Carlo Carretto was born on April 2, 1910, in northern Italy. He studied to be a teacher but the rise of fascism in his country led him to become a leader of the Italian youth movement of Catholic Action. In December, 1954, he surprised all those who knew him with the announcement that he was joining the Little Brothers of Jesus, a community of contemplatives in the North African desert. The call that summoned him was: "Leave everything and come with me into the desert. It is not your acts and deeds that I want: I want your prayer, your love."

In 1964, the first and most popular of his many books was published, Letters from the Desert. This is the 30th anniversary of its English translation. In the foreword, Lawrence S. Cunningham writes: "A classic, it has been said, is a work that has a surplus of meaning; it speaks from its own age and now spills over to nourish those of later times. Letters from the Desert is that kind of work. It is a book that comes from the pen of one person but its message is not confined to his time or his situation. After all, there is something primordial and fruitful in the message of someone who speaks compellingly of God not from mere speculation but from deep experience."

Carretto was inspired by Charles de Foucauld (1858 - 1916) who tried to emulate Jesus and his anonymous years in Nazareth when he lived a simple life with his poor neighbors. The author puts it this way: " 'I want to preach the Gospel with my life,' Charles de Foucauld often said. He was convinced that the most effective method of preaching the Gospel was to live it. Especially today, people no longer want to listen to sermons. They want to see the Gospel in action. Nazareth is the long period of separation, prayer and sacrifice. It is a time of silence, of intimate life with God; the time of long solitude, purification, understanding men, and knowing the value of detachment: the things that matter to a Christian. From Nazareth, we will learn how to live the Gospel, to be apostles." In a remote oasis in the Saharan desert of Algeria, Carretto spent ten years as a desert hermit.

Love is what animates the days of this Christian mystic who writes about the mystery of God, the pleasures of silence and solitude, and the service of the poor. In his desert spirituality, Carretto unites in his soul things that were once thought to be opposites — contemplation and social action.