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  • Douglas Hertler aka Doug Lory

Love Knows No Division

The following reflection was originally shared with my Merton and Me email list on August 30, 2022.

I believe in fate. I also believe in chance. They would appear to be mutually exclusive. You are either with us or against us. You can support Black lives or Blue lives but you can’t possibly support both. You are wrong and I am right, middle ground be damned. And yet haven’t we all experienced a “love/hate” relationship, to an idea, a person, a job, our faith? These experiences challenge us to WAKE UP to a form of slavery that smothers our hearts and minds every chance it gets; that is our addiction to duality. Either things happen for a reason or they don’t. Either everything is part of God’s plan, or it isn’t…

Last fall I was shuffling down the street on my way to the farmer’s market to buy a loaf of bread. I had on tattered jeans and a ripped shirt. I had just woken up. I wanted to get to the market before the bread sold out. As I passed by a beautiful stone Church I had never stepped into (just blocks from my apt), I noticed a priest standing peacefully at the front gate gazing into the sky and a little voice inside of me said, “Go tell him about your show.” I proceeded to shuffle backwards, moving in reverse like a cartoon character on rewind. Suddenly standing before him I said, “Hi I’m Doug, I live here in the neighborhood and I have a one-man play about Thomas Merton that I thought your congregation might enjoy seeing.” A delightfully bemused look appeared on his face and after a moment of silence he replied, “Well maybe they would…”

That moment, I truly believe, was a moment of fate.

I performed Merton and Me, A Living Trinity there on March 26. It was a beautiful evening and I remain deeply grateful for the experience. What’s more, the Holy Spirit was also busy watering the seeds of a new friendship, one that I pray will grow stronger and survive the test of distance and time.

This morning, Father Spencer Reece delivered his final sermon at St. Mark’s Church in Jackson Heights NY. My wife and I are profoundly sad to see him go (as is the large majority of his congregation). We had only begun to drink in the fruits of his contemplative soul and get to know the quirky, diverse and endearing personalities that fill the pews of this modest Episcopal community on Sunday mornings. Every Mass we attended was imbued with a spirit of intimacy, and far more affection than dear Father Spencer himself ever realized.

His departure this morning was not of his own choosing. Rather it was the work of a super minority who apparently felt compelled to expunge this beloved and gentle shepherd from their midst, seemingly unconcerned that such was not even remotely the “will of the people.” This would appear to be a larger trend these days…

Perhaps this small, vocal minority felt too exposed in the face of such authentic pastoral intimacy, I truly cannot say. Though I do know that this too is a larger trend these days, and a profoundly alarming one at that.

Father Spencer gave witness to the deepest stirrings of the hearts of his parishioners, to the swirling ambiguities of their minds, and to the very real struggles their sacred and often fragile bodies were facing during the pandemic, even having lost their previous priest to Covid. And he always returned to Love.

I would like to invite you to watch this final sermon of his, and should you be as moved as I was by it you might click some others that are available to view. I assure you that each of them contains pearls of great price.

This link will allow you to first see/hear him read the Gospel of the day on which his sermon is based:

If rather you prefer only to watch his sermon:

I conclude with this.

Thomas Merton certainly learned over time to speak Truth to power with Love. Given how voluminous his works are it would be far too easy to stand on the outside looking in and believe that he must have been supernaturally blessed with the capacity to craft words of simplicity and Power with relative ease. This would be a great mistake. While it may be true that Merton was a gifted writer, his words flowed from a reservoir of life experience that was ravaged by death and alcohol and sex and shame and fear and doubt, and graced by the redemptive power of prayer, forgiveness, solitude, silence, community and contemplation. Rest assured, he struggled mightily to share his life with us through the written word, a life lived in the Word, a life steeped in the Paschal Mystery. His ever evolving and deepening understanding of Christ’s call to Love and Be-Loved could not help but seek news ways to identify the Pharisees of today and the dangers of tomorrow. His prophetic voice continues to speak to us from beyond, and Father Spencer Reece’s voice speaks to us in the here and now.

If you find yourself remembering this reflection while heading to the market for a loaf of bread, please pause and say a prayer that Father Spencer will soon be guided by the Spirit to his next Eucharistic home, where by chance, or fate, a group of spiritual pilgrims will be graced by his ministry of tenderness, affection and Love.

Father Spencer Reece and Me

August, 2023

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Jun 25, 2023

What a tender and beautiful soul! The church can indeed be a beautiful expression of community in Christ… sadly it can also be the exact opposite. I hope that Fr. Reese continues to share that light of love with others. And thank you, Doug, for sharing that light and love with us this week at ITMS 2023!


Douglas Hertler aka Doug Lory
Aug 02, 2023
Replying to

Thank you Michael. I am happy to report that Father Spencer has since found a new home in Rhode Island and that he and his community are thriving! And how grateful I was to share the play at the International Thomas Merton Conference! I never cease to be inspired by that marvelous community!

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