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Merton’s Surprise

“On December 10, 1968, Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and perhaps the most popular American
Catholic writer in history, stepped out of a bathroom shower during a visit to Bangkok. Slipping on the wet floor, he grabbed a poorly wired fan for support and was electrocuted.
” –James Martin, SJ, Busted Halo

You were clumsy, they say. For a monk
seems an unlikely way to be.
Singing the psalmody, doing work
to the rhythms of its poetry
would give you grace, I’d like to think.
But grace of any kind is hard
to come by, a truth you knew.
I’d like to think as you felt the shock
you saw what you were tumbling toward
and smiled. Your dream, at last, come true.
God waiting patient in the dark,
both arms open to cradle you,
to break your final, awful fall,
to lay you gently on your pall.

Photo by Mitchell Schleper on Unsplash

Angela Alaimo O'Donnell

Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, PhD is a professor, poet, and writer at Fordham University in New York City and serves as Associate Director of Fordham’s Curran Center for American Catholic Studies. Her publications include two chapbooks and seven collections of poems, most recently, Andalusian Hours (Paraclete 2020), a collection of 101 poems that channel the voice of Flannery O’Connor, and Love in the Time of Coronavirus: A Pandemic Pilgrimage (Paraclete 2021).  O’Donnell has published a prize-winning memoir, Mortal Blessings (Ave Maria 2014) and a book of hours based on the practical theology of Flannery O’Connor, The Province of Joy (Paraclete 2012). Her biography Flannery O’Connor: Fiction Fired by Faith  (Liturgical Press 2015) was awarded first prize for excellence in publishing from The Association of Catholic Publishers.  Her critical book on Flannery O’Connor Radical Ambivalence: Race in Flannery O’Connor was published by Fordham University Press in 2020.  O’Donnell’s most recent manuscript, Holy Land, won the Paraclete Poetry Prize 2021 and will be published in Fall of 2022.