Poustinia is a Russian term made popular in the western world by the author Catherine Doherty in her book “Poustinia: Encountering God in Silence, Solitude and Prayer.” Poustinia means “desert.” A poustinia—as this word is used in the Eastern Christian tradition—is a simple cabin or room to which one goes to pray and fast in silence and solitude, typically for a day.
Why is such a place of retreat called a “desert”? Sometimes God draws us to a “deserted place” (Mk 6:31), free of distractions, because He wants to be with us and speak to our hearts. He said to the prophet Hosea, “I will lead [Israel] into the desert and speak to her heart” (Hosea 2:14). The reason a poustinia is a “desert” is not because it is barren, but because it is open and free for God. A desert is actually a fertile place that can produce abundant fruit when water is poured into it. The Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, “Fear not… For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit…” (Isaiah 44:2-3).
“Silence is not an absence,” explains Robert Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in his recently published book, “The Power of Silence.” “On the contrary, it is a manifestation of a presence, the most intense of all presences” (12). Read the rest of this article about our poustinias
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