Books about the Desert Fathers

Hello, I want to read more about the Desert Fathers. What books would people recommend? Thanks

Here are a couple:

Life of St. Anthony of Egypt

The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection


I highly recommend The Paradise of the Holy Fathers. It’s a two-volume set. The first volume contains the Life of St. Antony of Egypt, the Lausiac History, the Rules of St. Pachomius, and possibly a few other things that are slipping my mind. The second volume contains a collection of sayings from the Desert Fathers, a conversation between a novice and an Abba, and a handful of other items as well.

All things considered, the set is pretty inexpensive and well-worth the investment of both money and time.

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This is Philip’s thread on the desert fathers. Thanks Philip, I bookmarked it for good reading material.


Out of curiosity: What has prompted your interest in the Desert Fathers?

I believe that to strengthen the Church that the West and East should know about what both have contributed to the faith. And as a Latin Rite Catholic I am interested by the Eastern Rites Catholics. I have heard about them on the radio (like Al Kesta), read a little about them. Currently reading about the Apostolic Fathers and want to read more about the desert Fathers.


Makes sense to me. I became Eastern Catholic in large part because I was curious and started reading about Eastern Catholicism/Christianity. Also started attending Divine Liturgy at the invitation of a Byzantine Catholic priest up in Michigan. Eventually found my way over to the Maronite Catholic Church, and am very happy and at home here.

But I do still try to keep up-to-date on Latin theology because, as you said, to strengthen the Church East and West need to know about one another.

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We also have living desert fathers -

Here is a story of one of them now reposed, St. Joseph the Hesychast:

Once when St. Joseph was living at the Small Skete of St. Anne, St. Ephraim of Katounakia noticed that they were using a lot of water to wash something that was not particularly important. So he said to St. Joseph: “Be careful, Geronda; it hasn’t rained for months, and your tank might run out of water.”

When St. Joseph heard this, he was grieved and gave St. Ephraim of Katounakia a look of deep disappointment and replied: “I have never uncovered the tank to see how much water is left. I leave this in the hands of the Honorable Forerunner.” St. Joseph was so disappointed in St. Ephraim because St. Joseph considered his rational approach to demonstrate a lack of faith in the care that the Forerunner had for them. What faith he had!


“Desert Father” commonly refers to a specific group of men (or women) from a specific time period. Modern mystics and spiritual writers in the East are more commonly referred to simply as “Church Fathers.”

The early ones were somewhat concentrated in upper southern Egypt, the Thebaid… Yet I would want to include St. Isaac the Syrian… Yet more broadly speaking, does the term not refer to an attainment in a style of Christian life that is eremitic in its privations and primitive in its exercise? I could easily be wrong, but I thought a desert Father (or Mother) was a person of great Spiritual attainment brought to fruition in desert conditions… Their distinguishing characteristic is their practice of Spiritually birthing their children - So that the Apostle Paul himself could be considered one, as were all the Apostles… And He describes their lives in 1 Cor 4:9 ff…

eg They are not so much, say, Church Fathers, as they are real Fathers and Mothers, birthing their Spiritual Children… So they are not necessarily teachers, although they can and do teach - But they are instead birthers…

I mean, had it not been for the pilgrims, we would not have heard much at all about these folks… Today, for instance, there are Holy Women in Romania living in the National Forests underground, alone, praying for the world, known only to a very few, usually forest rangers, who check in on them and bring them food, summer and winter…

I tend to regard them as Desert Mothers…

Padre Pio was one, yes? (Albiet far more public)

Would we call Padre Pio a Church Father?

I mean, I will if you say so…


The previous thread on the Desert Fathers kind of fizzled out - Would quotes from them be appropriate here? eg:

Be fearful that you do not become famous because of some work that you do.
If they begin to praise you because of your work,
do not rejoice or take delight in it,
but keep your works secret as much as you can,
and do not allow anyone to speak about them.

– St. Anthony


If you love true knowledge,
devote yourself to the ascetic life;
for mere theoretical knowledge
puffs a man up.

(cf. 1 Cor. 8:1).
St. Mark the Ascetic

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I say so. Thanks a lot George720

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First post:
Vitae-patrum. org. uk
All online, and free to read. I’ve been through most of it myself.
Skirting the rule a bit, but it is to answer, and contribute. I have lurked here a while now, and answering this post was the final “push” I needed to sign up. Hope it isn’t too naughty.
Dominus vobiscum


Happy news. It appears a monastery in Australia has taken to translating the Gerontikon. I just ordered volume 1 and eagerly await its arrival.

They’re also doing a new translation of the Evergetinos. And they’re also releasing a translation of the long-awaited Volume 5 of The Philokalia in just a few months! 2020 is going to be a great year!.. but not for my bank account…


Which monastery?

Bp Kallistos Ware is the only surviving translator working on the project, and he had stopped working on it… Did he actually finish it after all these years?

Elder Ephraim of Arizona (St. Anthony’s) passed last night in his mid-90s…


I heard the news this morning. May his memory be eternal! What a great and productive life he lived.



The monastery working on Volume 5 is called the Monastery of St. George. They appear to be doing their translation independent of Met. Kallistos. I’m glad they’ve taken up the project. It’ll be nice to have the complete series available. That being said, I’m going to need to (re)purchase the previous four volumes as I gave my set to a friend of mine who’s a monk in a Benedictine monastery. Figured he could make better use of them than I. :laughing:

May the memory of Elder Ephraim of Arizona be eternal.

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I sent them an enquiry - Will report their response…

Vol 2 was my 3rd Orthodox book - I have been waiting for 18 years for vol 5…

This is the first time I have known a Holy Elder at his passing, and I regard this one’s entry into the USA as the equivalent of the Allied Landing on Normandy in the first wave on Omaha Beach… He was the Spiritual Father of our Priest, who said that when he went to him for Confession, the elder would have him sit down quietly, and would tell him his sins, tell him what to do about them, give him Absolution, and send him away…

I encountered him at St. Anthony’s in AZ - He could give off a heavenly glowing light in Services, and was very much a bright eyed child-wise man… Started some 16 monasteries in the US…

He should be Glorified fairly shortly, by Orthodox standards, and his relics should/will be incorrupt… He was and is the Greek version of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco…


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Elder Ephraim’s funeral will be tomorrow:

He almost looks like he is still alive…

Here is an earlier picture of him in life giving the Blessed Bread…



This was the first thing that came to mind. It is indeed a classic.

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