Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Thomas Merton

There is a Trappist Abbey in Kentucky. In 1848 forty-three monks arrived in central Kentucky from the Abbey of Melleray, France. They arrived on 21 December 1848. They state themselves: the next day they prayed seven times, and every day they pray seven times, unto the end. Perhaps, the best known resident was the spiritual writer, Thomas Merton (†December 10th 1968), Father Louie. The success of his auto-biography, The Seven Storey Mountain (1948), was a Godsend to the monastery, in both financial support, and increase in numbers to more than 300. Merton was also a poet, and an artist. He wrote on inter-faith dialogue, social and racial justice, and peace issues. Not every one was happy with this, including the government. To-day, there are few monks there who wish to discuss Merton, “he’s just another monk”.
“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.”

“We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.”

“We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have - for their usefulness.”

“We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.”

“A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.”

“It is true that the materialistic society, the so-called culture that has evolved under the tender mercies of capitalism, has produced what seems to be the ultimate limit of this worldliness. And nowhere, except perhaps in the analogous society of pagan Rome, has there ever been such a flowering of cheap and petty and disgusting lusts and vanities as in the world of capitalism, where there is no evil that is not fostered and encouraged for the sake of making money. We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest.”
Two hours before he died, he gave a speech in Thailand, here is an excerpt:
“The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.”
He touched a light coming out of a shower. He was under government surveillance. His body was flown back on a military plane from Viet Nam. When the brothers back in Kentucky were asked whether they thought it was not an accident, they said, No. Merton was accident prone.

 He is buried next to the abbey church. Many people have come to visit his grave.

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