From Gerry Straub's blog:
In 2000, I spent the first week of Advent alone in Thomas Merton’s hermitage on the grounds of Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky. How I was given that chance is a long story, which I shall not burden you with. But here is a little something I wrote exactly ten years ago today.
Wednesday, December 6, 2000 – 10:40am, Merton’s Hermitage. After breakfast, I sat quietly in front of the fireplace. The house was really cold and I had not started the furnace, thinking I would wait until later this afternoon. After meditating for about 20 minutes, a picture flashed across my mind: the interior of an abandoned building in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, where squatters had set fire to the staircase to keep warm during a bitter cold night. I had been in the building – and many more like it – while making the documentary on the St. Francis Inn. One day, Fr. Francis Pompei, OFM found a young man in the abandoned building. He was bundled up against the cold night. His name was Efrem and he had been homeless for about a month. He said, “It’s rough.” A towering example of an understatement. Sitting alone in Merton’s hermitage – living in “rough” conditions – I’m reminded of the plight of the poor who live in far, far worse conditions because of injustice and not out of seeking a “spiritual” experience. We cannot walk toward God and turn our backs on our suffering brothers and sisters at the same time. If you are reading these words in the comfort of a home, put the book down and go show God’s mercy and love to someone who does not have a home. Get up. Do it now. To forget the poor is to forget God.
“It is the hour for prayer; if you hear the poor calling you, mortify yourself and leave God for God, although you must do everything you can not to omit your prayer, for that is what keeps you united to God; and as long as this union lasts you have nothing to fear.”
-St. Vincent de Paul