Linus Mundy is director of publications at Abbey Press, a Benedictine-owned publisher in St. Meinrad, Indiana. This seven-day retreat is part of a series edited by Gloria Hutchinson. The intent behind this paperback is to increase understanding and appreciation of the desert mystics from the fourth and fifth centuries.

Many of these early Christians were believers in the ascetic path with its emphasis on fasting, penance, sleep deprivation, and other forms of bodily mortification. But they are also known for being steeped in the Bible and robust in their enthusiasm for devotional life. Mundy calls them "composers of practical wisdom " — and so they were as they taught about the cell and prayer, silence and solitude. These mystics refused to give themselves up to the worldly idols of fame, fortune, and greed.

Each of the seven days in the retreat deals an important theme through an introduction, opening prayer, reading, reflection questions, and closing prayer. The themes are:

  • Embracing Spiritual Dryness — Entering In as the Way Through
  • Voluntary, Extravagant Exile — Turning the World's Standards Upside Down
  • Seeking Deeper Certitude — Meeting God and Self Fully and Fiercely
  • Being Wary of Mirages — Avoiding the "Occupational Hazards" of a Spiritual Seeker
  • Eyes on the Prize — Focusing on Eternity, and God as "All in All"
  • Becoming a Saint — Becoming Yourself
  • Recognizing the Oasis When We See It — Blooming Where We Are Planted

Here is one of the prayers:

"Send rain to my roots, O God of all Creation,
That I may grow straight and tall
In your loving Presence.
For it is only you who can make the desert bloom.
May I flower in the desert, Lord.
For you.

Thomas Merton set a high standard for all Christians: "Give up everything for God." The desert mystics show us this way. We are also grateful to them for showing how the desert is "the ultimate sweat-lodge."