Today, Dec. 10, is not only the 45th anniversary of Thomas Merton's death but Human Rights Day and a day of prayer called by Pope Francis to end world hunger. A happy coincidence of events overshadowed by the tributes to Nelson Mandela and his life of courage and faith.
Will prayer have an effect on world hunger? My rational self says no; my heart says that all the positive energy must have some effect. I certainly have not given up prayers of petition, but I favor wordless, contemplative prayer--and, in the case of world hunger, some action: donating food to local food banks and churches, going to the Hunger Site on the internet and clicking: each click means more food donated by the sponsors to the needy.
There is so much more to be done, but we must begin with the need for prayer. In this connection, I conclude with my third quotation from Merton (The Ascent to Truth):
Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries. Why? Because it diverts us from the one thing that can help us to begin our ascent to truth. That one thing is the sense of our own emptiness, our poverty, our limitations, and of the inability of created things to satisfy our profound need for reality and truth.