I am not sure where I caught sight of this book, Letters from the Desert by Carlo Carretto, but it is a jewelle. Each facet of its short reflective chapters shines a different light into the mysteries of faith, prayer, love, and of course, God.
The description on the back of the book cover explains the situation best:
At the age of 44, after a prominent career as a Catholic activist, Carlo Carretto was summoned by a voice that siad: “Leave everything, come with me into the desert. I don’t want your action any longer, I want your prayer, your love.” Carretto responded by leaving [Europe] for North Africa, where he joined the Little Brothers of Jesus and embraced the example of Charles de Foucauld.
I have heard that the harshness of the desert sharpens ones awareness to a razor edge. This is evident in Carretto’s writing. Each sentence, paragraph, and page is dense and rich in meaning. The stark contrast of the desert has taught him to emphasize and highlight the really essential features of the spiritual landscape.
From the chapter “Toward Prayer” (emphasis mine):
Understanding prayer well means understanding that one is speaking with God.
Thus there are two poles. One very, very tiny and very, very weak: my soul. One immense and powerful: God.
But here is the first paradox, the first surprise: that he who is so great should have wanted to speak to me, tiny as I am.
It is not I who wanted prayer. It is he who wanted it. It is not I who have looked for him. It is he who has looked for me first. My seeking him would have been in vain if before all time he had not sought me.
The hope on which my prayer rests is in fact that it is he who wants it. And if I go to keep the appointment it is because he is already there waiting for me.
God loves me, little ol’ me. That in itself is an amazing and overwhelming fact. All is gift—everything! That too just pushes my comprehension to the infinite horizon. But to know, to realize truly in my heart that God wants to talk with me!? That is too awe-some, too awe-inspiring, too awe-full. It takes my breath away. I am awestruck in silence.
God is just a prayer away.