Orthodox Diet from the Desert Fathers and Mothers”
[A copy of the paper and guidelines for further reading and appropriate recipes will be provided]
Prayers of the Twelfth Hour

Dinner in the Desert

Posted in Uncategorized on May 26, 2013 by citydesert

Although pious legend claims that the Desert Fathers and Mothers survived on dried bread and water, what they actually ate proves to be much more interesting, as modern research reveals.
desert dinner
I’m planning a dinner for friends interested in the Desert Tradition. This dinner menu is based only on ingredients known to have been accessible to and used by the Desert Fathers and Mothers. In some cases, the Desert species is not available and a substitute (same plant, different species) has been used.

Red lentil soul
Hummus (chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice)
Tabouleh (salad of cracked wheat, mint, parsley and other herbs)
Baba ghannouj (eggplant, olive oil and spices)
Foul mudammes (fava beans, onion, garlic, lemon juice and spices)
Tagine (onions, spice, broad beans, prunes, chick peas
Salad (lettuce, radish, cucumber, coriander, onion, celery, endive)
Boiled cabbage (with spices)
Kushari (rice, lentils, chickpeas, tomato, onions and spices)
Goat cheese
Sheep cheese
Olives, preserved lemon, pickled vegetables
Bread (pita bread and Eesh baladi)
Fruit salad (grapes, figs, watermelon, dates, pomegranate with sheep yoghurt and honey, sprinkled with rose water)

This Thirsty Heart

Posted in Uncategorized on May 13, 2013 by citydesert

“This Thirsty Heart – A Journey in the deserts of Australia” by Ian Robinson (2010)
thirsty heart
Ian Robinson uses his own desert experiences to offer insights on how people are often spiritually challenged by the desert and how they can connect with it in different ways and stages. In addition to developing one’s sense of place, he encourages a state of wonder about the desert.

“A fascinating mixture of philosophy, theology, documentary, sociology and spirituality and a coffee table travel pictorial. And, more importantly, a “story” in the best ancient traditions of storytelling, where “story” forms the basis of identity and community.
Ian Robinson has led many “tours” into the outback with the aim of challenging/promoting/developing a consciousness of an Australian desert spirituality.

The desert is the great heart of Australia. Some people think of deserts with affection and awe and others with dread. Yet most Australians have never been to the desert. Waiting for them are majestic sunsets, and nights around the campfire under the sizzling clear stars where the immensity touches the soul. The power of the desert is something humans have known for thousands of years but have lost in the concrete busyness of modern urban life. This book helps us to rediscover that beauty. In this book you will travel for a week in the desert with Ian and follow the explorers and the Aboriginal custodians into a transforming place. The stories resonate. Ian Robinson has travelled over 60,000 kilometres in Australia’s deserts. He was the first person to cross all seven of Australia’s deserts in a continuous trip and he is one of Australia’s leading speakers on deserts and the way they affect all those who travel there. Ian completed a doctorate in this field and annually speaks to hundreds in community, academic and church groups. Over the past eight years he has led over 300 people on four wheel drive desert explorations, helping them discover the beauty of the desert and the wisdom that can be found there. “The desert’s richness inspires us to understand that all is not what it first seems. This Thirsty Heart takes us on a journey that enlightens and empowers us all.”

see also for more on the author, and more on Australian deserts and spirituality.

William Deresiewicz: Solitude

Posted in Uncategorized on May 11, 2013 by citydesert

“We are not merely social beings. We are each also separate, each solitary, each alone in our own room, each miraculously our unique selves and mysteriously enclosed in that selfhood. To remember this, to hold oneself apart from society, is to begin to think one’s way beyond it. Solitude, Emerson said, “is to genius the stern friend.” “He who should inspire and lead his race must be defended from traveling with the souls of other men, from living, breathing, reading, and writing in the daily, time-worn yoke of their opinions.” One must protect oneself from the momentum of intellectual and moral consensus…”
[William Deresiewicz]
William Deresiewicz is an American author, essayist, and literary critic. Born in 1964 in Englewood, New Jersey, Deresiewicz attended Columbia University before teaching English at Yale University from 1998-2008.

For his essay “Solitude and Leadership” see

For his talk on “Want To Be A Leader? ‘Learn To Be Alone With Your Thoughts’” see

For his essay, “The End of Solitude”, see

For an interview with him on his essay “The End of Solitude” see


Simple living – without money

Posted in Uncategorized on May 10, 2013 by citydesert

In November 2008, Mark Boyle gave up money for more than two years. The business and economics graduate quit his job with an organic food company and set up home in a donated caravan on a Somerset farm.
Mark Boyle
He volunteered at the farm, grew his own food, cooked on a wood-burning stove and generated electricity through a solar panel, bought for £360 before the experiment started.

“I got to the point when I was looking at all the big issues in the world, such as deforestation and sweatshops, and I realised they are all symptoms of a deeper cause; a separation from what we consume. The most potent tool we have in terms of separation and an illusion of independence is money,” he said. “I wanted to see if it was possible to live without money, and how it would affect me.”

He admitted that when he started he was seen as “a bit of a joke”. “I used to get a lot of criticism,” Donegal-born Mr Boyle said. “When you challenge money, you challenge a lot more than notes and coins. You challenge a whole perspective on the world.”

However, the 34-year-old said support had increased over the past few years. “I’m sure some people still think it’s a bit of a joke,” he said. “But when I started in 2008, just before the financial crisis hit the headlines, I was mostly taking criticism. But since then most people are incredibly positive about what I’ve done…..

He said the first few months of living without money were “definitely the hardest period”.
“I came from a very conventional background and everything was new to me,” he said. “How I eat, how I get from A to B, and how I brush my teeth. All these things were new, and I felt the lack of perceived security that money gives us.”

He cooked food – grown, donated or foraged – on a rocket stove outside the caravan. He bathed in a river with soap made from the plant soapwort, and made his toothpaste from washed-up cuttlefish bones and fennel seeds.

He travelled around on foot or by bicycle. Instead of a flush toilet, Mr Boyle had a compost lavatory – still one of his top tips for people wanting to emulate his moneyless lifestyle.

“After two or three months I just started to trust that everyday my needs would be met somehow,” he said.

“The time I lived without money, I’ve never been happier or healthier,” Mr Boyle said. “It had its ups and downs but it was a whole new way of being in the world. I want to get back there as quickly as possible.”
moneyless man
see also “The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living” by Mark Boyle (2011)

Saint Cedd “visits” the sick….

Posted in Uncategorized on May 5, 2013 by citydesert

The Hermitage contains relics of Saint Cedd of Lastingham (c. 620 – 26 October 664), an Anglo-Saxon Monk, Abbot and Bishop from Northumbria. He was an evangelist of the Middle Angles and East Saxons in England, and was the Abbot of Lastingham to the end of his life. He is venerated by Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians.
The wife of an Orthodox friend of mine is seriously ill, and so I carried the relics of Saint Cedd from The Hermitage to their apartment to remain there so that she may be comforted by their presence. There is an ancient tradition of relics being taken to the sick. Relics are not magical charms or talismans. They are reminders of the continual presence and the prayers of the Saints of God. But they are, in Orthodox Tradition, more than that. For, as St. John of Damascus (“John Damascene”)(ca. A.D. 676 – 754/87) wrote in his “Exposition of the Orthodox Faith”:
“These [the bodies of the Saints] are made treasuries and pure habitations of God: For I will dwell in them, said God, and walk in them, and I will be their God. The divine Scripture likewise saith that the souls of the just are in God’s hand and death cannot lay hold of them. For death is rather the sleep of the saints than their death. For they travailed in this life and shall to the end, and Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. What then, is more precious than to be in the hand of God? For God is Life and Light, and those who are in God’s hand are in life and light.
Photos 9.07 024
Further, that God dwelt even in their bodies in spiritual wise, the Apostle tells us, saying, Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you?, and The Lord is that Spirit, and If any one destroy the temple of God, him will God destroy. Surely, then, we must ascribe honour to the living temples of God, the living tabernacles of God. These while they lived stood with confidence before God.

The Master Christ made the remains of the saints to be fountains of salvation to us, pouring forth manifold blessings and abounding in oil of sweet fragrance: and let no one disbelieve this. For if water burst in the desert from the steep and solid rock at God’s will and from the jaw-bone of an ass to quench Samson’s thirst, is it incredible that fragrant oil should burst forth from the martyrs’ remains? By no means, at least to those who know the power of God and the honour which He accords His saints.”

Saint Cedd of Lastingham, pray for your sister in her illness, that she may know the infinite love and mercy of God!