Seeking in Solitude

Bernadette McNary-Zak “Seeking in Solitude: A Study of Select Forms of Eremitic Life and Practice’ (Princeton Theological Monograph 210, 2014, Pickwick Publications).
Seeking in solitude
“Seeking in Solitude” examines select forms of contemporary Roman Catholic eremitic life and practice in the United States. Given the sustained presence of, and increased interest in, the eremitic life and practice, this book responds to the question of the place of the hermit in American Catholicism in a way that neither mystifies nor mythologizes it, but rather attempts to understand it.

1. The Threefold Good: The Camaldolese Congregation.
2. Remembering in Silence: The American Carthusians.
3. Contemplation in Solitude: The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance.
Bethlehem Hermits
4. The Listening Presence: The Hermits of Bethlehem in the Heart of Jesus.
5. Framing a Worldview in Solitude.

“In this informative and inspirational new book, Bernadette McNary-Zak maps and analyzes the growing religious phenomenon of eremitic life and practice in American Catholicism. She eloquently illustrates how, contrary to some popular perceptions, the eremitic option is neither selfish nor self-serving, but rather is one of solidarity through the Eucharist, prayer, and prophetic witness. This timely publication is a valuable contribution to the increased public interest in the eremitic way of life.”
—Bernadette Flanagan, All Hallows College, Dublin City University, Drumcondra, Dublin

“As a part-time hermit myself, still mixed with teaching and ministry, I sincerely wish I had this wonderful resource when I was discerning my later Franciscan vocation. There is a common guilt and fear of selfishness that must be faced, and this fine study helps you see that you are a part of a long and solid tradition that was anything but selfish.”
—Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, NM

“In her study of the places and spaces in which the eremitic life is lived in the United States, McNary-Zak has done us a tremendous service. Meticulously researched, “Seeking in Solitude” shows us the ways in which Christian communities, both ancient and modern, adapt creatively to support those called to this path. Above all, she shows that the eremitical life is not a way of being by oneself so much as an intimate call to be in solidarity with all humanity.”
—Martin Laird, Villanova University, Villanova, PA.

Bernadette McNary-Zak is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. She received her B.A. in Religious and Classical Studies, with a minor in Philosophy, from the University of Rochester (Rochester, NY). She received her M.A. in Religion and Culture from the Catholic University of America (Washington, D.C.). Her Ph.D. is from the University of Toronto, Centre for the Study of Religion, where her area of concentration was Early Christianity with a focus on Christian ascetic and monastic behavior in the later Roman Empire. While at Rhodes, she has taught courses in Interdisciplinary Humanities, the Apostolic Fathers, early Christian literature, and Christianity in Late Antiquity. Her research interests include study of ascetic literature, in particular, the evidence of literary correspondence among monks in fourth-century Egypt, as well as pedagogical issues related to teaching Religious Studies.
She is also the author of
Useful servanthood
“Useful Servanthood: A Study of Spiritual Formation in the Writings of Abba Ammonas” (with Nada Conic and Lawrence Morey) (2010): “Useful Servanthood” introduces English-speaking readers to Abba Ammonas, disciple and successor of Saint Antony of the Desert and a prominent figure of fourth-century Egyptian monasticism. As a director of souls, Ammonas’s approach to spiritual formation was a creative example of the spiritual gift of discernment. By examining Ammonas’s writings and his ecclesial and political milieus, Dr. McNary-Zak shows how discernment functioned both in the abba-disciple relationship of the desert monks and in the life of the wider Christian community. Thus, Ammonas serves as a model for spiritual directors of the twenty-first century. The second part of the book makes available for the first time in English the entire Greek corpus of Abba Ammonas’s writings.; and
“Letters and Asceticism in Fourth-Century Egypt” (2000): In “Letters and Asceticism in Fourth-Century Egypt”, Bernadette McNary-Zak analyzes collections of ascetic letters written by prominent fourth-century Egyptian bishops, ascetics, and monks arguing that this neglected body of evidence deserves primary source recognition alongside hagiographic sources. Focusing principally on the works of Ammonas, Antony, Athanasius, Horsisios, Pachomius, Serapion of Thmuis, and Theodore, Letters and Asceticism begins with the analysis of the current state of scholarship on ascetic letters. McNary-Zak then moves into a discussion of the Antonian and Pachomian movements and assesses the authorship of the Life of Antony. She concludes with a succinct summation of the value of the ascetic letters in relation to the traditional, contemporary, hagiographic desert ascetic sources. A powerful argument for the use of ascetic letters, this book will be a boon to professors of theology and history as well as students interested in research of Egyptian asceticism.


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