October 21, 2020

Meditations from Gethsemani

Monday Merton Musings, Oct 31, 2011
Meditations from Gethsemani

It is good to be back with you, my friends. Thank you for understanding my need for a sabbatical. The past few months have been among the most intense and draining of my life. My edges were becoming all frayed and sparks flew whenever I got bent or twisted the wrong way. I was ready for a break and some mending.

Throughout the week I will share some thoughts from a journal kept during the time I spent at The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani. For today, I offer a taste of the visuals and writings that I took in while experiencing a few days of silence there.

Take your time, embrace the quiet, savor Thomas Merton’s wisdom, enjoy the view.

All quotes are from The Sign of Jonas, by Thomas Merton
Click on the pictures for larger views.

• • •

“I got some taste of how much there is to be glad for in the world because of Gethsemani.”








“In the average monastery, Trappist silence is an all-pervading thing that seeps into the very stones of the place and saturates the men who live there.”







“Meanwhile, for myself, I have only one desire and that is the desire for solitude—to disappear into God, to be submerged in His peace, to be lost in the secret of His Face.”







“You have made my soul for Your peace and Your silence, but it is lacerated by the noise of my activity and my desires. My mind is crucified all day by its own hunger for experience, for ideas, for satisfaction. And I do not possess my house in silence. But I was created for Your peace and You will not despise my longing for the holiness of Your deep silence. O my Lord…”




“The contemplative life becomes awfully thin and drab if you go for several days at a time without thinking explicitly of the Passion of Christ. I do not mean, necessarily, meditating, but at least attending with love and humility to Christ on the Cross. For His Cross is the source of all our life and without it prayer dries up and everything goes dead.”




“Let me rest in Your will and be silent. Then the light of Your joy will warm my life. Its fire will burn in my heart and shine for Your glory. This is what I live for. Amen, amen.”









  1. Welcome back. Looking forward to you sharing with us how your journey went.

  2. I’m so glad that you had a nice time there.

    Wonderful photos.

    I know many enjoy and or feel re-spiritualized that from that type of thing, but I think it is the last thing in the world I would ever want to do.

    I just love to speak to people too much and find out about them, their hopes, their hurts, their joys. And I love to hear laughter.

    But hey…I guess that we (people) are so different is a gift of God.

    • Actually, I love all of that too, Steve. It’s really the first time I ever intentionally sought an extended period of silence and it was sorely needed.

      • Well…I could be wrong.

        Maybe that’s the kind of place that a guy like me could flourish. (nobody could tell on me) 😀

        Glad you had as chance to recharge your batteries, C. Mike.

    • Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

      The Habit of Perfection

      Elected Silence, sing to me
      And beat upon my whorlèd ear,
      Pipe me to pastures still and be
      The music that I care to hear.

      Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:
      It is the shut, the curfew sent
      From there where all surrenders come
      Which only makes you eloquent.

      Be shellèd, eyes, with double dark
      And find the uncreated light:
      This ruck and reel which you remark
      Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.

      Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
      Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
      The can must be so sweet, the crust
      So fresh that come in fasts divine!

      Nostrils, your careless breath that spend
      Upon the stir and keep of pride,
      What relish shall the censers send
      Along the sanctuary side!

      O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet
      That want the yield of plushy sward,
      But you shall walk the golden street
      And you unhouse and house the Lord.

      And, Poverty, be thou the bride
      And now the marriage feast begun,
      And lily-coloured clothes provide
      Your spouse, not laboured-at nor spun.


  3. Beautiful, Mike. Some of the passages you quote will become prayers for me, I know.

  4. The peacefulness… this is a tease Chaplain Mike – as I am probably in grave need of a week (more likely a long weekend). The silence brings out so many of the other senses, and when I am not reading, or even if I am and I break to look out at the landscape – I see/hear/feel so much more than I would.

    Steve – I like to engage a lot myself, but you really got to step out of the box and be open – even just once – to experience this – drop the guard, any presupositions and just be – and if it doesn’t work for you – at least you had a chance to slow down, kick your feet back and rest…

    • Fair enough. Maybe you’re right. Maybe someday I’ll have the opportunity.

      • Okay, dumb question, Steve, but do Protestant churches have anything like Eucharistic adoration (yeah, I know, no reserved eucharist) but rather what I mean is, is it uncommon to just go into a church and sit there for an hour in quiet prayer or contemplation or just thinking?

        Start small and work your way up – an hour, if you can manage it, just sitting in the pew with your Bible or your thoughts 🙂

        • Steve ~ My experience is that Protestants are afraid of silence. We must fill up every moment with praise music or the sound of our own voices. I attended a Bible Study last week at a Lutheran church. We started with the first 8 verses of the gospel of Mark. Then the pastor said we would have time for silent reflection. I was pleasantly surprised. I cynically thought, “those are 2 words I NEVER expected to hear in a group Bible study. Silent and reflection.

        • Richard Hershberger says

          Some Anglican churches reserve the eucharist. I would not be flabbergasted to find a Eucharistic adoration in an Anglo-Catholic parish. As for just sitting quietly in church for an hour, it isn’t unheard of but it isn’t a significant part of Protestant traditions.

          • It varies all over the place, Martha.

            Personally whenever I am flabbergasted or having a bad day and I step into a church, everything floods out. One time I went to visit a church for a little while and ending up spending about 3 hours there. In silence. It is good to be still and know the Lord.

    • On that note, I think that sometimes this whole aspect of spirituality is a bit unexplored by Protestants. Sometimes the idea of contemplation drums up images of hermits and extreme ascetics — a path that seems unattainable, “exotic,” or disconnected from the ordinary person’s journey.

      Henri Nouwin wrote a book that I found helpful, “The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality in Contemporary Ministry” which discusses on what people living ordinary lives in the world can learn from the desert fathers. The general idea was the silence presented the opportunity for a person to let the noises around him and inside his mind die away, so that he could focus on God. Nouwin argues that this kind of contemplation prepares you spiritually for your more practical tasks, including relating to other people.

      • David Cornwell says

        “I think that sometimes this whole aspect of spirituality is a bit unexplored by Protestants.”

        Very true.

        • Richard Hershberger says

          Luther had some decidedly strong–and not favorable–opinions on monasticism, based on firsthand experience. Much of this was in reaction to the idea of monasticism as the norm, or at least the ideal: that it represented the truest form of Christianity. It is clear to me that for some people (and for many more people at certain points in their lives) the monastic life is a powerful tool. For others it would be a spiritually empty endurance test. Luther was right to reject it as a one size fits all Christian life, but we Protestants did rather throw the baby out with the bathwater by abandoning it so completely.

  5. Christiane says

    ” The world is too much with us; late and soon,
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
    Little we see in Nature that is ours;
    We have given our hearts away . . . .
    . . . For this, for everything, we are out of tune ”

    William Wordsworth

    • Christiane says

      “Stand at the crossroads and look;
      ask for the ancient paths,
      ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
      and you will find rest for your souls. ”

      Jeremiah 6:16

      Our modern ways hurt us when we forget that we shall not live by bread alone.
      The hunger for Christ impels us to seek Him
      in the quiet places where He waits for us; by the stilled waters where He waits for us.

  6. I just returned from time at a Benedictine Monastery called Westminster Abbey.

    It was very beneficial to just withdraw and recalibrate some.

    Dennis Okholm has a good book on some of the positive aspects of this:
    Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants

  7. Nice golf course, but the lawn ornaments are a bit tacky. (My Mexican neighbors have one.)

    They should probably string some barbed wire over that fence…

  8. Welcome back Chaplain Mike ~ please share some of the gladness you got a taste of with us. I am in real need of it.

  9. Welcome back, Chaplain Mike! I look forward to reading more about your sabbatical.

  10. still waiting for the reformation day posting – only one more hour until all saints day … 😉

  11. The third quote really sounded a familiar note with me — I need a sabbatical myself soon. Welcome back, CM!