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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Thursday, 5 February 2015

THE HUNREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF THOMAS MERTON by Father Robert Barron plus SOME QUOTES

I decided to become a monk after reading "The Seven Storey Mountain" and have never regretted it: Happy Birthday, Father Louis!! - Fr David

Merton, although flawed, was one of the greatest spiritual writers of the 20th century and a man who had a decisive influence on me and my vocation to the priesthood
February 03, 2015 02:54 EST
Fr. Robert Barron
Father Thomas Merton outside his hermitage

Trappist Father Thomas Merton, one of the most influential Catholic authors of the 20th century, is pictured in an undated photo. The 100th anniversary of his birth was on January 31. (CNS photo/Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University)
I write these words on the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Thomas Merton, one of the greatest spiritual writers of the 20th century and a man who had a decisive influence on me and my vocation to the priesthood.  

I first encountered Merton’s writing in a peculiar way.  My brother and I were both working at a bookstore in the Chicago suburbs.  One afternoon, he tossed to me a tattered paperback with a torn cover that the manager had decided to discard.  My brother said, “You might like this; it’s written by a Trappist monk.”  I replied, with the blithe confidence of a sixteen year old, “I don’t want to read a book by some Buddhist.” With exquisite sensitivity, he responded, “Trappists are Catholics, you idiot.” 

The book in question was The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton’s passionate, articulate, smart, and deeply moving account of his journey from worldling to Trappist monk.  Though much of the philosophy and theology was, at that time, over my head, I became completely caught up in the drama and romance of Merton’s story, which is essentially the tale of how a man fell in love with God. The book is extraordinarily well written, funny, adventurous, and spiritually wise.  


Trappist Father Thomas Merton is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo/Merton Legacy Trust and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University)

In one of the blurbs written for the first edition, Fulton Sheen referred to it as a contemporary version of St. Augustine’s Confessions, and it was fulsomely praised by both Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene.  Moreover, it contributed massively to the startling influx of young men into monasteries and religious communities across the United States in the postwar era.
I was so thrilled by my first encounter with Merton that I dove headlong into his body of writing.  The Sign of Jonas, a journal that Merton kept in the years leading up to his priestly ordination, became a particular favorite.  That work concludes with an essay called “Firewatch:  July 4, 1952,” which Jacques Maritain referred to as the greatest piece of spiritual writing in the twentieth century.  In this powerful meditation, Merton uses the mundane monastic task of walking through the monastery checking for fires as a metaphor for a Dantesque examination of the soul.  

The Sign of Jonas is marked by Merton’s playful and ironic sense of humor, but it also gives evidence of the enormous range of his reading and intellectual interests.  To devour that book as a nineteen-year old, as I did, was to receive an unparalleled cultural education.  For many people of my generation, Merton opened the door to the wealth of the Catholic spiritual tradition: I first learned about John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, Bernard of Clairvaux, Odo of Cluny, the Victorines, Origen, Thérèse of Lisieux, and Hans Urs von Balthasar from him.

Perhaps the central theme of all of Merton’s writings is contemplation.  What he stressed over and again in regard to this crucial practice is that it is not the exclusive preserve of spiritual athletes, but rather something that belongs to all the baptized and that stands at the heart of Christian life.  For contemplation is, in his language, “to find the place in you where you are here and now being created by God.”  It is consciously to discover a new center in God and hence at the same time to discover the point of connection to everyone and everything else in the cosmos.  

Following the French spiritual masters, Merton called this le point vierge, the virginal point, or to put it in the language of the fourth Gospel, “water bubbling up in you to eternal life.”  In his famous epiphanic experience at the corner of 4th and Walnut in downtown Louisville, Merton felt, through le point vierge, a connection to the ordinary passersby so powerful it compelled him to exclaim, “There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”
Sadly, for many younger Catholics today, Merton, if he is known at all, is viewed with a certain suspicion, and this for two reasons.  First, when he was a man of fifty-one, he fell in love with a young nurse who cared for him after back surgery.  Though it is almost certain that this was exclusively an affair of the heart, it was certainly, to say the very least, unseemly for a middle-aged monk and priest to have been so infatuated with a much younger woman.  At the same time, Merton worked through this confusing period and returned to his vowed monastic life.  And the journal that he kept during that year is so spiritually alert and illuminating that I often recommend it to brother priests who are wrestling with the promise of celibacy.  To dismiss Merton out of hand because of this admittedly inappropriate relationship strikes me as disproportionate.

The second reason that some younger Catholics are wary of Merton is his interest, in the last roughly ten years of his life, in Eastern religions, especially Buddhism.  They see this as an indication of a religious relativism or a vague syncretism.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Merton was indeed fascinated by the Eastern religions and felt that Christians could benefit from a greater understanding of their theory and practice, but he never for a moment felt that all the religions were the same or that Christians should move to some space “beyond” Christianity.  

In order to verify this, all one has to do is read the prefaces to his major books on Zen and Buddhism.  About ten years ago, I had the privilege of giving a retreat to the monks at Merton’s monastery of Gethsemani in Kentucky.  Just after the retreat ended, Merton’s secretary, Br. Patrick Hart, took me in a jeep out to see the hermitage that Merton occupied the last few years of his life.  While we were sitting on the front porch of the small house, he looked at me intently and said, “Could you tell anyone that’s interested that Thomas Merton died a monk of Gethsemani Abbey and a priest of the Catholic Church?”  He was as bothered as I am by the silly suggestion that Merton, at the end of his life, was on the verge of leaving the priesthood or abandoning the Catholic faith.

Thomas Merton was not perfect, and he might not have been a saint.  But he was indeed a master of the spiritual life, and his life and work had a profound effect on me and an army of others around the world.  I offer this birthday tribute as a small token of gratitude.

SOME QUOTES
from BrainyQuotes
at  http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/t/thomas_merton.html#lPwqqbclcqiTDTUG.99

By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.

Thomas Merton

The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.

Thomas Merton


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.

Thomas Merton

Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.

Thomas Merton


Just remaining quietly in the presence of God, listening to Him, being attentive to Him, requires a lot of courage and know-how.

Thomas Merton


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.

Thomas Merton


We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.

Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone - we find it with another.
Thomas Merton


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.

Thomas Merton

Yet it is in this loneliness that the deepest activities begin. It is here that you discover act without motion, labor that is profound repose, vision in obscurity, and, beyond all desire, a fulfillment whose limits extend to infinity.

Thomas Merton


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.

Thomas Merton


“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”

“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 that 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 will I 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

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. 
Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.” 
― Thomas Merton

“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.” 
― Thomas Merton

“Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him.” 
― Thomas Merton

“Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair.” 
― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

What is the purpose of meditation in the sense of “the prayer of the heart?” In the “prayer of the heart” we seek first of all the deepest ground of our identity in God. We do not reason about dogmas of faith, or “the mysteries.” We seek rather to gain a direct existential grasp, a personal experience of the deepest truths of life and faith, finding ourselves in God’s truth. …Prayer then means yearning for the simple presence of God, for a personal understanding of [God’s] word, for knowledge of [God’s] will and for capacity to hear and obey him.–Thomas Merton


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