James Hannay’s “The Wisdom of the Desert”

“The Wisdom of the Desert” by James O. Hannay, originally published by Methuen and Co., in 1904, is available on-line via http://www3.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/wd.htm from the University of Notre Dame. The author comments:
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“This little book is neither a critical examination of the earlier Egyptian monastic literature nor an historical account of the movement. It is nothing more than an attempt to appreciate the religious spirit of the first Christian monks. I do not know of any other similar attempt, though an exceedingly interesting study of the hermit life will be found in E. Lucius’ Das Mönchische Leben des vierten und fünften Jahrhunderts in der Beleuchtung seiner Vertreter und Gönnor.
The collection of stories and sayings which I have translated, sometimes very freely, must be regarded merely as an anthology culled from the “meadows” of the literature of the desert life. There is much more which is worthy of a place in our devotional literature, and which, I hope, may in, the future be arranged and translated by men more fitted for the task than I am.”
Rev. James Owen Hannay (1865-1950) was born in Belfast, Ireland, educated at Haileybury and Trinity College, and wrote many critically acclaimed and popular works. He also wrote under the pen-name of “George A. Birmingham”.
He was ordained in 1889, as a Church of Ireland (Anglican) minister and served as rector of Holy Trinity Church, Westport in County Mayo. His early writings raised the ire of nationalist Catholics, and he withdrew from the Gaelic League in the wake of ongoing protests about the tour of his successful play General John Regan. He became rector of Kildare parish from 1918 to 1920, and after serving as chaplain to the Viceroy, he joined the British ambassadorial team in Budapest in 1922. He returned to officiate at Mells, Somerset from 1924 to 1934, after which he was appointed vicar of Holy Trinity Church in the London suburb of Kensington where he served from 1934 to his death in 1950. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_A._Birmingham

For more details of his life and works, see http://geo-birmin.com/index_english.html
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The book’s contents are:

I. The Hidden Treasure
II. On Being Crucified with Christ
III. Being Dead to the World
IV. How We Ought to Return Good for Evil
V. On Charity to Sinners
VI. On Humility
VII. On Discretion
VIII. On the Necessity for Striving
IX. On Fasting
X. On Poverty
XI. On Obedience
XII. On Avoiding the Praise of Men
XIII. On Anger
XIV. On Avoiding Many Words
XV. On Evil Thoughts
XVI. On the Life in the World
XVII. The Inner Life and the Visible Church
XVIII. In the Hour of Death
Index of Sources

“It seems quite possible then that what is called selfishness in the hermits, may be in reality the loftiest altruism. If so, the gulf between their ideal and ours is not so great that the heart cannot cross it. It is only needful that we should see clearer and think deeper than we do, that we should be less sure that only we have grasped the meaning of the Master’s life. It is in the hope that the study of them may make for clearer vision, deeper thought, and most desirable humility that I offer these fragments of the wisdom of the desert to those who sincerely desire to be the friends of Jesus Christ.”

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