Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Year With Thomas Merton - February 14

An Untidy Holy Life

Today we commemorate Blessed Conrad--one of the Cistercian hermits.

I might as well say that in the novitiate I did not like the hermits of our Order. Their stories were inconclusive. They seemed to have died before finding out what they were supposed to achieve.

Now I know there is something important about the very incompleteness of Blessed Conrad: hermit in Palestine, by St. Bernard's permission. Starts home for Clairvaux when he hears St. Bernard is dying. Gets to Italy and hears St. Bernard is dead. Settles in a wayside chapel outside Bari and dies there. What an untidily unplanned life! No order, no sense, no system, no climax. Like a book without punctuation that suddenly ends in the middle of a sentence.

Yet I know those are the books I really like!

Blessed Conrad cannot possibly be solidified or ossified in history. He can perhaps be caught and held in a picture, but he is like a photograph of a bird in flight--too accurate to look the way a flying bird seems to appear to us. We never saw the wings in that position. Such is the solitary vocation. For, of all men, the solitary knows least where he is going, and yet he is more sure, for there is one thing he cannot doubt: he travels where God is leading him. That is precisely why he doesn't know the way. And that too is why, to most other men, the way is something of a scandal.

February 14, 1953, III.30-31


  1. "'Tis here resides the love you've given,
    the gift of dancing in the flames,
    of restless inhibition shriven,
    beyond all words - beyond all names --"

    J'attends toujours.