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Monastic Prayer – An Unusual Reflection

May 22, 2020
Two feathered friends we have spent time with on our rambles.

As Denise and I hiked in Hermit Park Open Space late this afternoon we truly sensed the Spirit’s presence in the midst of the glory of God’s creation. Butterflies were flying around us and the flowers were in brilliant bloom, especially the pasque flowers pictured below.

Pasque flowers in Hermit Park Open Space.

As we walked along the Moose Meadow Trail we were both intrigued by the call and response of the birds (I believe they were robins by the sound of their call) as the sun was beginning to lower in the western sky. Their almost antiphonal singing took me back to the experience of antiphonal readings and prayers which I had experienced at St Bernard’s Abbey in Cullman, Alabama.

Instead of human voices chanting the prayers and the psalms, it was the birds singing their hymn of praise to their Creator. One would sing and then stop. The other would immediately pick up the note and sing. A monastic call and response being shared in the cathedral of God’s creation by these lovely musicians.

I then remembered the times when Thomas Merton wrote about praying the Benedictine Liturgy of the
Hours

in his hermitage along with simply observing and hearing the worship of God’s creation. The more time that Merton spent in his hermitage, the more he sensed a holy kinship with his wild neighbors. In his poem, The Trappist Abbey: Matins (Our Lady of Gethsemani, Kentucky) he shares the following observation about the prayers of nature.

When the full fields begin to smell of sunrise
And the valleys sing in their sleep,
The pilgrim moon pours over the solemn darkness
Her waterfalls of silence,
And then departs, up the long avenue of trees.

The stars hide, in the glade, their light, like tears
And tremble where some train runs, lost,
Baying in eastward mysteries of distance,
Where fire flares, somewhere, over a sink of cities. (In the Dark Before Dawn: New Selected Poems of Thomas Merton (p. 26))

Besides the two of us enjoying this sacred Vesper Service we had another friend enjoying it with us.

Our Moose friend in Moose Marsh!
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