Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Year With Thomas Merton - August 25

A Prayer for God’s Mercy

Lord, have mercy.

Have mercy on my darkness, my weakness, my confusion. Have mercy on my infidelity, my cowardice, my turning about in circles, my wandering, my evasions.

I do not ask for anything but such mercy, always, in everything, mercy.

My life here—a little solidity and very much ashes.

Almost everything is ashes. What I have prized most is ashes. What I have attended to least is, perhaps, a little solid.

Lord, have mercy. Guide me, make me want again to be holy, to be a man of God, even though in desperateness and confusion.

I do not necessarily ask for clarity, a plain way, but only to go according to your love, to follow your mercy, to trust in your mercy.

I want to seek nothing at all, if this is possible. But only to be led without looking and without seeking. For thus to seek is to find.

August 2, 1960, IV.28

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Year With Thomas Merton - August 24

To Save Your Life, Lose It

Spiritual reading puts us in contact not just with words, with ideas, but with reality—with God.

To seek God is to seek reality. And this must be something more than a flight from images to ideas. The interior life is not merely what is not exterior.

Thunder and rain during breakfast. Curtains of mist hanging over the knobs, pigs garrulous in the lush wet grass, and a dove in the cedar tree. Enough for a haiku?

Temptation: to put together a book the way one furnishes an apartment—to surround oneself with things and act as if one had made it all. The Braque on the wall, the T’ang vase, the Persian carpet. A Cistercian should, no doubt, not even know such things. But a Cistercian on the point of going to New York cannot help but think of them. Caught between good and evil, and sometimes not knowing which is which.

Julien Green was always asking himself, can a novelist be a saint, can a novelist save his soul? But perhaps the salvation of his soul and, even more, his sanctification, depends precisely on taking this role. “He that would save his life will lose it.”

August 19, 1956, III. 67-68

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Year With Thomas Merton - August 23

The Personalism of Emmanuel Mounier

The toughness and integrity of Emmanuel Mounier, and his book Personalism, demand careful attention. Maybe of all the mean of our time he is the one we need most to understand and imitate. He is clever and hard with words. You cannot be comfortable with his language unless you think along with it, which is not all that easy. Hence he will make almost everyone uncomfortable—assuming that they even listen to him at all.

Mounier says (in showing how individualism bars communication): “A kind of instinct works within us to deny or diminish the humanity of those around us….[T]he lightest touch of the individual seems sometimes to infect a mortal poison into any contact between man and man” (Personalism, p. 18).

Mounier again: “The person only grows in so far as he continually purifies himself from the individual within him. He cannot do that by force of self-attention but, on the contrary, by making himself available.”

August 17 and 19, 1956, III.66, 68-69

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Year With Thomas Merton - August 22

Practicing Non-violence

Today I realize with urgency the absolute seriousness of my need to study and practice non-violence. Hitherto, I have “liked” non-violence as an idea. I have “approved” it, looked with benignity on it, have praised it, even earnestly.

But I have not practiced it fully. My thoughts and words retaliate. I condemn and resist adversaries when I think I am unjustly treated. I revile them; even treat them with open (but polite) contempt to their face.

It is necessary to realize that I am a monk consecrated to God and this restricting non-retaliation merely to physical non-retaliation is not enough—on the contrary, it is in some sense a greater evil.

At the same time, the energy wasted in contempt, criticism and resentment is thus diverted from its true function, insistence on truth. Hence, loss of clarity, loss of focus, confusion, and finally frustration. So that half the time “I don’t know what I am doing” (or thinking).

I need to set myself to the study of non-violence, with thoroughness. The complete, integral practice of it in community life. Eventually teaching it to others by word and example. Short of this, the monastic life will remain a mockery in my life.

August 21, 1962, IV.238-39

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Year With Thomas Merton - August 21

When Words Fail Us

Morning after morning I try to study the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel and it is too great. I cannot study it. I simply sit still and try to breathe.

There is a small black lizard with a blue, metallic tail scampering up the yellow wall of the Church next to the niche where the Little Flower, with a confidential and rather pathetic look in her eyes, offers me a rose. I am glad of the distraction because now I can breathe again and think a little.

It does no good to use big words to talk about Christ. Since I seem to be incapable of talking about Him in the language of a child, I have reached the point where I can scarcely talk about him at all. All my words fill me with shame.

That is why I am more and more thankful for the Office and for the psalms. Their praise of God is perfect, and God gives it to me to utter as more my own than any language I could think up for myself.

“Lord our God! How admirable is your name through the whole world” (Psalm 8).

When I have the whole Church crying out with me, there is some chance of finding peace in the feeling that God is somehow, after all, receiving praise from my lips.

August 31, 1949, II.364