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  What can we learn from the Desert Fathers & Mothers? Back to the List of Slideshows
    
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Rev. Chryssavgis writes that “theoretically, anyone could enter the desert. People from all classes, hermits of every kind of temperament,background, education, status, and virtue.” He tells us that many of the Desert Fathers were well-educated men but that secular education was insufficient when living the ascetic life of the desert:
It is not that secular education was unacceptable to the desert elders. Indeed, many of them were lettered: Arsenius, Basil, Evagrius,and Cassian. It is simply that secular education always remains insufficient without an ascetic depth; it is unfulfilled without the spiritual content. The only degree that counted in the desert was the degree to which one was humbled, even effaced, in order to reveal the presence and grace of God.
Rev. Chryssavgis points out that the desert communities also tended to overlook gender distinction, at least in theory. While many of the stories and sayings of the Desert Mothers have been lost, there are still numerous stories and legends of “heroic women” which have been preserved:
Generally, women in the early Christian centuries did not own themselves; they did not possess or control their lives or even their bodies. They were at the disposal of other people, normally other men, who owned them.

In the desert, however, women were able to throw off these constraints and restrictions. In the desert, the ammas were able to live with a single focus, namely the heavenly kingdom, and not adhere to any earthly circumstance. And, like others both known and unknown to us in history, these women were also able to remind the men (who might otherwise have been tempted to forget!) that their goal in the desert was not to fulfill particular social roles.
Some saints from Africa, many of whom were desert dwellers of the earliest times
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