Merton’s Prayers: August 24, 1939 #2

August 24, 1939

“Christ, have mercy on us.
God save you, Mary, full of grace.” [1]

Merton entered a second prayer into his journal the same day that he included the first one. It was a response he had to scenes in a Charlie Chaplain movie—scenes that led him to write these words, ”It feels that anything that ever had any happiness about this civilization–all the happy things this civilization has produced like Chaplin movies, are all gone and done with. Nothing left but the wars.” He was, of course, referring to the wars and rumors of wars brewing in the world at that time.

As we will see throughout this series, Merton prayed his life. We never lack for things to pray for when we do this because inwardly and outwardly life is going on all the time. In this particular prayer Merton reminds us that we live by God’s mercy, not by any humanly engineered programs. Sooner or later, our efforts will collapse, our systems fail us, and we will find ourselves back to Square One. It begins with the deep sense of loss that Merton described as he watched the movie. But as the prayer also teaches us, mercy is ever present. It is the “full of grace” moment when God gives us the opportunity to make a fresh start.

[1] Thomas Merton, ‘Run to the Mountain: The Story of Vocation’ (HarperCollins, 1995). This is Volume One of the five-volume series. By referencing the date, you can find the prayer in any version of the journal you have.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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