Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Shrine to the Little Flower - St. Bonaventure University

Wandering around the St. Bonaventure University campus yesterday, I happened upon the Shrine to St. Theresa of the Divine Child of Jesus, the Little Flower.

I'm pretty sure this is the shrine before which Thomas Merton was praying when he received the message that he was to join the Trappists.

Update:  This is from a brochure showing the Merton places on the St. Bonaventure campus:
St. Therese’s shrine is also known as the shrine of the “Little Flower.” It was at this shrine that Thomas Merton prayed for guidance one evening. “You show me what to do. If I get into the monastery, I will be your monk. Now show me what to do.” It was then he imagined he heard the Trappist bells of Gethsemani monastery which he had visited the previous Easter. Soon afterward he left St. Bonaventure and joined the Trappists in Louisville, Kentucky.
And there is an error in that entry.  The Trappist monastery which Merton joined is not in Louisville.  Our Lady of Gethsemani monastery is in Nelson County, Kentucky, at least 45 miles from Louisville.  I think that the official post office for Gethsemani is Nerinx, Ky.  The nearest towns are New Haven and Bardstown KY.

Update 2, 8/24/2010 from Gabrielle's comments:

  ... It's November 28, 1941. Merton is anxious and experiencing many conflicts in his mind. He finally decides to go and talk to Fr. Philotheus, but he can't get up the courage to go see him right away. "So I pray to Saint Theresa, in the grove. While I am praying to her the question becomes clear: all I want to know is, do I have a chance to be a priest after all. I don't want him to argue for or against the Trappists. I know I want to be a Trappist... I want to be a priest - but I am told there is an impediment [note: what the Franciscans told him, re his having a child]. While I am praying to her, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, it is like hearing the bells in the tower, ringing for Matins in the middle of the night. I walk through the grove saying she will help me to be her Trappist - Theresa's Trappist, at Gethsemani."

He finally got up the courage to talk to Fr. Philotheus who gave his opinion immediately that canonically there was no impediment to Merton's being a priest, and advised him to take a retreat at Gethsemani during the upcoming Christmas vacation.

He truly loved St. Therese (he was "knocked out" by the story of her life), but not so much the typical statues of her: "...the scandal of cheap, molasses-art and gorgonzola angels that surrounds the cultus of this great saint." [Oct. 8, 1941]

I took this info from "Run to the Mountain. The Journals of Thomas Merton, Vol. 1"

8 comments:

  1. kind of makes me want to put something similar in my backyard....perfect for a garden

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  2. dunno.

    Not sure if the it's the statue itself, or the idea of St. Theresa that captivated Merton.

    I work for a lot of wealthy Jewish people and have observed that they decorate their homes and yards with abstract art and sculpture the way that Catholics do with icons and statues.

    But you're right about Merton evolving in his sense of art and the sacred. I can see him perhaps arranging rocks in his later years.

    I'm both intrigued and repulsed by most religious art.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Beth -

    I love these images! There is something special and mysterious when you are in the place where a holy person once stood and prayed.
    When I visited Corpus Christi in NYC I felt Fr. Louis' very presence - as though he was standing beside me.

    I have come to know him so much more through your blog. Thank you!

    rgds
    Brian

    ReplyDelete
  4. I know what you mean, Brian, though skeptic that I am, I tend to discount such feelings.

    It was funny that while I was wandering around the campus, I was drawn to a window in one of the older buildings, and took a few photos of it. I found out later - by reading the brochure - that that was the very room that Merton lived in while he was there. Talk about uncanny! I guess I should put that photo up on this blog, but it still feels too personal or something.

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  5. For those who have faith in God there are no coincideces Beth. He leads us, speaks to us, loves us through each other and the world.

    and

    western religious art is no more over do than Buddhist art. All symbol and reminder - But I too have mixed feelings at times about it all.

    Nice photos.

    Br. William OSB

    ReplyDelete
  6. Beth, it's November 28, 1941. Merton is anxious and experiencing many conflicts in his mind. He finally decides to go and talk to Fr. Philotheus, but he can't get up the courage to go see him right away. "So I pray to Saint Theresa, in the grove. While I am praying to her the question becomes clear: all I want to know is, do I have a chance to be a priest after all. I don't want him to argue for or against the Trappists. I know I want to be a Trappist... I want to be a priest - but I am told there is an impediment [note: what the Franciscans told him, re his having a child]. While I am praying to her, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, it is like hearing the bells in the tower, ringing for Matins in the middle of the night. I walk through the grove saying she will help me to be her Trappist - Theresa's Trappist, at Gethsemani."

    He finally got up the courage to talk to Fr. Philotheus who gave his opinion immediately that canonically there was no impediment to Merton's being a priest, and advised him to take a retreat at Gethsemani during the upcoming Christmas vacation.

    He truly loved St. Therese (he was "knocked out" by the story of her life), but not so much the typical statues of her: "...the scandal of cheap, molasses-art and gorgonzola angels that surrounds the cultus of this great saint." [Oct. 8, 1941]

    I took this info from "Run to the Mountain. The Journals of Thomas Merton, Vol. 1".

    I'm so glad you got to go to St. Bonaventure, Beth. Your attraction to his window and room is not surprising to me, considering the intimacy you have developed over the decades.

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  7. Thanks, Gabrielle! That adds a lot to the sense of the place at St. Bonaventure.

    ReplyDelete

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