Dear children, in honor of Sr. Joan I am going to take us to visit with one of the desert mothers. Sr Joan taught me so much about life and exemplified the spirit of the Desert Mothers with her ministry at St Vincent over the 26 years she spent there. So to honor her I have chosen a visit with Amma Syncletica who encouraged self awareness as the pathway to a closer relationship with Christ.
Amma Syncletica was born into a noble family in Alexandria. At a young age she learned hard lessons through the deaths of her two beloved brothers and living with a sister who was blind. When her parents died she sold all her belongings, gave the proceeds to the poor and with her sister went to live in the family tomb in the hills to live as an ascetic.
Many women saw in her an example and teacher and began to come to her. She taught them how to strip away all that was unnecessary except for Christ alone, and to live a very simple holy life.
Here are a few of her sayings to ponder:
Amma Syncletica said: In the beginning there is struggle and a lot of work for those who come near to God. But after that there is indescribable joy. It is just like building a fire: at first it is smoky and your eyes water, but later you get the desired result. Thus we ought to light the divine fire in ourselves with tears and effort.
She also said: Those who put out to sea at first sailed with a favourable wind; then the sails spread, but later the wind becomes adverse. Then the ship is tossed by the waves and is no longer controlled by the rudder. But when in a little while there is calm, and the tempest dies down, then the ship sails on again. So it is with us, when we are driven by the spirits who are against us; we hold to the cross as our sail and so we can set a safe course.
She also said: There is an asceticism which is determined by the enemy and his disciples practise it. So how are we to distinguish between the divine and royal asceticism and the demonic tyranny? Clearly through its quality of balance.”
In other words, if it is worth doing it is worth perservering.
Keep on keeping on but stay balanced and remain focused on the goal.
Have someone you trust watch over you so that you don't do great harm to yourself in your practice of ascetism. Too much privation isn't good for anybody.