|Cover Sign of Jonas 1953|
I just finished a pair of Beeson Center courses that were focused on the spiritual formation of Christian leaders. One of the class groups was filled with North American pastors while the second had an enrollment of international Christian leaders from ten different countries.
My effort was to filter their personal experience of Christian growth through the lens of folks like Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, E. Stanley Jones, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Theresa, C.S. Lewis and the like. I also confess that my personal experience seeps through from time to time like a dim light under a closed door.
Merton and the Trappist rule of life becomes the centerpiece of the conversation. It happens that way because I get to decide who will achieve the priority position. John Maxwell would say, "Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less." Merton at the threshold is my way of influencing the conversation! No secret there.
I am also getting ready for an upcoming group that I will be leading at the Benet Hill Monastery between Parker and Colorado Springs. www.benethillmonestery.org I will be doing "A Day With Merton" in January and a six week segment in their contemporary mystics series.
To get ready I am reading and rereading the key Merton biographies and some of his core work. Right now, I am engaged with The Sign of Jonas. It is his journal that starts with Advent 1946 and goes through January of 1952.
The copy I am reading is just as interesting as the actual text that I am engaging. It is an original copy from 1953. It is not a first edition but it must be very close to the earliest publication. The inside cover shows a famous black and white photo of Merton walking through the woods at Gethsemani. Just inside the first page is a library stamp from the Carmelite Monestery of Waverly, New York. If you turn the next page it has a second library stamp from the Discalced Carmelite Fathers at 514 Warren Street in Brookline, Mass.
On May 4, 1947 (six months and one day before I was born!) Merton wrote a prayer. His journals are filled with reflections, insights, and the daily events of Trappist life within the cloister of Gethsemani Abbey. But on this day, he wrote a prayer.
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, You will not leave me forever in this sorrow, because I have trusted in You and I will wait upon Your good pleasure in peace without complaining any more. This, for Your glory.
Even though I was being knit together in my mother's womb...I pray that my soul will intersect with the spirit of this prayer.