Poustinia

May 21, 2005
by Harold Moddle

Isaiah 40:30-31 – Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (RSV)

Some years ago, I had the privilege of spending three days in a "poustinia" at the Madonna house, a retreat centre in northern Ontario, founded by the late Catherine de Hueck Doherty. She explained that "poustinia" in Russian means "desert", or a place where one can be alone with God, and its use is an important part of Russian spiritual development. I was permitted to spend those three days in a cabin alone in the woods with only bread, water, and my Bible. This was one of the most spiritually blessed times of my life. Catherine taught that all of us should find such a "place apart" for frequent use, even though it may simply be a quiet spot in our home.

Recently, in a television special on the life of Pope John Paul II, a young person, who went with him on kayaking trips which he conducted for the youth of his first parish, remarked that each day, he spent an hour or so alone and apart, just being with God — his poustinia — from which he drew much of his great spiritual strength.

As I grow older, I find that I can sleep only about three hours at a time. Since this is annoying, I sometimes spend the time waiting to sleep again by reading a book of prayers or collected writings on Jesus by great Christians of the past. Suddenly, last night, it struck me: here is my poustinia! The times which used to annoy me suddenly were filled with delight. These I could spend with my Lord, quietly, apart, while the world around me sleeps! How like our gracious Lord to take the difficulties of life and use them to draw us closer to His heart of love!

Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, for using the difficult times in our lives to teach us of Your love, to bring us closer to You, to show us how we can better serve You and those amongst whom You have caused our lives to be spent, and to show us how to mount up with wings like eagles, how to run and not be weary, and how to walk and not faint. Amen.

About the author:

Harold Moddle
(deceased)

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