I’ve really enjoyed reading Simon Parke’s Desert trilogy of novellas, “Desert Depths”, “Desert Ascent” and “Desert Child”. These are out of print but copies can be found, and the result read is worthwhile. “Desert Ascent” has recently been republished as “Another Bloody Retreat”…and before my more sensitive readers jump to the wrong conclusion, violence and death haunt the monastery of St James-the-Less in this story.
Simon Parke was a priest in the Church of England for 20 years. He worked for three years in a supermarket, where he stacked shelves, worked on the tills, filled in on the bakery, chaired the shop union and had a very good laugh and cry with his colleagues. He left, with both sadness and gratitude, to risk the freelance adventure.
I first came across his fiction stuff through the more recently published “A Vicar Crucified”, a detective novel cleverly constructed around using the enneagram to solve a crime! I love Abbot Peter, the central character, who first appeared in the Desert trilogy.
As a result I read Simon’s book “the Enneagram…an appointment with the world’s greatest psychiatrist”, which was very readable and quite helpful. I’ve always avoided the enneagram…probably because it displays my left-over prejudice against Catholics (I’m dealing with it…my own family roots are Irish Catholic on one side and committed Anglican on the other) who seem too use it a lot ( like Richard Rohr…he of real men eating meat and dancing round bonfires…oops another un-dealt with prejudice!). I also heard it was a “bit New Age”, that bogeyman of all ‘good evangelicals’.
Actually, I have found it to be a really good way to get a handle on who you are, why you act the way you do and how to deal with it. I have always struggled with the cul-de-sac pigeonholing of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (or perhaps with the people who wield it like a sword of put down…”of course you would behave like that/say that/think that-you’re an ISTJ!”…well that’s me nicely labelled and dismissed – thanks!
These personality tests are supposed to give us a personal insight into ourselves…they should resoundingly not be used so that other people can join in the throng of voices trying to tell us who we are or who we should be…one God is enough for any lifetime.
Read the novels, enjoy them and think them through, and please pray for me both as I continue to battle my prejudices and as I try, with God’s help, to be at home as the person I am and to do the things I do just a bit more kindly.