I’m not called to join the Trappist monks – but I am.
Growing up, I had a low regard for monasteries and the monastics who lived within them. The reclusiveness of monks and nuns seemed, well, odd. Somewhere in my naivete I concluded that they chose the monastic life because they feared “real life.” Their choice to form their own safe and regulated communities reinforced my ignorant assumption that they were perhaps unable to survive in the rough-and-tumble of the regular world.
My unfair characterizations hit the wall when I read the story of Thomas Merton who died nearly 50 years ago.
Merton, a Trappist monk, would spend months in solitude and silence then return to Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky and write profound insights out of the overflow of his prayerful experience. But the real purpose of those extended seasons of prayer-filled isolation humbles me.
The Trappists—and other monastic orders—believe earnestly that their prayerfulness is not an escape from the world but the deepest possible engagement with it. Indeed, their prayers form the very glue that holds this world together. Their prayers of intercession may well be the only barrier between the evil we already see and unimaginable evil that might be unleashed in overwhelming proportions if God did not restrain it in response to the earnest prayers of His people.
The monks are not running from anything. To the contrary. They choose lives of devotion and prayer precisely that they might find themselves on the front-lines of the cosmic struggle between good and evil. Their prayerfulness is our preservation. Ironically, their retreat from culture is for the sake of culture.
Which of us shares such a grand and majestic view of prayer?
Do we see our prayers as the very glue that holds this world together? Do our prayers have strategic significance, or are they merely casual chats with God about personal concerns?
I’m not called to join the Trappist monks – but I am. Christ invites me—and you—to intercede for the deliverance and redemption of the world; our families, communities, and nations. Our prayers today may restrain the very evil that thrives in the midst of complacency.
Pray with confidence that your words reverberate in heaven and move the heart of God to protect and keep the souls of men. Your prayers form the spiritual fortresses for this world.