Sweating It Out
Saying Mass in the secular chapel these days has been very beautiful. Because of the heat, the front doors are left open, and I stand and speak to Christ on the dark altar, and outside the catbirds in the damp trees shout and sing.
I have never sweated so much in my life, even at Gethsemani. The heat has gone unrelieved for three weeks. No air. Nothing is dry. Water comes out of you as soon as anything—even the air itself—touches your skin, and you kneel in choir with sweat rolling down your ribs, and you feel as if you were being smothered by a barber with hot towels, only this barber doesn’t leave a hole for you to breathe through.
Out at work the other day we got into some tomato plants that had been overwhelmed by morning glories, and the soil was full of broken bricks. I think it must have been the site of the old monastery. Anyway we did penance that must have been like the days of Dom Benedict. Tides of sweat coming out of you, blinding your face, making your clothes weigh twice their ordinary weight. And yet somehow it is good and satisfying to suffer these things for the world and do some penance we are supposed to do. At night, when we stand in our boiling tunnel of a church, and shout our Salve at the lighted window, you feel the whole basilica moving with the exultation of the monks and brothers who are dissolving in their own sweat.
July 5, 1949, II.334