You Just Never Know


MertonI find Merton’s journals always interesting. This is from an entry he wrote a few months before entering the monastery:

“I don’t know what I have written that I could really call mine, or what I have prayed or done that was good that came from my own will. Whose prayer made me pray again to God to give me grace to pray? I could have fought for years by myself to reduce my life to some order (for that was what I was trying to do—even to ridiculous extremes and the most eccentric disciplines, keeping records of what I drank, trying to cut out smoking by reducing the number of cigarettes every day, noting down the numbers in a book…weighing myself every few days, etc.!), yet I would have slowly eaten myself out, I think. But someone must have mentioned me in some prayer; perhaps the soul of some person I hardly remember—perhaps some stranger in a subway, or some child—or maybe the fact that someone as good as Lilly Reilly happened to think I was a good guy served as a prayer—or the fact that Nanny might have said my name in her prayers moved the Lord God to send me a little grace to pray again or, first, to begin reading books that led me there again—and how much of it was brought on by the war? Or maybe Brahmachariin some word to the Lord in his strange language moved the Lord to help me pray again! These things are inscrutable and I begin to know them better when I can write them down. How many people have become Christians through the prayers of Jews and Hindus who themselves find Christianity terribly hard? We cannot know all the movements of Christ’s grace.” Thomas Merton, Journals

I know there have been times in my life when I was absolutely convinced that simply by working very hard and doing the “right things” and going through the right motions, I could get closer to God. I had a hard time just letting go and accepting God’s grace. And who knows who may have uttered one prayer, or said one thing, that moved God to have mercy on me and to open me to just accept his mercy. Sometimes I think it would be nice to know about such things and maybe be able to thank this person or that. But even that isn’t necessary.

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