Monday, December 6, 2010


Photo by Thomas Merton

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


  1. Why have I not done more?
    No meaningful answer spring to mind...

  2. I don't have any meaningful answers, either, Jofindia, other than that I've been too preoccupied with my own safety and well-being.

  3. i read these words today re: dorothy day and the catholic worker experience on NCR:
    "It was a source of incredible frustration, disappointment and anguish.” and her way to salvation.

    working with the came up recently when I was trying to explain to someone trying to help me with my "career" what I was proud of - a homeless man who I found very unpleasant who I had to work with: I mean that kind of gut "icknyness" you get...who told my daughter many months later, when we met unexpectedly, that I was his "hero"

    when I told the person about this I almost started crying but I don't know why...

    i don't like it but God is there

  4. oh yeah, the article:

    Father Berrigan

  5. I think that I know what you mean about the "ickyness" of the homeless man, and having to cross that line. I think it has something to do with kissing the leper within. I don't understand any of it, but I do sort of understand your tears.

    good Berrigan article. Thanks for alerting me to it. Dan's really saying the same thing he's always said. I remember him saying at a Pax Christi retreat back in the early 90s: "Do the good in front of you".

  6. Beth,

    The last few lines of this reflection are powerful. I am reading these words in the comfort of an office in New York. And I am in the import produce business - one of the largest in the USA. And I am told by co-workers how wonderful it is to work in an industry that provides good healthy food. And that is certainly true - but the food only goes to those who can afford it. If the food, for any number of reasons, is spoiled and not marketable - maybe - just maybe, it will go to a food bank. Most probably it will be re-packed - to sell whatever is able to be salvaged.

    This good earth can feed the world population 25 times over. As my hero Harry Chapin would always say - why - why - why - are so many people going hungry. Only one answer - GREED. And we will all pay a price for it when He comes to seperate the goats from the sheep.

    I hope you had many hits for this post.

    God bless you Beth - have a joyous Christmas season!

  7. Thank you, Brian.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family. Much love.


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