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Revealed: Little Known Russian Mystic

Here are 4 reasons why you need to know Catherine!

I bet you haven’t heard of Catherine de Hueck Doherty. But she was one of Thomas Merton’s mentors! She’s this Russian spitfire with a life that reads like a movie.

Here are 4 reasons why you need to know Catherine!

Want to learn more? Join us for a masterclass given by Catherine’s personal friend! Visit to register.

Some of her most popular books include:

📖 Poustinia: Encountering God in Silence, Solitude and Prayer , by Catherine Doherty

📖 Catherine de Hueck Doherty: Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters), edited by David Meconi

📖 Sobhornost: Eastern Unity of Mind and Heart for Western Man , by Catherine Doherty

📖 Compassionate Fire: The Letters of Thomas Merton & Catherine de Hueck Doherty, edited by Robert Wild



Contemplation. Embodiment. Mysticism. Mischief. Join former nun and neuroscience aficionado Kelly Deutsch as she interviews contemplative teachers, embodiment experts, psychologists, and mystics about the untamed frontiers of interior life. Each episode is jam packed with life-changing stories, spiritual practices, and powerful insight to support your journey toward wholeness and divine intimacy.

For FREE resources for your own spiritual journey (like the Psycho-Spritual Maturity Assessment!) - check out


00:00:00:00 - 00:00:31:21

Kelly Deutsch

You guys, I am shocked more people don't know about Katherine to hack Doherty. She's this Russian spitfire of a woman who was one of Thomas Merton's mentors, but no one seems to know about her. Here are four reasons why you need to know Katherine. Number one, she introduced the West to Russian spiritual ality. Now, Catherine fled Russia as a teenager during the Bolshevik Revolution.

00:00:31:22 - 00:00:55:26

Kelly Deutsch

She barely escaped with her life and ended up in Canada. And then later in the US. But in the process, she converted from Russian Orthodoxy to Catholicism. But she still ended up sharing with us all of her practices and beliefs from her native Russia. So for those of you who don't know, Russian spirituality is steeped in mystery. It has kind of a natural mysticism to it.

00:00:55:28 - 00:01:27:12

Kelly Deutsch

With this love for the poor, for the holy fool and this deep reverence for silence. One of the key concepts that Catherine introduced to the West was that of Christina. Now Christina is the Russian word for desert. It refers to the practice of going out on hermitage or a silent retreat. You go out to your little Christina, your little desert or hut, and you encounter God in silence there and in stillness.

00:01:27:15 - 00:01:51:28

Kelly Deutsch

Now, this was before any big meditation movement, you know, back in the 1930s and 40s is when she was doing this. And especially Christian circles, you know, had not heard of meditation or centering prayer. I mean, it was really uncommon to hear talk of contemplation or silence, especially for laypeople. You know, maybe for the monks and nuns, but even for them, you know, it was really active.

00:01:51:28 - 00:02:17:08

Kelly Deutsch

Prayer was what was emphasized, like rosary or the liturgy or scripture. So it was really radical for someone, especially this lay woman, to suggest that normal people like you and me should go on silent retreats. Shock, horror, you know, or to find silence in your daily life, to find the pristine near the desert in your own heart. That that's where you find the divine.

00:02:17:10 - 00:02:48:11

Kelly Deutsch

This is how Catherine explained silence. She said, prayer doesn't need words. Prayer is simply union with God. When people are in love, they look at each other, look into each other's eyes. Or a wife simply lies in the arms of her husband. Neither of them talks. When love reaches its apex, it can't be expressed anymore. It reaches that immense realm of silence where it pulsates and reaches proportions unknown to those who haven't entered into it.

00:02:48:13 - 00:03:19:17

Kelly Deutsch

Such is the life of prayer with God. You enter into God and God enters into you, and the union is constant. Number two Catherine was a fierce anti-racist. Catherine was one of the first white women to work with a black population in Harlem, New York. Again, this was in the 1930s and 40s, decades before the Civil Rights movement, before other people were really catalyzing and gathering around this cause.

00:03:19:19 - 00:03:47:28

Kelly Deutsch

But she was especially disgusted with the Catholic Church and its failure to respond to racism. And she would tell anyone who would listen. Catherine did not mince words. There was one Catholic woman in Georgia who told her she stunk like a Negro, and Catherine spat back without missing a beat. And you reek of hell. Maybe unsurprisingly, she was almost beat to death by some Catholic Georgian women, but she would famously end her sermons.

00:03:48:03 - 00:04:02:22

Kelly Deutsch

You know, when she was preaching to a crowd, she would say, you know, one day we are all going to go to heaven and meet Jesus at the gate. And Jesus is going to say, I can't let you in. You know, I was hungry and you didn't feed me. I was thirsty and you didn't give me to drink.

00:04:02:28 - 00:04:29:26

Kelly Deutsch

I was naked and you didn't clothe me. And you'll turn to the Lord and say, but, Lord, when were you hungry and naked and thirsty? And he will look at you and say, when I was a negro, and you were a white American Catholic. Mike Drop, she had a few things to say. Number three about Catherine. She showed us how to love the land.

00:04:29:29 - 00:04:50:03

Kelly Deutsch

Later in life, Catherine left New York to find silence and solitude in the wild of Canada, and she gathered a community around her called the Madonna House, and to the Madonna house lived off the land, growing their own food, tapping the trees for maple sirup, keeping bees for honey. And she didn't do this because it was cool or even practical.

00:04:50:07 - 00:05:18:12

Kelly Deutsch

You know, again, this was before the big back to the land movement. But she did it because she knew how humanizing it was. Monks have done this for centuries, synchronizing their lives with the rhythm of the land, the seasons, planting, harvesting, wintering. Catherine called this a university of life. She was very explicit. We are teaching people how to live, how to be human in community.

00:05:18:14 - 00:05:42:29

Kelly Deutsch

You know, it was kind of like a commune, kind of like a monastery. But she encouraged people to to touch the earth and get their hands in the soil to, to feel life coursing through the streams. Science has since shown us all of the amazing impacts nature has on our bodies. But people have known this for generations, just intuitively.

00:05:43:02 - 00:06:09:26

Kelly Deutsch

And in Catherine's old Russia, this was taken for granted. So she took it upon herself to reintroduce it to the West. Number four, Catherine shows us how to find the sacred in the ordinary. There are some cultures that are better at this than others. Finding the divine everywhere in the disguise of your own life. To echo the words of Teresa of Avila.

00:06:09:28 - 00:06:39:11

Kelly Deutsch

Holiness is not being lost in contemplation all day. Holiness is doing the will of God. It's saying yes to the moment. And maybe that means waiting on hold for 49 minutes while you file an insurance claim, like I had to do yesterday, or chasing after jam covered children, or calling up your elderly parent each week. Or maybe it's navigating your own anxiety about Covid or politics, or whether your job is safe.

00:06:39:14 - 00:07:06:09

Kelly Deutsch

All of these things make up the sacred fabric of our lives. This is where the divine is found. This means we don't have to go meditate in the ashram or monastery to find divine intimacy. All we have to do is say yes to our life. Katherine wrote. Everything that happens to us spiritually, everything that causes us to grow will bring us closer to God.

00:07:06:10 - 00:07:29:22

Kelly Deutsch

If we say yes, that is what spiritual growth means. It doesn't come from what we do necessarily, from all our actions and good works. Sometimes it comes from simply sitting and seeing the shambles of what we try to accomplish. From watching what was seemingly God's work. Go to pot. You can't do anything about it. But watch. This happened to me.

00:07:29:24 - 00:07:50:04

Kelly Deutsch

I knew dimly then what? I see more clearly today, that this was the moment when God really picked me up and said, Now I'm offering you the union you seek. The other side of my cross is empty. Come, be nailed upon it. This is our marriage bed.

00:07:50:06 - 00:08:14:28

Kelly Deutsch

So help me spread the word about this wild fire of a woman. She helped introduce the West to silent meditation and Russian spirituality. She was a fierce anti-racist. She showed us how to love the land. And she helps us find the sacred in the ordinary. So go ahead. Ask your friends if they've heard of her. But if you'd like to learn more, I've linked some of her most popular books in the note below.

00:08:15:01 - 00:08:35:13

Kelly Deutsch

And if you'd like a whole masterclass on her, come join us on the Women Mystics School, where Katherine's personal friend is going to be sharing his stories of living and working with Katherine for 17 years. You won't want to miss this. Visit women, to learn more. But let me know in the comments below. Have you heard of Katherine?

00:08:35:16 - 00:08:53:13

Kelly Deutsch

And if so, where did you first learn about her? And if you found this video helpful, insightful, interesting, please let us know. It always helps us know what resonates with people. So thanks for joining us on Spiritual Wanderlust and learning more about this little known mystic.

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