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Desert Wisdom: Sayings from the Desert Fathers Paperback – March 29, 2001


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Desert Wisdom: Sayings from the Desert Fathers + The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers + The Wisdom of the Desert (New Directions)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Orbis Books; Revised edition (March 29, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570753717
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570753718
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 6.7 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #450,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)

About the Author

Henri J. M. Nouwen is one of the most popular spiritual writers of our time. He wrote more than 40 books, among them the best-selling Out of Solitude. He taught at the University of Notre Dame, as well as Yale and Harvard Universities. From 1986 until his death in 1996, he was part of the L'Arche Daybreak community in Toronto where he shared his life with people with mental disabilities.

Customer Reviews

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After sharing this book with us, I bought three to give as gifts.
Katherine Elaine Cremisino
It was Nouwen's course that introduced Nomura to the literature of the desert and began the process that led to this book.
Matthew A. Fisher
Yushi Nomura's translations are unpretentiously lucid, and his illustrations most felicitous.
Thomas E. Defreitas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Matthew A. Fisher on June 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
Yushi Nomura has put together a collection of roughly 100 sayings from the 4th and 5th century monks that we now collectively refer to as the Desert Fathers. In addition, each saying is illustrated with Japanese style brush drawings, which gives this collection a distinctive flavor when compared to either the collections by Thomas Merton or Helen Waddell.
This is not a comprehensive collection of sayings. Rather it serves as a superb introduction to this body of Christian literature. The sayings of the Desert Fathers are characterized by their pithy and direct nature. You will not find abstract theologizing here; the desert was a place where the hard realities of living the Christian life - humility, hospitality, forgiveness, failure, mindfulness of everyday things - were confronted every day.
Originally published in 1982, this new edition from Orbis includes a wonderful epilogue based on Henri Nouwen's unpublished lecture notes for a course on "Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry" that he taught at Yale in the early 1980's. It was Nouwen's course that introduced Nomura to the literature of the desert and began the process that led to this book.
Nomura's collection was my first introduction to the Desert Fathers back around 1984. The book has long held a special place in my heart, and I am overjoyed to see it reissued.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Smith VINE VOICE on July 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book should convince most readers that reading the Desert Fathers (and Mothers) is enjoyable religious reading for the common spiritual seeker. The translations and the art accompanying them create a presentation that will appeal easly to those who enjoy the collections of Anthony de Mello, Idries Shah, various Jewish collections, Zen Buddhist stories ...
The tales and sayings themselves are short and evocative. For example: "Abba John the Little said: We have abandoned a light burden, namely self-criticism, and taken up a heavy burden, namely self-justification." It is accompanied by a picture in Japanese style with two women carrying loads on their head (sticks and basket) and two men with Sumo wrestler builds with large, heavy loads. The picture is as effective as the story at drawing the reader into the story.
After reading these stories, read Roberta Bondi's excellent theological introduction To Love as God Loves and the translations of additional tales by Merton, Ward and others.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Katherine Elaine Cremisino on November 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
My house church learned about this book when someone did a study presentation on the "Desert Fathers". After sharing this book with us, I bought three to give as gifts. Each page has inspiring insight that reflect biblical truths.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas S Flowers on July 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Before reading this book, my spirit had been moved toward understanding "modern" disciples; seeking out the 'great cloud of witnesses that have gone before me. Saint Paul listed several from the Hebrew Scriptures, but what about for my witnesses? The history of 4th century Christianity is very much thought provoking, especially when considering our current generation of seekers of Christ and our commercialization of our faith. Christianity, in the 4th century just as in ours, was becoming ever increasingly secular in nature, and several disciplines were being forgotten. It is, to my conclusion, that the Holy Spirit led many disciples, men and women, into the desert to preserve the spiritual connectedness of the Holy union with God. "Desert Wisdom" is the birth pains of this small movement that has inspired countless generations that followed.

These depictions and translations from desert sayings are articulated and inspirational. As a bonus, Henri Nouwen writes the forward for this book, which is a gem in and of itself! This book is definitely worth its price.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas E. Defreitas on March 24, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is perfectly delightful. Yushi Nomura's translations are unpretentiously lucid, and his illustrations most felicitous. The humor and humility of these old monks is something to cherish, indeed. This book boasts an introduction and an afterword by the much-beloved author Henri Nouwen. I recommend it highly. You will be bowled over by the wisdom of these early sages! An example:

Amma Synclectica said: It is good not to get angry. But if it should happen, do not allow your day to go by affected by it. For it is said: Do not let the sun go down. Otherwise, the rest of your life may be affected by it. Why hate a person who hurts you, for it is not that person who is unjust, but the devil. Hate the sickness, but not the sick person. [p 84]
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