A Feature Review of
Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, Annotated and Explained,
Christine Valters Paintner
Reviewed by Craig D. Katzenmiller
Often the very act of slowing down becomes countercultural. In today’s world, we find ourselves in a race to “hurry up and matter.”[i] Every now and then, however, we need to be reminded that life is not about accruing goods, but rather, life is about emptying ourselves in order to love. We need to hear again and again the radical call of the gospel: namely, to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Thus, reading Christine Valters Paintner’s recent book about desert spirituality reminds us of what life is about. I read this book over the course of a weekend, but even my hasty reading pricked me and told me to slow down, to reorient my focus. Nevertheless, speedy reading for the purpose of reviewing the book does miss the point. As Paintner writes, “This is not a book to sit down and read cover to cover. . . . A more effective approach is to allow some time each day to read one section at a time twice through slowly” (xxxii). The desert mothers and fathers leave us with a legacy for transformation. Transformation, as Paintner says, is a long process (see e.g., 106).