Second Saturday in Advent

“We are only syllables of the Perfect Word.”Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”Matthew 11:19

merton1Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk from the Abbey of Gethsemene in Kentucky, died on this date in 1968. In his life, he worked for peace and prayed and argued for an end to war. “Instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men and women and love God above all,” he wrote in Seeds of Contemplation. “Instead of hating the people you think are warmakers, hate the appetites and disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war.”

Merton was electrocuted by a faulty wire on a fan in his room where he was attending an international meeting with Eastern and Western contemplatives in Bangkok. His body was shipped home on a military transport plane alongside the bodies of soldiers who died in Vietnam. Merton would have appreciated their common lot.

One man who knew Merton described him as a “merry monk,” like in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. He recalled Merton’s bright, inquisitive eyes, filled with humor…more like a “chip monk” one person told me. Though he was a cloistered contemplative, and at times tried to be a hermit, Merton kept up a lively letter writing exchange with atheists, artists, communists, bohemians, women, poets, Buddhists, and radicals. In Merton’s life, “wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

Christmas Eve is less than two weeks away. Who will sit at your Christmas table?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Ad…..vent.

With gratitude to Pax Christi USA where some of these reflections first appeared in print..

Thomas Merton on #StayWoke Christians

Thích Nh?t H?nh and Thomas Merton, 1966
Thích Nh?t H?nh and Thomas Merton, 1966

We must awaken Christians to their “grave responsibility to protest clearly and forcibly against trends that lead inevitably to crimes which the Church deplores and condemns.”–Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton on Peace with introduction by Gordon Zahn (1968, pxi)

Thomas Merton: ‘Contemplation is Incomplete if Not Shared’

Thích Nhat Hanh and Thomas Merton, 1966
Thích Nhat Hanh and Thomas Merton, 1966
“The ultimate perfection of the contemplative life is not a heaven of separate individuals, each one viewing his own private intuition of God; it is a sea of Love which flows through the One Body of all the elect, all the angels and saints, and their contemplation would be incomplete if it were not shared, or if it were shared with fewer souls, or with spirits capable of less vision and less joy.”–Thomas Merton

Merton: ‘Genuine Love Is A Personal Revolution’

“Love affects more than our thinking and our behavior toward those we love. It transforms our entire life. Genuine love is a personal revolution. Love takes your ideas, your desires, and your actions and welds them together in one experience and one living reality which is a new you.”–Thomas Merton

Love and Living by Thomas Merton (Harcourt)

Thomas Merton: Solitude


“Is it true to say that one goes into solitude to “Get at the root of existence”? It would be better simply to say that in solitude one is at the root. He who is alone and is conscious of what his solitude means, finds himself simply in the ground of life.”–Thomas Merton

Love and Living by Thomas Merton (Harcourt, p 22)

Thomas Merton: Both Question and Answer

“The life of contemplation implies two levels of awareness: first, awareness of the question, and second, awareness of the answer. Though these are two distinct and enormously different levels, yet they are in fact an awareness of the same thing. The question is, itself, the answer. And we are ourselves are both.”–Thomas Merton

From New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (New Directions Books, p.4)

Merton: Made in the Image of Love

“To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.” –Thomas Merton

New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (New Dimensions Press, 1961)

Thomas Merton: ‘In Her They Prosper’

“S/he is like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever s/he does prospers.”–Psalm 1:3

“She (Wisdom) is in all things like the air receiving the sunlight. In her they prosper.  In her they glorify God.  In her they rejoice to reflect  [God].  In her they are united with [God].”–Thomas Merton

A Merton Reader, ed. by Thomas P. McDonnell. (New York: Image Books, 1989, p 510)

Thomas Merton: ‘Love is a Revelation’

Merton and D.T. Suzuki, 94, in New York, 1964.

Love is the revelation of our deepest personal meaning, value and identity. But this revelation remains impossible as long as we are the prisoners of our own egoism. I cannot find myself in myself, but only in another. —Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton: Love and Living, Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, editors (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979, p. 31)

Thomas Merton: ‘Make All Beauty Holy’

“The eyes of the saint make all beauty holy and the hands of the saint consecrate everything they touch to the glory of God, and the saint is never offended by anything and is scandalized at no [person’s] sin because [s]he does not know  sin. [S]He knows nothing but the love and the mercy of God and [s]he is on earth to bring that love and that mercy to all.”

From Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (New Directions Books, 1949, p 21)