In His love

To know the Cross is not merely to know our own sufferings. For the Cross is the sign of salvation, and no man is saved in his own sufferings. To know the Cross is to know that we are saved by the sufferings of Christ; more, it is to know the love of Christ who underwent suffering and death in order to save us. It is, then, to know Christ. For to know His love is not merely to know the story of His love, but to experience in our spirit that we are loved by Him, and that in His love the Father manifests His own love for us, through His spirit poured forth in our hearts.

Thomas Merton – No Man is an Island
Gero crucifix, Cologne cathedral, commissioned by Archbishop Gero c.970AD

The Kingdom remembers you, T.M.

Fifty three years ago today, Thomas Merton departed this earthly plane. We are fortunate that he left us so much. The imagined presence of the naughty monk with a twinkle in his eye has kept me company over the last couple of years – years that have been characterised by unquantifiable human stupidity, undisguised global authoritarianism and, at least for some, edifying solitude. Of the five books from his giant oeuvre of works that I have thus far read, two in particular stand out: ‘No Man Is An Island’ and ‘New Seeds of Contemplation’. A thousand searing challenges rise from the pages of these books, and a thousand pennies have dropped as a result.

"Do you imagine that you will discover God by winding yourself up in a cocoon of spiritual and aesthetic pleasures, instead of renouncing all your tastes and desires and ambitions and satisfactions for the love of Christ, Who will not even live within you if you cannot find Him in other men?" 

- New Seeds of Contemplation.

I dare not write in detail for fear of diluting the purity of his message. The depth and breadth he offers is beyond the scope of any summary that I could give. So I encourage you to read these books. Personally speaking, Merton has helped me to bring scripture into relationship with silence and pain into kinship with purpose. He has shown me how to infuse prayer with more faith and less desire. If you let his inspired words into your heart, they become a unifying force.

"God's will is not an abstraction, not a machine, not an esoteric system. It is a living concrete reality in the lives of men, and our souls are created to burn as flames within His flame. The will of the Lord is not a static centre drawing our souls blindly toward itself. It is a creative power, working everywhere, giving life and being and direction to all things, and above all forming and creating in the midst of an old creation, a whole new world which is called the Kingdom of God." 

- No Man Is An Island. 
31st January 1915 – 10th December 1968

He lives in our hearts

God has left sin in the world in order that there may be forgiveness: not only the secret forgiveness by which He Himself cleanses our souls, but the manifest forgiveness by which we have mercy on one another and so give expression to the fact that He is living, by His mercy, in our own hearts. 

Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island

An act of consent

“Let the command of His love be felt at the roots of my existence. Then let me understand that I do not consent to exist, but that I exist in order to consent. This is the living source of virtuous action: for all our good acts are acts of consent to the indications of His mercy and the movements of His grace.”

Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island

Our despair

Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair.

Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island

Be a lover of silence

Many are avidly seeking but they alone find who remain in continual silence…Every man who delights in a multitude of words, even though he says admirable things, is empty within.

If you love truth, be a lover of silence. Silence like the sunlight will illuminate you in God and will deliver you from the phantoms of ignorance. Silence will unite you to God himself.”

Isaac of Nineveh (quoted in Merton’s ‘Contemplative Prayer’)

Travel in darkness and uncertainty

Wherever we have some sign of God’s will, we are obliged to conform to what that sign tells us. We should do so with pure intention, obeying God’s will because it is good in itself as well as good for us.

It takes more than an occasional act of faith to have such pure intention. It takes a whole life of faith, a total consecration to hidden values. It takes sustained moral courage and heroic confidence in the help of divine grace.

But above all it takes the humility and spiritual poverty to travel in darkness and uncertainty, where so often we have no light and see no sign at all.

Thomas Merton, No man is an island

My suffering is not my own

When I see my trials not as the collision of my life with a blind machine called fate, but as the sacramental gift of Christ’s love, given to me by God the Father along with my identity and my very name, then I can consecrate them and myself with them to God. For then I realise that my suffering is not my own. It is the Passion of Christ, stretching out its tendrils into my life in order to bear rich clusters of grapes, making my soul dizzy with the wine of Christ’s love, and pouring that wine as strong fire upon the whole world.”

No Man Is An Island, Thomas Merton