The ancient desert fathers and mothers taught that staying in place was an essential part of spiritual advancement. Abba Moses wrote, “Go sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.” In the fourth century, “sit in your cell” meant real isolation: no TV, internet, cell phone, Kindle or library books, no vacation away. It meant continual and perpetual silence and solitude, in one place.
A few centuries later, in his Rule, Saint Benedict was quick to criticize the monks who traveled around and wandered from place to place. He called them “gyrovagues” and claimed that they were the worst kind of monks. In contrast, he praised the practice of his own monks, who stayed put and who belonged “to a monastery where they serve under a rule and an abbot.”