Anonymous Monks

by Alan Altany

From Paul the Hermit & Anthony of Egypt
to Benedict, Bernard & Thomas Merton,
from the Desert Fathers to computers,  
a very few monks are known by name, 
all the other hermits and cenobites
with their vows, habits, ascetic lives,
disappear like dusk into the long night
of welcomed obscurity and endless prayer,
forgotten forever by history’s memory.

Anonymous men and women known
only to the God they longed to love
through centuries of copying manuscripts,
creating art and icons, offering education
and healthcare, some even as missionaries,
praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the
Sacred Mysteries of the Mass, working
the fields contemplating their laboring.
Could it be that in those silent cells
and monastic choirs, nearly 2 millennia
of unceasing prayer have upheld the world?

Have generations of anonymous monks
in the very darkness and uselessness
of their secluded chants of praise
been used by God to bring millions,                   
sight unseen, to union with Christ?
Is the continued life of monasteries
in today’s brazen-faced cultural desert
a contemporary miracle too hidden,
too faceless, to recognize after all?  
Totally undistinguished monks silently declaring 
the Cross to a frantic and forgetful world.

Dr. Alan Altany is a partially retired, septuagenarian college professor of religious studies and theology who is still teaching. He has been a factory worker, swineherd on a farm, hotel clerk, lawn maintenance worker, high school teacher, small magazine of poetry editor, director of religious education for churches, truck driver, among other things. In 2020, he had published a book of Christian poetry entitled A Beautiful Absurdity:  Christian Poetry of the Sacred 

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