Thomas Merton: There Is More Than One Way
Thomas Merton* was a Christian mystic whose writings and life offered inspiration to millions - and somewhat intimidating to me by comparison. With some trepidation, I offer the below message with the notion that many of us may feel we are not doing enough.
Ann: Father Merton? I don’t know what to call you.
Thomas Merton: Thomas, just Thomas. There is no hierarchy in souls, just as there is no hierarchy in lives striving for the light. I hear you comparing your life to others, to mine, to those whose public or private dedication was laser focused, those who supposedly used every minute of every day honing their craft, the craft of devotion, learning, and piety.
Well, nothing is as it seems. You think you are an indolent slug compared to these others, that you should be Richard Rohr, Emily Dickinson, Fred Rogers or even myself or the modern contemplatives that see themselves following in my supposed footsteps. You think that somehow your journey is less than ours.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Though we drink from different springs, your thirst is just as insatiable as ours and just as dedicated. None of us lived the life we had envisioned, but in each case the one realized became the something more than we had ever imagined. Can you see the similarity there?
No, yours is not an intellectual or theological pursuit, nor do you go out to change the world with your example or your actions. What you do, however, is to endeavor to become true to you own journey. You are learning to wait and to take wisdom from those sources that resonate with you. Humor, elemental kindness, and heartfelt connection are the guideposts that inspire and guide your readings, your writings, and, increasingly, your life choices.
You have taken the challenges of the time at hand with a waiting attitude hereto foreign to your genre. An acceptance has settled deep into your bones where resistance and fear heretofore thrived. Of course, there is always more work to do. I invite you to touch base with me. A phrase, here, a paragraph there is fine. Intense study is not required, for yours in not an intellectual process but an organic one, accessing your pores and then flooding your system.
Yes, of course revelation cannot be sustained. Whatever the source or the method of access, it never is, but gradually, gradually these fleeting epiphanies gain purchase one after the other and begin to form a more solid river of knowing in your being. Watch it happen, and give thanks for who you are.
September 14, 2021
*Thomas Merton OCSO (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968) was an American Trappist monk, writer, theologian, mystic, poet, social activist, and scholar of comparative religion. On May 26, 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name "Father Louis". He was a member of the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, near Bardstown, Kentucky, living there from 1941 to his death.
"By my monastic life and vows I am saying No to all the concentration camps, the aerial bombardments, the staged political trials, the judicial murders, the racial injustices, the economic tyrannies, and the whole socio-economic apparatus which seems geared for nothing but global destruction in spite of all its fair words in favor of peace.
I make monastic silence a protest against the lies of politicians, propagandists, and agitators, and when I speak it is to deny that my faith and my church can ever be aligned with these forces of injustice and destruction. But it is true, nevertheless, that the faith in which I believe is also invoked by many who believe in war, believe in racial injustices, believe in self-righteous and lying forms of tyranny. My life must, then, be a protest against these also, and perhaps against these most of all."
Seeds of Contemplation, pp. 81-82.
Free Image Credit: Merton_Trappist.jpg (421 × 421 pixels, file size: 127 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Sketch of Thomas Merton by User:Mind meal. 21 July 2018. This file is licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.