There is a new Merton Room in the Monastery’s Spiritual Resource Center. Our librarian, Sister Elizabeth Farias, worked for months to organize and index the extensive Merton collection of Sister Laura Daigle who died in 2009. Sister Laura possessed the deep and beautiful spirit of the contemplative, and felt a special affinity for the writings of Thomas Merton. Over her lifetime, she gathered books by and about him, and filled journals and notebooks with articles and notes about his writing. Now, Sisters who want to immerse themselves in Merton’s spirituality will find a comfortable chair and a fine view from the window for meditation.
We dedicated the new Room on December 10, the anniversary of the day in 1941 that Brother Thomas Merton entered Gethsemani Monastery, a Trappist Community in Kentucky. It is also the day he entered Heaven in 1968.
In his Holy Rule, St. Benedict tells us, “Whatever good work you begin to do, beg of God with most earnest prayer to perfect it.” In the Benedictine way, we bless new things and dedicate them to the Lord’s service; the blessing rests on all who use them.
The blessing ceremony began with Psalm 1, which contrasts the two paths we can take: a life dedicated to God and a life dedicated to worldly pleasures. In his wild youth and adolescence, Merton tasted the second path of worldliness and found it led only to spiritual death. He returned to the first path and dedicated the rest of his life to God.
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
The ceremony continued with excerpts from Merton’s writings by Sister Sarah O’Malley. Sister Edith Bogue shared some thoughts on Merton’s life. Sister Elizabeth then posthumously thanked Sister Laura Daigle for her diligent collecting of Merton’s works. Sister Beverly Raway, Prioress, blessed the room with Holy Water (carefully avoiding splashing the books), and prayed,
God of all wisdom, pour out your blessings on this Thomas Merton library room. Surround this room with your Holy Spirit and all the gifts of the Spirit. May the Holy Light of God’s Presence shone forth and bless everyone who comes to this room.
May all who use these books grow in true wisdom, peace, knowledge, courage and spirituality. May they know personal growth and transformation that becomes a leaven to transform our world. We are truly grateful for this collection, for all who have been a part of this important endeavor, and all who will carry on this important ministry – that in all things God may be glorified.
May God’s Holy Blessing rest upon us all, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sister Laura once commented that we are all born with rough edges: “Let me live long enough that my rough edges are smoothed down so I can slide into Heaven,” and we are certain she watched the blessing rite from Heaven with great satisfaction.
You, too, can dedicate your spaces, your tools, and your work to God. Nothing is too small or mundane to receive a blessing. In Minnesota right now, we watch the skies uneasily, awaiting the delayed onslaught of winter. As you, too, watch for winter weather, bless your tools. Dedicate your shovels, plow truck, and snow blower to God. When you use them tools, God will bless your work.