It was in the early 70s that we lived near a monastery which was famous for one of it's monks,Thomas Merton.His writings were published throughout the world and had influenced many believers,including myself.
My husband, small children and I went to this peaceful monastery and walked the hills that surround it.As we approached the monastery church ,we were joined on the shaded path by a tall, smiling monk in denim who had just come in from the fields.Ah, I thought, a spiritual brother of my mentor, Thomas.
We had barely said hello when the monk said,"I don't know what I am doing here".As we walked it became apparent that he had lost his faith.We walked and talked and a connection was made.
He came for Thanksgiving dinner that year and was happy to be having meat for the first time in 20 years.The turkey was bleeding but, in his kindness ,he never batted an eye.In time, we got a letter that he had left his monastery and married.He stopped by our house once, after we had moved to another state, and that visit in the early 80s was the last that we saw of him.
However, we always kept in touch ,by Christmas cards and an occasional letter.He was such a good writer that I loved hearing from him.His Christmas cards were studiously secular and mine were abundantly religious.The first one we got was bordered in black and we received many with cardinals and snowy scenes.We discussed his hero Carl Sagan once in a letter and I said that he suffered from hubris.
I prayed for him over the years and shared my faith and then in recent years the cards stopped.I didn't send any or he didn't and now I am not sure when I last heard from him.Until last Wednesday,when I recognized his writing on an envelope.This is all he wrote on a piece of monastery stationary.It is from "The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson and the speaker is God:
"Strange, piteous ,futile thing !
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?..
Of all man's clotted clay the dingiest clot?
Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me ?"