The Road Ahead

Thomas Merton, the famous Trappist monk, is a major part of my post-college reversion to Catholicism. At the time I read The Seven Storey Mountain, God had already begun to lead me back home, and He was using Buddhism to help me make the journey.

I had recently read contemporary and traditional Buddhist works, gone to weekly meditation, and attended Nichiren chant. I could see the grains of truth present in the beautiful silence and mystical focus I encountered. But I was not satisfied. When I checked out Merton’s book on a whim, I read through it day and night, even daring to take a library book on a trip across five states. I felt like Dorothy returning from Oz: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

If the brutal honesty, intellect and mysticism of Merton’s Mountain could be found in Catholicism, why go anywhere else? If Christ could love a man whose college years were so similar to my own, then surely He could love me! I swam even more heartily back the across the Tiber from the land of the East.

Merton has continued to be a favorite of mine throughout my bouts with depression. One prayer of his in particular has helped me through many of my most hopeless days. It is stored in a Word doc on the desktop of my work computer, now alongside the beautiful photo above by MONKROCK. The document is titled “Reminder”:

“MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

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