Memories, Memories, Memories the impact of words will sometimes change our lives.
Have you read a poem or heard a song that caused you to breathe from a deep place within you? Or maybe you heard a speech, sermon, or presentation that made you question, how did they know? Where were they? Were they with me? I have had a few moments where I knew deep within my heart, in a place where I don’t invite anyone to go, and only the unexpected words or people slip through. And to add to this, encounter a word like “Cloistered.” Wow! I hadn’t heard that word in a long time. Yet, this prayer by Thomas Merton a Cloistered Trappist monk took me to one of those moments and brought back a flood of memories.
Most of you reading this article don’t know me or that I once lived with Nuns. No, it wasn’t a convent, I lived at The Fontbonne a professional women’s residence under the options of the Sisters of St. Joseph. My mother knew someone who had lived at The Fontbonne, and if I was leaving home to be closer to the school, my only option was to live at The Fontbonne.
The building was a beautiful seven-story building in downtown Cincinnati. The Fontbonne had many amenities; a cafeteria which was open to the public, and a chapel where Mass was held in Latin every Wednesday evening. There were multi-purposes rooms, a library, a music room with a piano, an indoor pool, and a beautiful fountain located on the back patio of the building. The women came from various geographic locations, cultures, races, ages, and occupations.
My move came during the time when the Sisters were making a change in their style of dress. Some Sisters wore mid-length black dresses with their bonnet, a sort of close-fitting cap, and a necklace with the crucifix. Other Sisters continued to dress in the traditional long Habit and the Whipple the piece that covers the neck. At first, the change in dress was a little confusing, but we soon adjusted and life moved on.
Late at night some of us would explore the building. The chapel closed at night, but you could go to the small balcony that overlooked the chapel. Most of the Sisters lived on the second floor, but there was a particular area through a door leading from the balcony where we heard the cloistered nuns lived. I had never heard about Cloistered Nuns, after all, I was a Baptist girl, so this was all a new term to me, but as I understand it, the decision and commitment they make are to live a life of silence and prayer.
Isn’t it funny what words can do? Can you see the power in words? Words help us to recall good or bad events, times, places, people, but this time words gave me a sense of relief. A relief in a place where no one is invited to come, and only the unexpected word, deed or person slips through the doors to this place. You see, I knew the words of the prayer were for me. He prayed as if I had asked him to pray for me. And as the tension (I didn’t know existed) gave way I knew all was well with my soul!
The prayer has no title, but people have taken it upon themselves to give the prayer a title which I find odd. Nevertheless, I want you to read it for yourself. Experience it for yourself.
Found in Thoughts In Solitude by Thomas Merton (1958)
“My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
I feel the depth of his struggle, I hear the yearning, and the needing that lives in his heart, the hope that grows in his desire. Can you see the movement, can you feel the movement of freedom as it claims its place in Merton’s heart? Now I can feel a change in his breathing and he has reached a conclusion. Thomas’s conclusion is I will Trust God’s Word NO MATTER the depth of darkness in my life, NO MATTER the threat and uncertainty of life God will not leave me to go with me.
Do any of the words in Thomas Merton’s prayer resonate in you? Are you challenged in any way by his prayer? Lastly, what conclusions have you reached in your life about Trusting God NO MATTER WHAT?