We meet the 1st and 3rd Thursdays at St. Gertrude's Ministry Center
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Monday, June 20, 2011

Conversations with Thomas Merton

Written by Chris Spicer, with quotes from Thomas Merton provided courtesy of Mike Brennen:

Dear Mike:

How about a dialogue through some of his quotes:

Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.
Thomas Merton
Tom, I like that…the most heroic labor…the most difficult sacrifice. Of course peace takes labor and of course it takes sacrifice, but we all know that peace itself does not labor or sacrifice. Peace itself is GOD and in GOD’s time peace reigns. But fine, we have time and thank God we have Jesus Christ, who of course did labor and did sacrifice.

So Brother Matthew locked the gate behind me, and I was enclosed in the four walls of my new freedom.
Thomas Merton
Ha, that’s cute Tom. Confined but unconfined, it reminds me of a sermon of paradoxes by the great preacher Augustine who, reflecting on the birth of Christ issued a litany of them such as “He who was wise, was wisely silent.” The image of the gate behind and the freedom ahead, and the riddle of four walls with assumed floor and ceiling—calls to mind a style of knowing by koans, used in formation by some Buddhists in training. Early Christians sought by way of the teaching of paradox to open the mind of the neophyte to imagine a God who died, Jesus Christ.

Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it.
Thomas Merton

Said well, Tom. Except, in what ways does the deepening manifest? If as you say solitude is not something…future? So if solitude is as infinite as you suggest, then, gosh, solitude is something more than experience. Not personal, not mine to know. Tom, are you suggesting that solitude is, what, an icon of GOD? Like looking at an icon disposes oneself to receive God’s revelation, so then may God, in one before solitude, reveal God-self. Fortunately, solitude is different than lonliness isn’t it? In solitude we are accompanied by God.

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

Said another, the beginning of love is forgiveness. Tom, let’s say I let another be—as they are. Oh! But I want to reach out and touch, influence, and God help me, because if I’m so desperate I’ll seek to impose my will emotionally or otherwise. Who reminds us of the desperate act most—the lust after woman had by the human. Down a rib, he craved it back—to fit. I agree Tom, that in making another to fit our own image, we play as God.

The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.
Thomas Merton

Now Tom, you’re beginning to sound a bit mythopoetic. Over and against dramatic being stands the rational self-conscious being. For being is real and in proportion to being we get bigger than our britches not by settling for too little, but by presuming we created too little. It’s our self-disgust that becomes the obversion of pride, when we think of ourselves inadequate images of God—that’s settling to the soil, dust to dust.

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.
Thomas Merton

Tom, absolutely. To recognize one false belief, just one! This will aid one to persuade ones will. And as the will reverts from a counterposition toward the true position, a process has begun, one of willingness to take into account reason, to expand one’s horizon and eventually to decide to believe and one day to consummate true belief in action!

The tighter you squeeze, the less you have.
Thomas Merton

One formula puts it thusly: be, act, have. And is God close fisted? Even Job, in prayer, remained steadfast with his grip of God’s hand, and in his doubt he preserved enough faith to credit God another chance, to recommit, to extend himself once more in a covenantal grasp.

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

Mercy. Mercy! Uncle!! Remember the codeword to get out of a headlock? When we can’t go on, what better prayer to show faith.

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

Tom, I’m not interested in the idea of compassion. Talk to me. You speak of basis. Now, I totally get—estoy de acuerdo mi hermano—that bit of interdependence. I’m an authority of belief, not an authority of knowledge. I am reliant on the heritage of those who have discovered God in their midst, loving, acting with compassion, recognizing the stranger as Jesus Christ. The heritage of their discoveries of the unrestricted presence of God has formed the basis of my belief. And then, by a miracle of physics—it’s my turn. Who is my neighbor? Tom, he’s a federal inmate sitting beside me in this halfway house and he’s searching on Bing web “Chicago cafĂ© rental rates”. He’s left to take an incoming call. From whom? To whom does he belong?

There was this shadow, this double, this writer who had followed me into the cloister. He rides my shoulders I cannot lose him.
Thomas Merton

Doppleganger, the Holy Ghost, divine muse, inspired Steppenwolf.
Keep connected brother!

We do not exist for ourselves.
Thomas Merton

We do. We exist for ourselves. Who? Listen closer. We listen to our-selves. We are many.

We have to have a deep, patient compassion for the fears of men and irrational mania of those who hate or condemn us.
Thomas Merton

Irrational? It’s to be expected. It’s common sense that we will be hated, despised, persecuted. Our mania is just fine with being condemned.

We have what we seek, it is there all the time, and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us.
Thomas Merton

I couldn’t understand what you mean Tom. All the time in the world, all the resources in the world, and I still don’t get it. I have a harem of hundreds. I am Solomon and I still don’t get it.

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