Yesterday afternoon I went for a walk in the woods. I was on an old trail that used to be the haunt of four wheelers and snowmobiles. I don’t think its used much anymore. It was just what I needed in the midst of this pandemic. Luckily for me I live in a small village a long way from any major metropolis. Yet, I feel the anguish and anxiety of people who I will never know in this life. The woods and its’ trees have always been a cathedral for me. I feel closer to God when I’m in the woods. Sometimes I want to hold hands with Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh and retreat into the woods forever. That’s not realistic perhaps but it’s a yearning that I have. There is also a small pond near my home and I like to go there and just sit next to one of the large trees that are adjacent to the pond.
Today is Sunday. It’s the Fourth Sunday of Lent and other years I would be on my way to Mt Irenaeus for Mass and brunch but today that’s all a memory as churches and retreat centers are closed. Instead I found myself re-reading quotes from Thomas Merton who is one of my favorite authors. I’ve loved Merton most of my adult life and his writing resonates with me. Like him I am drawn to mystical prayer. In the midst of this chaos and suffering there is a spirit that some might call God. Some may call it a higher power and others may only long for peace and communion.
“Whether you teach or live in the cloister or nurse the sick, whether you are in religion or out of it, married or single, no matter who you are or what you are, you are called to the summit of perfection: you are called to a deep interior life perhaps even to mystical prayer, and to pass the fruits of your contemplation on to others. And if you cannot do so by word, then by example.
Yet if this sublime fire of infused love burns in your soul, it will inevitably send forth throughout the Church and the world an influence more tremendous than could be estimated by the radius reached by words or by example.”
― Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain