Monday, August 29, 2011

Don't be conformed to this age. Don't fall in step. March to a different drummer.

UPDATE: the complete homily from which this was taken is posted on Tom's website here:

I'm struck by Jeremiah's image of the hot burning coal in the chest and the Zen concept of MU:

"What is Mu? ...  Do not believe it is the common negative symbol meaning nothing.  It is not nothingness, the opposite of existence.  If you really want to pass this barrier, you should feel like drinking a hot iron ball that you can neither swallow nor spit out."

From yesterday's homily by Tom Cornell, a deacon serving at St. Mary's parish in Marlboro NY:

In our first reading today we hear, “You duped me, Lord….” Another translation, the Jerusalem Bible has, “You seduced me Lord, and I let myself be seduced.” I was a grown man, 31 years old before I heard these words from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, in October 1965. Thomas Merton read them to a small group he had called to his monastery, the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemane in Kentucky. Merton was then and remains now, 43 years after his death, the most widely read spiritual writer in the English language. He gathered leaders of the growing peace movement (A.J. Muste, Dan Berrigan, Jim Forest, John Howard Yoder, W.H Ferry and three or four others. Phil Berrigan showed up on the last day, with a case of beer.) The war in Viet Nam was just heating up. The public still supported the war but some of us felt very differently.

Merton called us to answer this question: By what right can we raise our voices against this war? Merton answered the question himself through the words of Jeremiah we just heard. To paraphrase: “You tricked me, Lord. I didn’t know what I was getting into speaking your word. I don’t want to do it anymore Lord. You’ve made me a laughing-stock. I make up my mind that I will speak for you no longer. But then it’s like a coal burning in my chest and I have to speak, to let it out.”

We did it because we had to. It was uncomfortable, even dangerous, given the temper of the times. A young friend of mine, a nineteen year old boy, had just been beaten to death on a street in Rochester for wearing the peace symbol, that’s all, the same symbol that you see everywhere now. (Graham Carey carved Ivan Johnson’s headstone on a hill in Truro, on Cape Cod, overlooking the spot where his ancestors first made landfall on the Mayflower, in 1620.) Soldiers in Viet Nam would be painting it on their helmets just three years later, when they and public opinion changed. But then, in 1965, it was another story.

We took comfort in Saint Paul’s advice we also just heard. “Do not be conformed to this age.” Don’t fall in step. March to a different drummer. “Be transformed by the renewal of your understanding so that you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect.
 HT: Jim Forest

Sunday, August 28, 2011

the contemplative mind

Photo by Thomas Merton
"I think the contemplative mind is the most absolute assault on the secular or rational worldview, because it really is a different mind—a different point of view.

"The mind that I call the "small self” or the "false self” reads everything in terms of personal advantage, short-term effort, “What's in it for me?”—and “How will I look?”, “How will I look good?” As long as you read reality from the reference point of the small self of “how I personally feel” or “what I need or want,” you cannot get very far. The lens never opens up.

"Thus the great religions have taught that we need to change the seer much more than just telling people what to see—that is contemplation."  - Fr. Richard Rohr OFM
I don't know how you change (transform) the mind other than by meditation / contemplative prayer or profound suffering.  Fr. Thomas Keating says that with contemplative prayer one can find in a short time what can take 20 years in a monastery. 

This is what Gerry Straub had to say this week:
"Faith, hope and love, the triptych of the spiritual life, are nurtured stillness. The art of contemplating divine truths grows out of the art of remaining still. The soul that waits on God, patiently and unhurriedly, will eventually be filled with the realization he or she is infinitely loved." - Gerry Straub

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Assumption

A detail from The Assumption of the Virgin by Antonia da Corregio 1530
UPDATE: I had some qualms about posting this particular Merton quote. It's veering a little more into the dogmatic and pious (cataphatic) than I am comfortable with on louie.  But there was something of the incarnational about this particular quote that included Mary (and women).  That seemed important to include.

Women (and Mary) figure predominately in Merton's inner workings.

That God should assume Mary into heaven is not just a glorification of a "Mother Goddess." Quite the contrary, it is the expression of the divine love for humanity, and a very special manifestation of God's respect for God's creatures, God's desire to do honor to the beings made in God's own image, and most particularly God's respect for the body which was destined to be the temple of God's glory. If Mary is believed to be assumed into heaven, it is because we too are one day, by the grace of God, to dwell where she is. If human nature is glorified in her, it is because God desires it to be glorified in us too, and it is for this reason that the Son, taking flesh, came into the world.

In all the great mystery of Mary, then, one thing remains most clear: that of herself she is nothing, and that God has for our sakes delighted to manifest God's glory and God's love in her.
- from New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

HT: barefoot toward the light

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

the bomb

The Catholic Worker, September 1945
We Go on Record
By Dorothy Day

Mr. Truman was jubilant. President Truman. True man; what a strange name, come to think of it. We refer to Jesus Christ as true God and true Man. Truman is a true man of his time in that he was jubilant. He was not a son of God, brother of Christ, brother of the Japanese, jubilating as he did. He went from table to table on the cruiser which was bringing him home from the Big Three conference, telling the great news; "jubilant" the newspapers said. Jubilate Deo. We have killed 318,000 Japanese.

That is, we hope we have killed them, the Associated Press, on page one, column one of the Herald Tribune, says. The effect is hoped for, not known. It is to be hoped they are vaporized, our Japanese brothers -- scattered, men, women and babies, to the four winds, over the seven seas. Perhaps we will breathe their dust into our nostrils, feel them in the fog of New York on our faces, feel them in the rain on the hills of Easton.

Jubilate Deo. President Truman was jubilant. We have created. We have created destruction. We have created a new element, called Pluto. Nature had nothing to do with it.

"A cavern below Columbia was the bomb's cradle," born not that men might live, but that men might be killed. Brought into being in a cavern, and then tried in a desert place, in the midst of tempest and lightning, tried out, and then again on the eve of the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ, on a far off island in the eastern hemisphere, tried out again, this "new weapon which conceivably might wipe out mankind, and perhaps the planet itself."

"Dropped on a town, one bomb would be equivalent to a severe earthquake and would utterly destroy the place. A scientific brain trust has solved the problem of how to confine and release almost unlimited energy. It is impossible yet to measure its effects."

"We have spent two billion on the greatest scientific gamble in history and won," said President Truman jubilantly.

The papers list the scientists (the murderers) who are credited with perfecting this new weapon. One outstanding authority "who earlier had developed a powerful electrical bombardment machine called the cyclotron, was Professor O. E. Lawrence, a Nobel prize winner of the University of California. In the heat of the race to unlock the atom, he built the world's most powerful atom smashing gun, a machine whose electrical projectiles carried charges equivalent to 25,000,000 volts. But such machines were found in the end to be unnecessary. The atom of Uranium-235 was smashed with surprising ease. Science discovered that not sledgehammer blows, but subtle taps from slow traveling neutrons managed more on a tuning technique were all that were needed to disintegrate the Uranium-235 atom."

(Remember the tales we used to hear, that one note of a violin, if that note could be discovered, could collapse the Empire State Building. Remember too, that God's voice was heard not in the great and strong wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but "in the whistling of a gentle air.")

Scientists, army officers, great universities (Notre Dame included), and captains of industry -- all are given credit lines in the press for their work of preparing the bomb -- and other bombs, the President assures us, are in production now.

Great Britain controls the supply of uranium ore, in Canada and Rhodesia. We are making the bombs. This new great force will be used for good, the scientists assured us. And then they wiped out a city of 318,000. This was good. The President was jubilant.

Today's paper with its columns of description of the new era, the atomic era, which this colossal slaughter of the innocents has ushered in, is filled with stories covering every conceivable phase of the new discovery. Pictures of the towns and the industrial plants where the parts are made are spread across the pages. In the forefront of the town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee is a chapel, a large comfortable-looking chapel benignly settled beside the plant. And the scientists making the first tests in the desert prayed, one newspaper account said.

Yes, God is still in the picture. God is not mocked. Today, the day of this so great news, God made a madman dance and talk, who had not spoken for twenty years. God sent a typhoon to damage the carrier Hornet. God permitted a fog to obscure vision and a bomber crashed into the Empire State Building. God permits these things. We have to remember it. We are held in God's hands, all of us, and President Truman too, and these scientists who have created death, but will use it for good. He, God, holds our life and our happiness, our sanity and our health; our lives are in His hands. He is our Creator. Creator.

And as I write, Pigsie, who works in Secaucus, New Jersey, feeding hogs, and cleaning out the excrement of the hogs, who comes in once a month to find beauty and surcease and glamour and glory in the drink of the Bowery, trying to drive the hell and the smell out of his nostrils and his life, sleeps on our doorstep, in this best and most advanced and progressive of all possible worlds. And as I write, our cat, Rainbow, slinks by with a shrill rat in her jaws, out of the kitchen closet here at Mott Street. Here in this greatest of cities which covered the cavern where this stupendous discovery was made, which institutes an era of unbelievable richness and power and glory for man ….

Everyone says, "I wonder what the Pope thinks of it?" How everyone turns to the Vatican for judgement, even though they do not seem to listen to the voice there! But our Lord Himself has already pronounced judgement on the atomic bomb. When James and John (John the beloved) wished to call down fire from heaven on their enemies, Jesus said:

"You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of Man came not to destroy souls but to save." He said also, "What you do unto the least of these my brethren, you do unto me."
Note: louie louie previously marked the U. S. bombings of the Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9) HERE.  Thomas Merton's poem, Original Child Bomb is HERE.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Communication is not the noise of slogans

Photo by Thomas Merton
"Everything healthy, everything certain, everything holy, if we can find such things, they all need to be emphasized and articulated. For this it is necessary that there be communication between the hearts and minds of men, communication and not the noise of slogans or the repetition of cliches. Communication is becoming more and more difficult, and ... speech is in danger of perishing or being perverted in the amplified noise of beasts.... There is, it seems to me, every reason why we should attempt to cry out to one another and comfort one another, in so far as this may be possible, with the truth of Christ and also with the truth of humanism and reason. For faith cannot not be preserved if ... man is destroyed: that is to say if his humanity is utterly debased and mechanized, while he himself remains on earth as the instrument of enormous and unidentified forces like those which press us inexorably to the brink of cataclysm..."

- Thomas Merton
from a letter to Paulo Alceu Amorosa Lima in Rio de Janiero
Cold War Letters, Orbis Books, p 12

HT: Jim Forest

The Curé of Ars - St. John Vianney

"After each trip to places of crushing suffering, such as Uganda and Haiti, coming home is always a difficult transition for me to make. Going from extreme need to stunning abundance is jarring. In a land of plenty we hunger for more. We have turned greed into a virtue. Our lives are fragmented and disconnected.  Television and the internet have turned our interior dwellings into shanty towns. Instead of looking in, they prompt us to look outward, and we become what we gaze upon. When praying, we turn away from ourselves and turn toward God."
- Gerry Straub (from his blog today, the Feast of the Curé of Ars)

Today is the Feast of the Curé of Ars, the parish priest assigned to a forgotten farmers' village.  The simplicity of his life and acceptance of his limited natural knowledge, drew people from all over France to his confessional.  He spent 17 hours a day hearing confessions.  It is said that he could read peoples' souls.  He was a guide for the down-trodden and broken people of the world.

His body remains incorrupt. 

More on St. John Vianney is HERE.

Note: I do not usually write about saints in this blog.  I think that St. Benedict Joseph Labre, the patron saint of tramps, is the only other one.  Interestingly, the Vianney's were a family who gave hospitality to the poor and Benedict Joseph Labre as he passed through their French town.