The long and short of it

The long and short of it

File:Cistercian monks at work - UL Cambridge Ms Mm.5.31.jpg


Looking back on some older posts and thanking Lord for only two more classes to go to complete my Advanced Catechist Certification..

It was and is …

all grace.



I just finished a book I’d put off reading for several years, mainly because I’d heard mixed reviews about the author. Read his early works people said, not his later writings. Well, I assumed since I was away from the church so long I couldn’t be bothered filtering through someone’s writings who wasn’t a saint. There’s too much to catch up on; too many mystics who can stir the soul in only one chapter, or doctors of the church who can quench a question before you realize you have one.


But, I needed a book for another class I’m taking, which is why I haven’t written much. For a few hours a day, it’s all essays, papers and writing and on this side of the age equation, it fries my brain sooner than it did in my younger years. This seems to be the Lord’s response to my New Year’s question: what do you want me to do for You?

Keep taking classes…

I really didn’t want to spend the money on a textbook if I didn’t have to, so I thought our church library might have a copy of the book. However, with no central reference source, I stood in front of a wall of shelves peering into the jackets of books one at a time, scanning the subject sections listed on each shelf and there it was, the very book I needed.

Like an internal mother trying to reason with the child who already has too many toys (books) I said to myself;


Walk away.

You have no time to read anything else.


Guess what happened? I almost made it to the door…but, at the last minute I heard my shoes click against the tile floor as I turned on my heels, taking one step back to reach for an old book whose worn binding told me that a whole lot of people didn’t seem to worry about this author at all.


Surrendering to my impulse I carefully took the book  The Seven Story Mountain, by Thomas Merton,  tucking it securely under my arm right next to my required textbook, fully anticipating that I’d probably only half finish the book.

But, it wasn’t that way at all…Once I started, I couldn’t put it down. His writing is so captivating you don’t realize how profound it is because he’s a master at telling the story in such precise language. One feels as if you are sailing instead of reading. He’s the wind behind you having done all the hard work. All one must do is show up and open the book. I can’t say this about too many authors– especially more modern writers. I am deeply moved by his story and fully understand why his works have been the springboard of many vocations to the monastic life. It’s like a modern version of St Augustine’s, Confessions.

Go ahead, tell me what a late bloomer I am.

I don’t know what happened towards the end of his life; I’ve read the accounts. I’ll leave that in the hands of the Lord and those who research such things, but I know for certain, I’ll explore his other early works and poetry whenever I have time.

And that’s the long and short of it.

I’ll leave you with a quote from his Cambridge years, where he struggled greatly against his flesh. He was from an era who needed to hear this as much as we do:

There has never been a bomb invented that is half so powerful as one mortal sin and yet there is no positive power in sin, only negation, only annihilation:


and perhaps that’s why it’s so destructive.


It’s a nothingness, and where it is, there’s nothing left-

a blank moral vacuum.



  • Picture: Cistercian Monks at prayer and work, Alexander Bremen-13th Century


  1. Nancy Shuman
    Jan 21, 2016

    I LOVE The Seven Storey Mountain! I first read it soon after my real conversion, and I was glued to it. I love what you said about sailing instead of reading. “He’s the wind behind you having done all the hard work. All one must do is show up and open the book” – how wonderfully said!!

    • Caroline
      Jan 22, 2016

      Nancy, it was one of those rare books who’s influence I can honestly say was life changing on my spirituality.
      Glad to know it was a favorite of yours as well. +

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