I will give you what you desire. I will lead you into solitude…Everything that touches you shall burn you, and you will draw your hand in pain, until you have withdrawn yourself from all things…Do not ask when it will be or where it will be or how it will be: On a mountain or in a prison, in a desert or in a concentration camp, or in a hospital or at Gethsemani. It does not matter. So do not ask me, because I am not going to tell you. You will not know until you are in it. But you shall taste the true solitude of my anguish and my poverty and I shall lead you into the high places of my joy and you shall die in Me and find all things in My Mercy which has created you for this end…That you may become the brother of God and learn to know the Christ of the burnt men.–Thomas Merton, Seven Storey Mountain
These words mean more to me today than they did when I first read them twenty-nine years ago. In a few days on the Feast of the Epiphany I will mark an anniversary of another sort. It was the time of my first visit to Piffard, New York and the Abbey of the Genesee. Often I have pondered these words and over the years their meaning has changed, but they continue to animate my life and I’m grateful to Thomas Merton, the Trappist monks of Genesee Abbey and the breath that leads me forward.