Poustinia: Hermitage Retreat
Poustinia is a Russian word that means "desert." Catherine Doherty wrote a book in 1975 called Poustinia: Encoutering God in Silence, Solitude and Prayer, which is considered by many to be a modern spiritual classic and explains the practice of making a poustinia. A poustinia entails going apart from the community to a cabin or hermitage where one can escape the noise of the world to fast, pray, and encounter God.
"What can help modern man find the answers to his own mystery and the mystery of Him in whose image he is created, is silence, solitude – in a word, the desert. Modern man needs these things more than the hermits of old."
- Catherine Doherty, Poustinia
“Silence, stillness, and solitude- these are the conditions of what the Russians call poustinia- the inner hermitage where God is to be rediscovered. The spirituality of poustinia, or hermitage retreat, descends from the most ancient days of the Church, when Christians fled a godless world to rediscover the world of God. The lonely place, eremo in the original Greek language, is where we derive the word hermitage- a solitary moment of retreat from the cares of self and into the care of God. In hermitage we learn again a basic truth: solitude is not an absence, but a deeper presence… In a church deeply committed to the activity of the new evangelization, we need a complementary contemplation; and this requires a physical place where, heeding the words of Christ, we 'come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while' (Mk. 6:31). We may do many things for God; but we will only be fruitful if those things flow from the life of prayer.”