Today, December 10, we remember, celebrate, and give thanks for the life and resurrection of Thomas Merton. This is a new and welcome commemoration to the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church as set forth in Holy Women, Holy Men – Celebrating the Saints. The date of this commemoration marks the anniversary of Merton’s death. While attending an international conference on Buddhist and Christian monasticism in Bangkok, Thailand he was accidentally electrocuted on December 10, 1968.
There is much that could be said about Merton. Rather than talking or writing about Merton we may be better served to simply listen to him:
- “It is in the ordinary duties and labors of life that the Christian can and should develop his spiritual union with God. (Life and Holiness)
- If we are called to holiness of life, and if holiness is beyond our natural power too achieve (which it certainly is) then it follow that God himself must give is the light, the strength, and the courage to fulfill the task he requires of us. He will certainly give us the grace we need. If we do not become saints it is because we do not avail ourselves of his gift. (Life and Holiness)
- “[The] ‘upsetting of our inner life is essential to spiritual growth, because without it we remain comfortably at rest in more or less illusory ideas of what spiritual perfection really is.” (Life and Holiness)
- “Christian holiness is not a mere matter of ethical perfection.” (Life and Holiness)
- “There is no spiritual life without persistent struggle and interior conflict.” (Life and Holiness)
- “The solution of the problem of life is life itself. Life is not attained by reasoning and analysis, but first of all by living. For until we have begun to live our prudence has no material to work on. And until we have begun to fail we have no way of working out our success.” (Thoughts in Solitude)
- “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.” (Thoughts in Solitude)
- “When I am liberated by silence, when I am no longer involved in the measurement of life, but in the living of it, I can discover a form of prayer in which there is effectively, no distraction. My whole life becomes prayer.” (Life and Holiness)
- Not all men are called to be hermits, but all men need enough silence and solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their own true self to be heard at least occasionally. When that inner voice is not heard, when man cannot attain to the spiritual peace that comes from being perfectly at one with his own true self, his life is always miserable and exhausting.” (The Silent Life)
- “The truth I must love in my brother is God Himself, living in him. I must seek the life of the Spirit of God breathing in him. And I can only discern and follow that mysterious life by the action of the same Holy Spirit living and acting in the depths of my own heart.” (No Man Is An Island)
- “In short, the secret of progress in the interior life is to escape from ourselves as quickly and completely as possible and give ourselves entirely to God. This can generally be done quite simply, and without a multitude of techniques and observances, if we will only attune ourselves to the voice of the Holy Spirit and take care to give God not what He desires of somebody else, in some other situation, but precisely what He asks of us. In doing this we give Him our whole selves. He asks nothing more of us, for as soon as we give ourselves completely to Him, He gives Himself completely to us. (The Ascent to Truth).
- “For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self.” (New Seeds of Contemplation)
- “True solitude is the home of the person, false solitude the refuge of the individualist.” (New Seeds of Contemplation)
- “One of the first things to learn if you want to be a contemplative is how to mind your own business.” (New Seeds of Contemplation)
- “We become contemplatives when God discovers Himself in us.” (New Seeds of Contemplation)
Gracious God, you called your monk Thomas Merton to proclaim your justice out of silence, and moved him in his contemplative writings to perceive and value Christ at work in the faiths of others: Keep us, like him, steadfast in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.