Prayer of Discernment

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(Photo: Crescent Beach, ME. – December 2016)

A Prayer of Discernment
–by Thomas Merton

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I actually am doing so. For I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you, and I hope that I have the desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadows of death. I will not fear, for you will not leave me to face the perils alone. Amen

Paris – Willa Cather

Behind the arch of glory sets the day;
The river lies in curves of silver light,
The Fields Elysian glitter in a spray
Of golden dust; the gilded dome is bright,
The towers of Notre Dame cut clean and gray
The evening sky, and pale from left to right
A hundred bridges leap from either quay.
Pillared with pride, the city of delight
Sits like an empress by her silver Seine,
Heavy with jewels, all her splendid dower
Flashing upon her, won from shore and main
By shock of combat, sacked from town and tower.
Wherever men have builded hall or fane
Red war hath gleaned for her and men have slain
To deck her loveliness. I feel again
That joy which brings her art to faultless flower,
That passion of her kings, who, reign on reign,
Arrayed her star by star with pride and power.

This Compost

This Compost
by Walt Whitman

1

Something startles me where I thought I was safest,
I withdraw from the still woods I loved,
I will not go now on the pastures to walk,
I will not strip the clothes from my body to meet my
lover the sea,
I will not touch my flesh to the earth as to other
flesh to renew me.

O how can it be that the ground itself does not
sicken?
How can you be alive you growths of spring?
How can you furnish health you blood of herbs,
roots, orchards, grain?
Are they not continually putting distemper’d corpses
within you?
Is not every continent work’d over and over with
sour dead?

Where have you disposed of their carcasses?
Those drunkards and gluttons of so many
generations?
Where have you drawn off all the foul liquid and
meat?
I do not see any of it upon you to-day, or perhaps
I am deceiv’d,
I will run a furrow with my plough, I will press my
spade through the sod and turn it up underneath,
I am sure I shall expose some of the foul meat.

2

Behold this compost! behold it well!
Perhaps every mite has once form’d part of a sick
person–yet behold!
The grass of spring covers the prairies,
The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in
the garden,
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The apple-buds cluster together on the
apple-branches,
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale
visage out of its graves,
The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the
mulberry-tree,
The he-birds carol mornings and evenings while
the she-birds sit on their nests,
The young of poultry break through the
hatch’d eggs,
The new-born of animals appear, the calf is dropt
from the cow, the colt from the mare,
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato’s dark
green leaves,
Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk, the lilacs
bloom in the dooryards,
The summer growth is innocent and disdainful
above all those strata of sour dead.

What chemistry!
That the winds are really not infectious,
That this is no cheat, this transparent green-wash
of the sea which is so amorous after me,
That it is safe to allow it to lick my naked body all
over with its tongues,
That it will not endanger me with the fevers that
have deposited themselves in it,
That all is clean forever and forever,
That the cool drink from the well tastes so good,
That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy,
That the fruits of the apple-orchard and the orange-
orchard, that melons, grapes, peaches, plums,
will none of them poison me,
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch
any disease,
Though probably every spear of grass rises out of
what was once a catching disease.

Now I am terrified at the Earth, it is that calm
and patient,
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with
such endless successions of diseas’d corpses,
It distills such exquisite winds out of such
infused fetor,
It renews with such unwitting looks its prodigal,
annual, sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts
such leavings from them at last.