Thursday, June 27, 2013

Holy Presence

Downsizing... I pull from the shelf a dog-eared book, Thomas Merton's first autobiographical work:  The Seven Storey Mountain.  There is a yellow post-it note in it.  Writing on it:  Mine.  The words say:  Holy Presence.

Though I intend to give the book away, as I've read it numerous times, I set it aside - to savor the place I've marked.  A passage which must contain the essence of something I wanted to flag.  First paragraph (below) sets the scene; second and third dig deeper; fourth paragraph contains the essence:
We were in a restaurant having something to eat, and the Baroness was talking about priests, and about the spiritual life and gratitude, and the ten lepers in the Gospel, of whom only one returned to give thanks to Christ for having cured them.  She had made what seemed to me to be certainly a good point.  But I suddenly noticed that it had struck the two Friars like a bombshell. 
Then I realized what was going on.  ...  I had not grasped before how much this was part of her work:  priests and religious had become indirectly, almost as important a mission field as her work in Harlem. ... When the Spirit of God finds a soul in which He can work, He uses that soul for any number of purposes:  opens out before its eyes a hundred new directions, multiplying its works and its opportunities for the apostolate, almost beyond belief and certainly far beyond the ordinary strength of a human being.
Here was this woman who had started out to conduct a more or less obscure work helping the poor in Harlem, now placed in such a position that the work which had barely been begun was drawing to her souls from every part of the country, and giving her a sort of unofficial apostolate among the priesthood, the clergy, and the religious Orders.
What was it that she had to offer them, that they did not already possess?  One thing:  she was full of the love of God; and prayer and sacrifice and total uncompromising poverty had filled her soul with something which, it seemed, these two men had often looked for in vain in the dry and conventional and merely learned retreats that fell to their lot. And I could see that they were drawn to her by the tremendous spiritual vitality of the grace that was in her, a vitality which brought with it a genuine and lasting inspiration, because it put their souls in contact with God as a living reality.  And that reality, that contact, is something which we all need:  and one of the ways in which it has been decreed that we should arrive at it, is by hearing one another talk about God.  Fides ex auditu.  And it is no novelty for God to raise up saints who are not priests to preach to those who are priests -- witness the Baroness's namesake, Catherine of Sienna.
I might put it differently.  He might too.  Had he been alive today.  Reminds me of St. Francis:  "Preach always.  If necessary, use words."  And that reminds me of another Francis.  Who preaches by example.  Whose words yesterday match the way he lives:  "St. Peter did not have a bank account."

I'm tempted to preach here.  In words.  But I won't.

This whole blog:  Nothingness - pretty much - contains the essence.   

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