Monday, July 2, 2012

Prayer is who you are

Loretto Motherhouse, Nerinx KY - photo by Patricia Drury
Prayer begins with reality, with who you are.

This was the simple message that Merton brought to the Sisters of Loretto.  On several occasions Merton spoke to the novices at the nearby Loretto motherhouse as a gesture of friendly sharing.  The topic was prayer and his advice was simple and useful.  The following is transcribed from a talk he gave on a spring morning in 1963:
"Don't let your prayer be a fight against reality.  And the first reality you've got is yourself, and that's where prayer begins.  It begins with you and you don't have to go from you to God, because God is in you.  All you've got to do is to stay where you are.  You don't have to get out of this "base, earthly being" which you are and climb Jacob's ladder and get way up in heaven where God is, because if you do that, you'll never pray.  You couldn't pray.

"You have to start where you are and stay with it, because God is in you as you are, and doesn't expect you to be any other than you are, except that there is a change that God is going to make in your life.  But you have to learn how to get together with God in your life so that this change can be made."
- from "Hidden in the Same Mystery - Thomas Merton and Loretto",  p. 25 from the Talk of Father Louis to Novices and Postulants, May 15, 1963

10 comments:

  1. Needed this one today Beth. Thanks and Blessings

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  2. Timely... extremely timely for me...

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    1. there are some gems buried in these talks, J - profound in their simplicity. I hope to get a few of them added to this site.

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  3. I agree with this one wholeheartedly. Sad to say, some people use prayer as an escape from reality. That's why there's some truth to what Karl Marx said: "Religion is the opium of the people." Of course, he was talking about unhealthy religion and spirituality, which, like anything else, can be distorted and abused. But true spirituality is not escapist and, as Merton points out, roots us in reality -in the reality of what's happening around us and in the reality of who we really are. Needless to say, prayer is a very powerful source of personal and social transformation.

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    1. Thanks, Matt. I use Merton to help find my way through the unhealthy and escapist religion that seems to be all around.

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  4. There is great wisdom here. How easy is it sometimes to seek silence and thereby shut God up! All those distractions are part of us. We must treat them tenderly.

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    1. This reminds me of the way Fr. Keating says that we let go of our thoughts "ever so gently".

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  5. Its a scarey place to be, me...reality. Thanks Beth, for opening the window into your journey; I write as a 50-something broad who's read merton/contemplatives for decades, and finding these days their writings so alive that it seems i'd never read them at all. Or let them read me. Where the rubber hits the road, God...
    (have mercy....)
    Melody

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    1. I know what you mean, Melody ... sometimes it seems like every time I pick up Merton, I'm reading him for the first time! :-)

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