Walking along with Thomas Merton

Merton10

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a writer and Trappist monk. He wrote more than seventy books of poetry, personal journals, collections of letters, social criticism, and writings on peace, justice, and ecumenism. He’s the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century.

36. Love is our true destiny

Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another. We do not discover the secret of our lives merely by study and calculation in our own isolated meditations. The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love. And if this love is unreal, the secret will not be found, the meaning will never reveal itself, the message will never be decoded. At best, we will receive a scrambled and partial message, one that will deceive and confuse us. We will never be fully real until we let ourselves fall in love – either with another human person or with God. (From Love and Living)

35. The beginning of love

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.

34. A true love

To love another as a person we must begin by granting him his own autonomy and identity as a person. We have to love him for what he is in himself, and not for what he is to us. We have to love him for his own good, not for the good we get out of him. And this is impossible unless we are capable of a love which ‘transforms’ us, so to speak, into the other person, making us able to see things as he sees them, love what he loves, experience the deeper realities of his own life as if they were our own. Without sacrifice, such a transformation is utterly impossible. But unless we are capable of this kind of transformation ‘into the other’ while remaining ourselves, we are not yet capable of a fully human existence. (from Disputed Questions)

The power of love233. The power of love

What we are asked to do is to love; and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbor worthy if anything can.
Indeed, that is one of the most significant things about the power of love. There is no way under the sun to make a man worthy of love except by loving him. As soon as he realizes himself loved – if he is not so weak that he can no longer bear to be loved – he will feel himself instantly becoming worthy of love. He will respond by drawing a mysterious spiritual value out of his own depths, a new identity called into being by the love that is addressed to him. (From Disputed Questions)

32. Love is its own reward

Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves..

31. To love and to ‘like’ one another

We are obliged to love one another. We are not strictly bound to ‘like’ one another.

30. Life and humility

It is almost impossible to overestimate the value of true humility and its power in the spiritual life. For the beginning of humility is the beginning of blessedness and the consummation of humility is the perfection of all joy. Humility contains in itself the answer to all the great problems of the life of the soul. It is the only key to faith, with which the spiritual life begins: for faith and humility are inseparable. In perfect humility all selfishness disappears and your soul no longer lives for itself or in itself for God: and it is lost and submerged in Him and transformed into Him.” (from New Seeds of Contemplation)

29. My life

My life is a mystery which I do not attempt to really understand, as though I were led by the hand in a night where I see nothing, but can fully depend on the love and protection of Him who guides me.

28. Christian life

The whole Christian life is a life in which the further a person progresses, the more he has to depend directly on God. The more we progress, the less we are self-sufficient. The more we progress, the poorer we get so that the man who has progressed most, is totally poor – he has to depend directly on God. He’s got nothing left in himself.

27. Learning to live

Life consists in learning to live on one’s own, spontaneous, freewheeling: to do this one must recognize what is one’s own – be familiar and at home with oneself. This means basically learning who one is, and learning what one has to offer to the contemporary world, and then learning how to make that offering valid.

26. Contradictions in my life

The very contradictions in my life are in some ways signs of God’s mercy to me.

25. To live our lives

If we want to be spiritual, then, let us first of all live our lives. Let us not fear the responsibilities and the inevitable distractions of the work appointed for us by the will of God. Let us embrace reality and thus find ourselves immersed in the life-giving will and wisdom of God which surrounds us everywhere. (from Thoughts in Solitude)

24. Life

Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.

23. Spiritual

A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.

22. Hell

To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell.

21. Our knowledge of God

Our knowledge of God is paradoxically not of him as the object of our scrutiny, but of ourselves as utterly dependent on his saving and merciful knowledge of us. It is in proportion, as we are known to him that we find our real being and identity in Christ. We know him in and through ourselves in so far as his truth is the source of our being and his merciful love is the very heart of our life and existence.

20. Truth

The first step toward finding God, Who is Truth, is to discover the truth about myself: and if I have been in error, this first step to truth is the discovery of my error.

19. Praise

The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men! A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real.

18. Relationships

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.

17. Responsibility

In the last analysis, the individual person is responsible for living his own life and for finding himself. If he persists in shifting his responsibility to somebody else, he fails to find out the meaning of his own existence.

16. Self-love

What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? (Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert, 1960)

15. Service

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is itself to succumb to the violence of our times. Frenzy destroys our inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful. (Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)

14. Spirituality

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will.

13. Unity

We are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.

12. Reality

One of the most important-and most neglected-elements in the beginning of the interior life is the ability to respond to reality, to see the value and the beauty in ordinary things, to come alive to the splendour that is all around us.

11. Memory

Memory is corrupted and ruined by a crowd of memories. If I am going to have a true memory, there are a thousand things that must first be forgotten. Memory is not fully itself when it reaches only into the past. A memory that is not alive to the present does not remember the here and now, does not remember its true identity, is not memory at all. He who remembers nothing but facts and past events, and is never brought back into the present, is a victim of amnesia.

10. Kindness

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another

9. Failure

We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.

8. Control

I cannot make the universe obey me. I cannot make other people conform to my own whims and fancies. I cannot make even my own body obey me.

7. Acceptance

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can.

6. Fate & Destiny

Each one of us has some kind of vocation. We are all called by God to share in His life and in His Kingdom. Each one of us is called to a special place in the Kingdom. If we find that place we will be happy. If we do not find it, we can never be completely happy. For each one of us, there is only one thing necessary: to fulfill our own destiny, according to God’s will, to be what God wants us to be.

Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island 

5. Ego

Modern man believes he is fruitful and productive when his ego is aggressively affirmed, when he is visibly active, and when his action produces obvious results.

Thomas Merton, Love & Living 

4. Expectation

Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.

3. Advertising

We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest.

 2. Action(s)

You must realize that it is the ordinary way of God’s dealings with us that our ideas do not work out speedily and efficiently as we would like them to. The reason for this is not only the loving wisdom of God, but also the fact that our acts have to fit into a great complex pattern that we cannot possibly understand. I have learned over the years that Providence is always a whole lot wiser than any of us, and that there are always not only good reasons, but the very best reasons for the delays and blocks that often seem to us so frustrating and absurd.

It is easy enough to tell the poor to accept their poverty as Gods will when you yourself have warm clothes and plenty of food and medical care and a roof over your head and no worry about the rent. But if you want them to believe you try to share some of their poverty and see if you can accept it as Gods will yourself!

1. The Merton Prayer

Thomas Merton Thoughts in Solitude

In Thoughts in Solitude, Part Two, Chapter II consists of fifteen lines that have become known as “the Merton Prayer.”

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”