This week’s intentional #ServiceShirk was spent in the company of St Anthony of Egypt. I read James Cowan’s splendid account of time at St Anthony’s Monastery – Desert Father: A Journey in the Wilderness with Saint Anthony (Shambhala Publications, 2004). This recalls the life and legend of the ascetic St Anthony and explores the practice of the current desert hermit Fr Lazarus Al-Anthony, originally from Australia, who lives a 21st century version of Anthony’s discipline up on the mountain beyond the monastery.

Desert Father by James Cowan

I read mainly in silence, fittingly, but took time out to listen to the evocative David Ensemble’s recording of Coptic Hymns (on Spotify).

Coptic Hymns by the David Ensemble

Later in the day I rewatched the short film on Fr Lazarus’s life “The Last Anchorite” on and followed up with the first of two extended interviews he gave from St Anthony’s cave to the Coptic Youth Channel (available on YouTube).

The Last Anchorite

It has been a day of wonderful reminders and discoveries; I’ll have another desert day next Sunday, I think.

Life Through Prayer


This Sunday was spent watching other people at prayer in the shape of Ulrich Seidl’s powerful film, “Jesus, You Know”.

Jesus, You Know

The film is largely framed in the personal prayer time of individual Austrian Catholics filmed in their local churches before the altar. It is an uncomfortable watch as the viewer seems to be intruding on a very private conversation where sin and hopes and disappointments are voiced in raw disclosures meant only for God. It is a picture of deep faith and the hardship of the devout life.