The Merton Prayer 4/3/2013   4 comments

While my interest in wordy prayer has fallen over the years, believing that silence is always better than words, even if  the words are not spoken aloud. I do this comfortably sitting, not in any unfriendly posture like a badly suffering earth worm or yoga enthusiast. I find that breathing in the first silence of dawn when the sun begins to make itself felt, when the preciously sonorous song of a very determined wren graces the earth with delight, I do at times come back to the prayer with which I have always felt  mostly comfortable. Merton’s famous creation is from  the early version of SEEDS Of CONTEMPLATION I believe. It has been around for well over 50 years but includes some words which I can no longer favor.

How about LORD? If you look up this sadly overused word,  you will find that most of its definitions tend to an unflattering description  of the individual described thereby. The word for me leads to visions of criminally insane masters of cruelly treated peasants and affords no visions of an Entity whose whole Being is love. I eschew this word and borrow a description from our Native Americans: Great Spirit. There are a few other changes. I feel much better with them and can use the prayer well. Sorry Fr. Louis but things have changed and I’ve had to also.



Great Spirit, we have no idea where we are going. We do not see the road ahead of us.

We cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do we really know ourselves, and the

fact that we think we are following  your will does not mean that we are actually doing so.

But we believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And we hope we have

that desire in all that we are doing. We hope that we will never do anything apart from

that desire. And we know that if we do this you will lead us by the right road though we

may know nothing about it. Therefore we will trust you always though we may seem to

be lost and in the shadow of death, we will try not to fear, for you are ever with us and

you will never leave us to face out perils alone.


Posted April 2, 2013 by 72randy in Uncategorized

4 responses to “The Merton Prayer 4/3/2013

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  1. Randy: Thanks for your reply. . . . Yes, I am the guy from Hawaii (see page 73 of volume three of The Journals of Thomas Merton). I arrived at Gethsemani’s front door on the evening Oct. 11, 1955. The next morning the whole place was abuzz with the fact that Dom Walter had been elected Abbot of Genesee. A few days later I was standing in the choir stalls next to Frater Benedict, my assigned “guardian angel.” Hand-signs thereafter were that the “big writer” had been assigned to replace Dom Walter as Novice Master. Dom Walter gave me the woolen Oblate Habit immediately to keep me warm and the name “Pedro” before he departed for Genesee. My records show that I received the novice habit together with Frater Dennis on the Feast of St. Joseph March 19, 1956 after having been “oblates” while studying Latin with Father Augustine for nearly six months. I departed the novitiate on September 18, 1957 during the Grand Tritium and returned to Hawaii only to fine myself like a fish out of the water. I re-entered the monastic life six months later as a Lay Brother at Our Lady of New Clairvaux, Vina, California. Dom Anselm, the Prior, gave me the name, Brother Francis of Assisi. In 1959 New Clairvaux was raised to the rank of an Abbey and I pronounced my Simple Vows as a Lay Brother on May 26, 1960. A year later I found myself in Hong Kong, China, together with three other monks from New Clairvaux to help the Chinese monks at Our Lady of Joy on the Island of Lantao, just six miles off-shore from Hong Kong. I never made Solemn Vows and returned to Hawaii three years later on May 26, 1964. Once again, I found myself like a fish out of the water. I enlisted in the U.S, Navy in the summer of 1966 after two years of studies at Hawaii’s Catholic College, The Navy provided me with the necessary skills to survive in this crazy world. While on active duty I managed to earn my B.A. in Anthropology from American University, Washington, D.C.. I retired from the Navy as a Chief Petty Officer after nearly 30 years of service in 1995. I attempted to make another stab at the monastic life by entering a Benedictine Abbey not too far from the American Catholic University, Washington, D.C… I lasted for six years, and once again, I never made Solemn Vows. After that, I manage to find employment at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.. I also managed to earn my M.A. in American History from George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and retired as a Federal Employee after one year and nine months on the staff at the Executive Office of the President (the White House) in 2008. In the summer of 2013, I moved from the Washington, DC metropolitan area to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. If I am correct, I live less than an hours drive north of your rose garden. Imagine that! Maybe we can meet at Starbuck for a cup of coffee somewhere in Charlottesville. Before I close this blog, let me thank you for your wonderful article on Father Louis (Thomas Merton). Everything you wrote about him is true. I must let you know that while we were together in the novitiate it was obvious to many of the rest of us that you were Father Louis favorite novice. I think he was going through some tough time while we were in the novitiate. But you made him smile and laugh throughout it all. He lite up when he saw you and, yes, the rest of us novices wondered what the hell was going on during your time of spiritual direction behind closed doors with all that racket. Some of us (or should I say “I”) felt left out when he singled you and Frater Vincent to participate in “breathing lessons” on how to meditate; or when Father John of the Cross took you and Frater Vincent to his favorite swimming hole for a swim, You and Frater Vincent were like “best buds” in the novitiate (hand-signs a mile a minute non-stop!). However, you gave me the impression in your article that this may not be true. I must let you know that as far as I am concerned, you have a heart bigger than the Pentagon. You are one of the most charitable person I have known in my life: since I am a slow learner (and at time somewhat retarded) you were always there to help me in choir when I did not know the proper place in the Antiphonary or the Psalter among other things. Well, enough of this, as I might embarrass you to no end. God bless you. . . . Oh! before I close this blog, let me mention that after a year in the Navy, I told my mother that I had stopped going to Mass on Sundays, She in her infinite wisdom looked at me and said lovingly, “don’t worry . . . when you are nice and ready you will return.” She was right. After ten years of hiatus from the Church, I returned with full fervor. It was not easy. In this day and age, it is so difficult to be a catholic with all that crazy things going on. What a circus ! ! ! I agree with you. . . organize religion sucks !

    Your brother in Jesus Christ, Frater Pedro (1955-1957)
  2. Hi, Sabastian (Randy)! . . . . Here is a better prayer than Uncle Tommy’s: “My life is but a weaving between my God and me; I may not choose the colors, He knows what they should be; for He can view the pattern upon the upper side, while I can see it only on this, the under side. Sometimes He weaveth sorrow, which seemeth strange to me; but I will trust His judgment, and work on faithfully; ’tis He who fills the shuttie, He knows just what is best; so I shall weave in earnest and leave with Him the rest. At last, when life is ended, with Him I shall abide, then I may view the pattern upon the upper side; then I shall know the reason why pain with joy entwined, was woven in the fabric of life that God designed.” (Poem: LIFE’S WEAVING)

    Your brother in Jesus Christ, Frater Pedro (1955-1957)
    • Wow! What a thrill to hear from someone from those days. Where are you and what have you done over the years? I think I have a vague remembrance of you though seem perhaps to confuse you with one of the novices who I think came from Hawaii.At this age it is a wonder to remember just about anything at all. Tell me about yourself if you get a chance. I’m fairly well for this age, still active, read a lot and try to absorb as much early morning silence as possible. The world remains an enigma for me but the wonder of our natural surroundings is always a plus as evidenced by the rising sun. Be filled with peace and much joy.

  3. Another note has been struck? Not being as mentally astute as my dear friend Randy (although being described as “mental” many times in my life) this Merton prayer (unedited version) which I discovered years ago (in “Thoughts in Solitude”) has been my favorite for years. Great commentary on it! I still start out with: “My Lord, God”……I guess I am waiting for my next beating!

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