This months regular post on Contemplative Marist Living comes to us from Ted Keating sm, USA: "I was challenged to consider a few words on the gifts of a Marist contemplative life while approaching the "biblical four-score" shortly. I am aware of the frequent line of the mystics in all religions: "Those who know do not speak, and those who speak do not know".
The language of God is silence and It is always poorly translated. But I am foolish enough to try. I am convinced with experience that Eric Erickson who did his lifelong work on the tasks of each of the stages of life has it right: he terms it "integration or despair" for this period.
I have some close friends that I share this age with and we are all taken aback by the emergence of unbidden memories that light the day up in blazing beauty but that can also darken and freeze the heart if left dangling and not responded to.
Love and forgiveness not fully given, dreams not fully dreamt and made real, hopes not hoped enough into the courage to change. But the real miracle is the ease with which they are appear without guilt or shame. They are just there. Grace is integrating them.
I think there is a grace of state that places them there before the eyes but leaves us at peace to decide whether to let gratitude emerge even for those moments. The color of life at this late stage seems bathed with the discovery of what was there all along but missed in the anxious work of "trying to be better" or "more prayerful":
The "immortal Diamond" of Hopkins' poem, and the point vierge of Merton present deeply in our beings where St. Thomas says that God is even now creating us in love and in being. God was always there never far away even if unseen because of my own blindness. It could have been a lot easier, more relaxed, and less anxious if I had seen that all along.
So with Hopkins, again, I say "I greet Him when I meet Him and bless Him when I understand" as "He rains against my much thick and marsh air rich, rich beams". I move on from here with a clearer hope that my final words may be those of the Country Priest in Bernanos' novel: "All is Grace, All is Grace, All is Grace."
I wonder if there is so much grace at this time in my life because my life and ministry were nurtured in the Marist charism of "mercy before all". It becomes a way of defining the world and likely also colors the "Erickson task" of the final years which otherwise could be dark if not despairing. Thank God for poetry and good literature for expressing the inexpressible.
Ted Keating, SM