Tag Archives: hermitage

Solitude, caves, and a fiery furnace

One of my favorite places in Assisi is the Carceri, a site of caves above Assisi where Francis and some of his early companions went for periods of silent prayer.

Steps down to the cave of Fra Masseo

Steps down to the cave of Fra Masseo

When I visited in February 2013, I found, by providence, the cave of Brother Masseo. I walked down the icy steps and found myself praying. As I moved deeper into the cave, I had a strong sense of the presence of God. It was, for me, one of those thin places where heaven and earth touch in a very special, even tangible way. I stayed there and prayed.

 

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In October 2018 I had another chance to visit the Carceri, after the Mass of the canonization of Monseñor Romero in Rome.

I easily found Brother Masseo’s cave and intended to read the scripture of the day and pray there. I found a stone on which I sat. I prayed – and fell asleep for a bit. The time passed and I had spent much more time there than I had planned.

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Again, I had found the thin place.

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Now, in forced isolation – curfew – I am finding it hard to stay in one place and even harder to be centered in the middle of all this.

So I decided to read again Thomas Merton’s Wisdom of the Desert. Providentially I found this quote:

“An elder said: The monk’s cell is that furnace of Babylon in which the three children found the Son of God; but it is also the pillar of cloud, out of which God spoke to Moses.”

Today’s first lectionary reading is the story of the three young men thrown into the fiery furnace in n Daniel 2.

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What struck me while praying it this morning is how they had such trust in God, not knowing the outcome of what they might suffer as a result of their faithfulness.

“If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue that you set up.”

And so, in the fiery furnace, they found themselves accompanied by a fourth person, as the king noted:

“I see four men unfettered and unhurt, walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God.”

Can we so trust in God that we can recognize him accompanying us in this time of loneliness and trial?

 


Photo  by Lawrence OP of a sarcophagus in the Vatican Museums, found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/5615204881.