If you’ve been following us lately, you’re likely aware that we are in the midst of a special week called “Living the ECHO.” Throughout this week, we’ve been striving to live a common “rule” in our particular homes and communities, united with one another around the country and world. If you’ve watched the intro video linked HERE, or if you’ve read the breakdown of the rule, linked HERE, then you’ve noticed that we have Desert Days as part of our rule. I would imagine that for many of us, this is a new concept. Well, fear not! We’re here to walk you through the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of your Desert Day.
What is at the core of the Desert Day? Catherine Doherty, in her spiritual classic Poustinia, says the following:
“Deserts, silence, solitudes are not necessarily places but states of mind and heart. These deserts can be found in the midst of the city, and in the every day of our lives. We need only to look for them and realize our tremendous needs for them. They will be small solitudes, little deserts, tiny pools of silence, but the experience they will bring, if we are disposed to enter them, may be as exultant and as holy as the one God himself entered. For it is God who makes solitude, deserts, and silences holy.”
— Catherine Doherty, Poustinia, 5-6
A Desert Day is a day of retreat…in solitude. It’s an opportunity for you to go back to the original solitude, the original relationship, that defines you: your relationship with God. The desert day is a little “echo” of the original solitude that both Adam and Eve lived when each had their own experience of being “alone with God.” We need to spend substantial time with God to grow into the men and women that He has created us to be, and a desert day is a chance to do precisely that. It's not complicated, it's profoundly simple. Sometimes it’s so simple that we can easily get lost and succumb to the temptation to spend our entire day trying to "figure it out." So, I've done my best to break it down for you below:
When do I schedule my desert day?
Consider spending part of your Friday if you have the day free from work or school responsibilities. Otherwise, schedule it for Saturday or Sunday morning…including Mass as part of it.
What do I do?
I’ve included 8 things to consider below, simply read on. More than anything else, just show up…show up with His Word and be present to all the things that are on your heart and mind, and speak to God about them. Want some inspiration? Check out this video by Evan Koons:
How long should my desert day be?
As staff members, we typically spend the length of a work day in solitude. However, for your Desert Day, consider going into it for 3-4 hours.
Any other advice?
(1) GO IN SOLITUDE
Go alone with God. Remember that you are going with Him. Remember who is present to you. When you’re thinking about where to spend your desert day, think about the environment. Will the place you choose to go allow sufficient solitude? A coffee shop is probably not the best place to go, but a lake, a park, or a quiet church could be.
(2) GO IN SILENCE
Put away the phone for the day. Consider again your environment. Will the place you choose help or hinder your entry into silence…is there a lot of noise around you? Are you able to settle down?
(3) BE SLOW
Consider your interior pace…are you “moving” quickly inside? Be okay with being slow and moving slow. There’s no rush to be anywhere else or need to be anyone else.
(4) STAND STILL
Check out this quote by Catherine Doherty…really sit with it for a second:
“Stand still, and allow the deadly restlessness of our tragic age to fall away like the worn-out, dusty cloak that it is. That restlessness…is a running away from oneself, a turning from the journey inward that all men must undertake to meet God dwelling within the depths of their souls.”
— Catherine Doherty, Poustinia, 7
You may feel restless…and that’s okay. After all, we are conditioned to instant gratification in our culture today. This isn’t the way the Lord speaks or works…he works with us in a profoundly mysterious and human way. A slow way, the way that is best for you and I to receive Him. It takes time. Let it fall away. You may start your day and then feel tempted to change locations. Resist the temptation! Plan ahead, pray, choose wisely, and remain…unless you feel the prompting to move is from the Lord, himself. Pay attention to any restlessness you experience and talk to the Lord about it.
(5) BE SIMPLE
Go with very little. Water bottle, scripture, pen, rosary, journal, and your meager meal. Leave everything else behind.
(6) OFFER A LITTLE SACRIFICE
Fast…allow your lunch to be simple. Bread and water, for example. Let your hunger remind you of your deeper ache for communion with Jesus.
(7) STAY IN SCRIPTURE
Sit with God’s word. Choose what scriptures you will spend your day with beforehand. Sometimes we gravitate easily to what others have to say about God’s word rather than allowing God’s word to settle in our own hearts. Leave other spiritual reading behind for another time and place. Practice the art of Lectio Divina that we’ve been practicing all week in our daily prayer! Maybe even go back to the Scriptures that have most impacted you this week.
Remember, God is already present before you even show up to pray. Lay down your own agenda, and allow him to surprise you in the way only He can. The day might be challenging, it might be filled with ease. It may even be a mixture of both. Regardless, pay attention to what God might be doing in the midst of your experience of the day.
We’re pumped for you to jump in, and we are praying that it is fruitful in the way He wants it to be! Whether it be filled with a little bit of challenge, or if there’s a lot of peace and ease, you have His full attention.
We are beyond blessed with an amazing community of teens, young adults, priests, consecrated men and women, and families who are striving to live out Christ's invitation to authentic love and who have gifts to share their journeys through writing.