Sara Maitland: desert silence

In Christian Century (March 2012 issue) author Sara Maitland (A Book of Silence, 2010; How to Be Alone, 2014) has written of her annual journey to the Sinai desert seeking meditative silence. From the article:

I feel a strong spiritual affinity for deserts. For the last six years I have lived as a semihermit on a moor in southern Scotland, which is isolated, wild and, to me, extraordinarily lovely. However, it is not a desert, so every fall I go to Sinai for a week. In order to be able to afford this—silence not being very profitable in the 21st century—I am employed by a travel company to introduce other people to desert silence. The company, which hires members of the Bedouin tribe as hosts, has a serious ecological commitment and a deep, predominantly Christian spiritual agenda. The expedition I work on, however, is not a standard retreat but a nondenominational exploration of silence itself. One consequent privilege is to have travelers from a wide range of traditions—including Muslims, Buddhists, Jews and people without any explicit religious affiliation, as well as Christians from across the spectrum.


Sr. Mariam, Oregon hermit nun

Portland, Oregon hermit nun Sister Mariam Sharbel Vianney has pursued a long and difficult path to eremitism, as this profile article shows. The career nurse lived through a difficult marriage, subsequently dissolved, raised a son, became a Catholic convert, and today is a cancer survivor. Alone, she wanted to make of her house a private hermitage, but eventually she sought out canonical status.

“Hermits do not do it for themselves. They do it for God and for the church,” she explains. “They do it for all those beloved brothers and sisters who have been called to a different vocation, who long to be with God, but who in their vocation are with him differently.”

If the life sounds like all sweetness, Sister Mariam issues a caution: “Being a hermit is not for the faint-hearted.”