Merton encounters someone trying to atone for mistakes he's made . . .
The secular priest with the white hair was more of a mystery. He was a big, bluff fellow, with some kind of an accent which led me to place him as a Belgian. He was not entering the community, but it seemed he had been there in the guest house for some time. In the afternoons he put on a pair of overalls, and went about painting benches and other furniture, and he laughed and talked with the others.
As he talked, his talk seemed strange to me. In a place like this, you would expect someone to say something, at least indirectly, about religion. And yet that was a subject on which he seemed to be inarticulate. The only thing he seemed to know anything about was strength, strength and work. At the dinner table, he rolled up his sleeve and said:
“Huh! Look at dat mossel!”
And he flexed a huge biceps for the edification of the retreatants.
I found out afterwards that he was under ecclesiastical censure, and was in the monastery doing penance. The poor man, for some reason or another, had not lived as a good priest. In the end, his mistakes had caught up with him. He had come into contact with some schismatics, in a sect known as “the Old Catholics” and these people persuaded him to leave the Church and come over to them. And when he did so, they made him an archbishop.
I suppose he enjoyed the dignity and the novelty of it for a while: but the whole thing was obviously silly. So he gave it up and came back. And now here he was in the monastery, serving Mass every morning for a young Trappist priest who scarcely had the oils of his ordination dry on his hands.
We all have done things that we regret, just like the secular priest with the white hair. And then we have to atone in some way. Make up for the mistakes we've made..
It has been a long time since I've written a blog post. Much has happened. My son turned from a 12-year-old into a teenager. I celebrated another Saint Marty's Day, about a week ago. No tapioca, yet. I did receive some wonderful presents from my family. Work has been busy. Insane. Lots of readings and concerts and teaching and programs. My wife got a job and lost a job. Life has been . . . complicated.
I have made mistakes/make mistakes every day. I get angry. Despondent. I stay up too late at night. Eat too much junk food. (I just ate a soggy bowl of Lucky Charms.) I watch horror films right before I go to bed and have terrible dreams. I let my son watch those movies with me.
But I also got things right/get things right. I helped my daughter get her car fixed. I take my son to poetry workshops, tell him he's amazing. I try to uplift a friend who is facing some major health struggles. And I try to laugh every day.
That's what I have tonight. I'm trying to be okay, and I'm trying to get back on track, especially with my writing.
Saint Marty is back. For tonight.