Praying with the Desert Mothers

Mary Forman “Praying with the Desert Mothers” [Liturgical Press, 2005]
Praying with the Desert Mothers
“Fourth- and fifth-century desert mothers in the Mediterranean region, known as “ammas” (spiritual mothers), were the founders of Christian community in the early church. “Praying with the Desert Mothers” introduces the lives, sayings, and stories of these remarkable spiritual elders. It enriches readers’ lives and compels them to return in meditation and prayer. For each topic a true story is drawn from a modern persona’s experience of seeking God. This tapestry of stories of the desert ammas is woven together with theological insights, discussion of genres of literature, historical views on women, and reflective approaches to the wisdom tradition.
“Praying with the Desert Mothers “combines scholarship and reflection for praying, meditating, and living the wisdom of spiritual practices today. Chapters are Introduction to the Desert Mothers, Ammas as Midwives of Wisdom, Ammas as Scripture Scholars, Heralds in the Desert, Desert as Idyllic Garden, The Peal of Great Price, Humility and the Manifestation of Thoughts, Penthos and Tears, Signs of Conversion, The Hidden Life, Prayer and Hospitality; and concludes with The Visitation and a complete bibliography on the desert ammas.
“Mary Forman, OSB, PhD, a Benedictine from the Monastery of Saint Gertrude, Cottonwood, Idaho, is assistant professor of theology at the School of Theology, Seminary and the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota.”
“”Amma” is the term designated for a “spiritual mother,” an equivalent term for “spiritual father.” It refers to the ability one had to become a spiritual guide for another person, and is not explicitly connected with the role of abbess or superior. These early Christians lived in the deserts of the Mediterranean during the fourth and fifth centuries. In this edifying paperback, Mary Forman (a Benedictine nun from the Monastery of Saint Gertrude in Cottonwood, Idaho) presents a look at their lives and practices.
Forman, who teaches monastic studies and theology, examines the ways in which these ammas channeled grace to others as midwives of wisdom, scripture scholars, heralds in the desert, stewards of virtue, exemplars of holiness, practitioners of humility and compunction, and devout believers in prayer and hospitality.
The text is greatly amplified by the inclusion in each chapter of a story or commentary about a different desert mother, and a reflection on how to take into our own lives some of their wisdom and practices.”
desert mothers 2
“This little gem of a book delivers all that it promises, and considerably more. . . . The author writes clearly and concisely, making it easy to concentrate on the text and ideas. This little volume would serve nicely both for spiritual reading and for an introduction to the spirituality of Early Christian women ascetics. “American Benedictine Review”

This book is a very interesting and stimulating source not only for learning about a part of the history of the church which has been little emphasized, but also as a source for promoting the continuing value of the work of the ancient ammas for spiritual guidance in a modern world. “Catholic Studies”

. . . many will find this resource a valuable source of inspiration and prayerful reflection on women’s faithful lives, both ancient and modern. It is a text that could well be used for classroom use in Christian spirituality, in the history of early Christianity, and in the dynamics of Christian prayer. The faith, especially of these ancient and courageous desert women, inspires admiration and at times awe. That Forman has provided a way for ordinary Christians to reclaim their stories and to embrace them in prayer is a great service.
“New Theology Review”
desert mothers 3
One thing that I especially like about this book is its profound reflection on lived experience. Mary Forman is able to go back into her long experience in her monastery (Saint Gertrude’s, Idaho) and pull up fascinating and moving examples of modern ammas in out Benedictine convents. I think she shows clearly enough that the days of the Desert Mothers are by no means over. “Cistercian Studies Quarterly”
For Sister Mary Forman, see:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: