Friday, August 9, 2019

All the world shone with thy lightning and the troubled earth shook - Two Days in August

Two days in August
Chris McDonnell 
Catholic Times (UK) / Friday August 9th 2019

This week is marked by two significant dates from 1945, the use of the atomic weapons first on the city of Hiroshima on August 6th and three days later on Nagasaki. The loss of life and the dawn of the availability of weapons of mass destruction were marked by those distant August days. If you look back to the old Roman Missal and read the Introit for the Mass of the Transfiguration, August 6th, you will find these words: 

“All  the world shone with thy lightning and the troubled earth shook” 

The Psalmist who wrote Psalm 76 could not have appreciated just how awful was that prediction for there is something deeply uncomfortable and prophetic in those few words. Now, some 74 years on, we live with an uneasy stalemate. 

The days that led up to the morning of August 6th gave rise to a long poem,  "Original Child Bomb", written in 41 verses in 1962, by Thomas Merton. He recounts in a methodical, almost pedantic, manner the decisions that led up to the final go-ahead for its use.

“On Sunday afternoon ‘Little Boy’ was brought out in procession and devoutly tucked away in the womb of Enola Gay. That evening few were able to sleep. They were excited as little boys on Christmas Eve. (26)

He goes on to say that- “… they reached Hiroshima and started the bomb run. The city was full of sun. The fliers could see the green grass in the gardens. No fighters rose to meet them. There was no flak. No one in the city bothered to take cover.” (31).

Ever since that terrible event, and the second attack on Nagasaki three days later, the moral absolutes have been debated. It is not without significance that Merton wrote his poem in 1962, the year of the Council and the year of the Cuban missile crisis. He concluded his writing with these lines.

“Since that summer many other bombs have been ‘found’. What is going to happen? At the time of writing, after a season of brisk speculation men seem to be fatigued by the whole question”. (41) 
There is now no way of knowing what was said in those early morning  moments by many voices.  Now no way of hearing their words  (of greeting  or recrimination) traded across a room or in passing down the street. 

Now no way of smelling the scent of flowers from garden shrubs  or from potted plants  rivalling the staleness of sleep with breakfast done. 

Now no way of touching the outstretched hand of the child walking with her Mother just after eight that blue skied hour.         Hiroshima Day, dark brightness in the bright darkness, Night Hiroshima. 

Only in the agony of that explosive instant when on ground, razed of buildings, human forms that moved just disappeared. 

Only then as the fireball rose and the firestorm spread outwards did voices of children cry “Atsui, Atsui” -it is hot-  but without response.

Only then  did silent shuffling ghosts leaving the stricken town hold out their savaged hands softly howling “Tasukete kure ” - help, please but none came. We begin to realise the transfigured Christ, fire-caught that August morning of fearsome Dawn.

There are times in our lives when an event is transformative, when something happens that makes a difference; there is a step-change and the person we were before is radically different from the person we become. There is no going back. 

Of all the events recorded in the Gospels, the account of Peter, James and John with the Lord on Mount Tabor , just west of the Sea of Galilee, given to us by Matthew, stirs the imagination. There, on that rocky outcrop, the appearance of the man from Nazareth was transformed and momentarily his three companions were dazed by the event and covered their faces. Something of the glory and radiance of God was revealed to them, however briefly. Did they understand its significance? I doubt it. Did it affect their lives and their perception of the nature of Jesus? Most certainly it did. That moment in time was linked with an event that was yet to happen, the Resurrection of the Lord after his crucifixion at Passover. “Don’t tell anyone just yet”, they were told, the significance of such an event would be lost on those who had yet to walk the journey that led to it.

Now and then, we too are transformed, transfigured even, and the dwelling of God in us is allowed to shine through. Others see it, and are grateful for our being alongside them. Others feel it, in the gentleness of our touch or the carefulness of our hug. Others value it when we truly listen to their words of joy or pain and share with them times of great personal happiness or the darkness of desolation.

Nagasaki - the Peace Statue

Nagasaki, Japan 
August 9, 2019

A moment of silence was observed at 11:02 AM, the exact time on August 9, 1945, when a plutonium cored atomic bomb, code named "Fat Man" dropped by a U.S. bomber exploded over the southwestern Japanese city. This bombing happened 3 days after the United States dropped the world's first deployed atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

The ceremony was held in Nagasaki's Peace Park, before the Peace Statue. 

The sculpture of the seated man has his right arm pointed to the sky, representing the threat of an atomic bomb being dropped, and his left arm is extended horizontally, symbolizing peace. The statue's eyes are closed in mourning.

Other louie postings on Nagasaki & Hiroshima are here:

Nagasaki (2018)

Tuesday, August 6, 2019


in the background, the remains of the cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

As soon as the planes had passed, Mrs. Nakamura started back with her children. They reached home a little after two-thirty and she immediately turned on the radio, which, to her distress, was just then broadcasting a fresh warning. When she looked at the children and saw how tired they were, and when she thought of the number of trips they had made in past weeks, all to no purpose, to the East Parade Ground, she decided that in spite of the instructions on the radio, she simply could not face starting out all over again. She put the children in their bedrolls on the floor, lay down herself at three o’clock, and fell asleep at once, so soundly that when planes passed over later, she did not waken to their sound.
--- from "Hiroshima" by John Hersey

Friday, July 26, 2019

the death penalty

“What society preaches as ‘the good life’ is in fact a systematically organized way of death, not only because it is saturated with what psychologists call an unconscious death wish, but because it actually rests on death. It is built on the death of the nonconformist, the alien, the odd ball, the enemy, the criminal. It is based on war, on imprisonment, on punitive methods which include not only mental and physical torture but, above all, the death penalty.”
– Thomas Merton’s introduction to The Plague by Albert Camus

See also Jim Forest's essay, "Thomas Merton's Affinity with Albert Camus".

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

wounds: not a tomb but a womb

From 1994-1999 (roughly ages 60-65) he "withdrew" to a Zen monastery was ordained as a Buddhist priest.

But upon his "return" discovered his trusted financial manager had stolen all his money. He was financially forced to write, compose, and eventually tour.

The open wound of misplaced trust became a portal to one of the most productive times in life. This is often the way with wounds: not a tomb but a womb.

He died at age 82 and never retired.

May it be so.


If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will

If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing

From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing


Photo by Thomas Merton
“There is one more thing: I may be interested in Oriental religions, etc., but there can be no obscuring the essential difference-this personal communion with Christ at the center and heart of all reality. As a source of grace and life. “God is love” may be clarified if one says that “God is void” and if, in the void, one finds absolute indetermination and hence absolute freedom. (With freedom, the void becomes fullness and 0 = Infinity.) All that is “interesting”, but none of it touches on the mystery of personality in God, and His personal love for me. Again, I am void too, and I have freedom, or am a kind of freedom, meaningless unless oriented to Him.” 

- Thomas Merton (June 26, 1965) from A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals

Saturday, June 1, 2019

weaving the threads of the future

From Francis' homily today at the Shrine of Sumuleu-Ciuc in Romania. Read the whole thing HERE
To go on pilgrimage is to realize that we are in a way returning home as a people, a people whose wealth is seen its myriad faces, cultures, languages and traditions. The holy and faithful People of God who in union with Mary advance on their pilgrim way singing of the Lord’s mercy. In Cana of Galilee, Mary interceded with Jesus to perform his first miracle; in every shrine, she watches over us and makes intercession, not only with her Son but also with each of us, asking that we not let ourselves be robbed of our fraternal love by those voices and hurts that provoke division and fragmentation. Complicated and sorrow-filled situations from the past must not be forgotten or denied, yet neither must they be an obstacle or an excuse standing in the way of our desire to live together as brothers and sisters. 
To go on pilgrimage is to feel called and compelled to journey together, asking the Lord for the grace to change past and present resentments and mistrust into new opportunities for fellowship. It means leaving behind our security and comfort and setting out for a new land that the Lord wants to give us. To go on pilgrimage means daring to discover and communicate the “mystique” of living together, and not being afraid to mingle, to embrace and to support one another. To go on pilgrimage is to participate in that somewhat chaotic sea of people that can give us a genuine experience of fraternity, to be part of a caravan that can together, in solidarity, create history (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 87). 
To go on pilgrimage is to look not so much at what might have been (and wasn’t), but at everything that awaits us and cannot be put off much longer. It is to believe in the Lord who is coming and even now is in our midst, inspiring and generating solidarity, fraternity, and the desire for goodness, truth and justice (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 71). It is to commit ourselves to ensuring that the stragglers of yesterday can become the protagonists of tomorrow, and that today’s protagonists do not become tomorrow’s stragglers. This requires a certain skill, the art of weaving the threads of the future. That is why we are here today, to say together: Mother teach us to weave the future.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

He asked for nothing for himself

Talk about radical. Talk about prophetic and holy. I don't know if, in my lifetime, I have encountered a person quite as clear as Peter Maurin. So clear that he is somewhat hidden.

Even now, he's known mostly through Dorothy Day. Not directly.

This is the 70th anniversary of his death and NCR has an article.

"He asked nothing for himself, so he got nothing," Dorothy Day wrote in Loaves and Fishes of Peter Maurin.
Day once said that Maurin's dedication to voluntary poverty was so extreme that perhaps the only possession he really valued was his mind. (He eventually surrendered that as well, experiencing an apparent stroke that made him lose his ability to think clearly several years before his death.) When Maurin died May 15, 1949, he was buried in a donated grave, wearing a donated suit.
Like Jean Vanier, he found his way as a lay man.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Enfolded in weakness and hope

“When you die, you fall asleep. And you wake up, and there’s a very gentle peace. You feel well. And then you discover the face of God coming through that ‘wellness’. "
- Speaking to the Tablet in 2017

“But let us not put our sights too high. We do not have to be saviours of the world! We are simply human beings, enfolded in weakness and in hope, called together to change our world one heart at a time.”
- Becoming Human

More Quotes from Jean Vanier are HERE.

Jean Vanier died early this morning, just outside of Paris. RIP.

Friday, May 3, 2019

There is no going back

No, no, there is no going back.
Less and less you are
that possibility you were.
More and more you have become
those lives and deaths
that have belonged to you.
You have become a sort of grave
containing much that was
and is no more in time, beloved
then, now, and always.
And so you have become a sort of tree
standing over a grave.
Now more than ever you can be
generous toward each day
that comes, young, to disappear
forever, and yet remain
unaging in the mind.
Every day you have less reason
not to give yourself away.
~ Wendell Berry ~

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Wisdom of Tenderness

“In this communion, we discover the deepest part of our being: the need to be loved and to have someone who trusts and appreciates us and who cares least of all about our capacity to work or to be clever and interesting.”

Friday, April 19, 2019

the poor and rejected, the hungry, the naked, the incarcerated, the outcast

From the homily of Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Pontifical Household, for the Solemn Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord, in St Peter's Basilica on Good Friday afternoon, 2019:
"The African-American writer and theologian Howard Thurman—the man Martin Luther King considered his teacher and his inspiration for the non-violent struggle for human rights—wrote a book called Jesus and the Disinherited.”[1] In it he shows what the figure of Jesus represented for the slaves in the south, of whom he himself was a direct descendant. When the slaves were deprived of every right and completely abject, the words of the Gospel that the minister would repeat in their segregated worship —the only meeting they were allowed to have— would give the slaves back a sense of their dignity as children of God.
 "The majority of Negro Spirituals that still move the world today arose in this context. At the time of public auction, slaves experienced the anguish of seeing wives separated from their husbands and children from their parents, being sold at times to different masters. It is easy to imagine the spirit with which they sang out in the sun or inside their huts, “Nobody knows the trouble I have seen. Nobody knows, but Jesus.”
The text of the entire homily is HERE.

Living in the Light of Death

Via Crucis, Good Friday 2014, Colisseum Roma Italia
photo by Beth Cioffoletti

As St. Augustine taught, we must “die daily” to our small and separate sense of self. Kathleen Dowling Singh offers an invitation to practice dying through meditation. In her words, “We can sit to meditate with the intention to let it all go, inspired to explore what lies beyond self.”

“We sit deliberately, with noble posture and noble attention.

“We breathe. Progressively, we free our awareness from sensations. We free our awareness from the ‘I’ we imputed upon the sensations and the ‘mine’ with which we tried to claim them. We relieve ourselves of all of our mistaken identifications, loosening our attachments to them, letting them go.

“We liberate ourselves from illusions and, cleared of all that congested weight, the burden of being a self, we surrender, entering awareness that is spacious and quiet and uncongested.

“We just die into silence. Die to the past. Die to the future. Die to the breath. Completely let go. The silence reveals itself as refuge, as awareness that can be trusted, tenderly loving and resounding with the majesty and the mystery of the sacred.”

Adapted from “Living in the Light of Death” by Kathleen Dowling Singh,
Oneing, “Ripening,” Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 42-44

[repeat post from Good Friday, 2014]

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

This is the end, for me the beginning of life

On April 9, 1945, after conducting a prayer service for fellow prisoners in Flossenberg camp, received a summons: “Prisoner Bonhoeffer, get ready and come with us.” He replied, "This is the end, for me the beginning of life.” He was hanged that night.

The path to his death at 39 was prefigured in his early work on "The Cost of Discipleship," where he wrote that the Cross "meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” 

This end was also prefigured in his early recognition of the idolatrous and evil designs of Hitler's Third Reich. He helped form the Confessing Church to resist Hitler's efforts to co-opt Christianity in favor of a national cult of "German Christianity." 

Eventually he accepted a safe haven in New York's . But in 1939 he returned: “I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the tribulations of this time with my people.” 

Back in Germany he joined a secret conspiracy to overthrow Hitler: “The church’s task is not simply to bind the wounds of the victims beneath the wheel, but also to put a spoke in the wheel itself.” 

Although this violated his pacifist leanings, he came to believe: “The ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation is to live.” With his fellow conspirators he was arrested in 1943. 

In prison he imagined a new perspective for the church—not from the center of power and status, but from “below, from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled—in short, from the perspective of those who suffer.” 

Bonhoeffer is the rare theologian whose biography is studied as carefully as his written work for clues about the challenge of faith in our time--in particular, the ethical dilemmas of responsible action in the face of injustice and tyranny. 

He represents a model of holiness: not in the cloister, or in some safe "religious" zone, but in the midst of history, in discernment, in judging how God is calling us to respond to the needs of our suffering neighbors. A witness for our time.

- from a thread of tweets by Robert Ellsburg on Twitter.
"There is no way to peace along the way of safety.  For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe.  Peace is the opposite of security.  To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself.  Peace means giving oneself completely to God's commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes.  Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God.  They are won when the way leads to the cross." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Trust Your Inner Life

Brother Patrick Hart, O.S.C.O, died (Feb. 21) and was buried last week. Brother Patrick was appointed Merton's secretary just before he died, and guided the publications and voluminous correspondence surrounding Merton's work in the 50 years following his death.

Brother Patrick is said to have been a very kind man who did not engage in gossip.

From an article in the Angelus -

In a 2004 interview with Sister Mary Margaret (Meg) Funk OSB — then Executive Director of the North American Commission of Monastic Inter-religious Dialogue — asked Brother Patrick “a broad but basic question.”
“In a nutshell, what do you think is Merton’s legacy for monasticism?” 
Brother Patrick answered: “Maybe, that you have to trust your inner life, your innermost self, as you appear before God. Merton was always very strong on this idea of living from the deepest self, the true self, rather than the empirical ego or the external self, the social self. This means that you live as you stand naked before God. I think that’s what he would say. He would tell us to listen from the heart and to live a simple, honest life, united to God and one another.” ...
In the sometimes topsy-turvy world of theological controversies and Merton scholarship, Brother Patrick Hart was a rock of clarity, compassion, and common sense — protecting Merton’s writings and the integrity of contemplative Catholicism from the would-be usurpers, slanderers, and uninformed. His was the delicate vocation of a literary apostle and humble monk. May he rest in peace
Thank you, Brother Patrick. 

Here are some other links on this blog about Brother Patrick:

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

silent exclamations

Photo by Thomas Merton
"Words were so very important to Merton. One reads his books not only for his surprising and challenging insights but because he plays with the music of words as if he were playing jazz clarinet or saxophone. No one is more articulate than Merton but also no one was more aware than he of the limits of words. Like arrows, words point but they are not the target. As he once remarked to his novices, “He who follows words is destroyed.”
Merton explores this topic more deeply a letter the Venezuelan poet, Ludivico Silva:
The religion of our time,
to be authentic,
needs to be the kind that escapes practically all religious definition.
Because there had been endless definition,
endless verbalizing,
and words have become gods. 
There are so many words that one cannot get to God
as long as He is thought to be on the other side of the words.
But when he is placed firmly beyond the other side of the words,
the words multiply like flies
and there is a great buzzing religion,
very profitable,
very holy,
very spurious. 
One tries to escape it by acts of truth that fail.
One's whole being must be an act for which there can be found no word.
This is the primary meaning of faith.
On this basis, other dimensions of belief can be mad credible.
Otherwise not. 
My whole being must be a yes
and an amen
and an exclamation
that is not heard.
Only after that is there any point in exclamations
and even after that there is no point in exclamations.
One's acts must be part of the same silent exclamation.
It is because this is dimly and unconsciously realized by everyone,
and because no one can reconcile this with the state of
division and alienation in which we find ourselves,
that they all without meaning it
gravitate toward the big exclamation
that means nothing and says nothing:
The triumph of speech,
when all the words have worn out,
and when everybody still thinks
that there remain an infinite amount of truths
to be uttered. 
If only they could realize
that nothing has to be uttered. 
Utterance makes sense
only when it is spontaneous and free ....
[This] is where the silence of the woods comes in.
Not that there is something new
to be thought and discovered
in the woods,
but only that the trees
are all sufficient exclamations of silence,
and one works there,
cutting wood,
clearing ground,
cutting grass,
cooking soup,
drinking fruit juice,
making fire,
smelling smoke,
sweeping, etc. 
This is religion. 
The further one gets away from this,
the more one sinks in the mud
of words and gestures.
The flies gather.
- Jim Forest,  "Thomas Merton: One Foot in the Wilderness, One Foot in the World."

Monday, February 25, 2019

the virginal point of pure nothingness

Photo by Thomas Merton
"In 1965, a few months before Merton began living as a full-time hermit, he wrote a descriptive essay, “Day of a Stranger,” about what he had so far experienced in his several years of being a part-time hermit. In it he speaks in rapturous terms of what he has been learning day-by-day in the woods of Gethsemani:
One might say I had decided to marry the silence of the forest. 
The sweet dark warmth of the whole world will have to be my wife.
Out of the heart of that dark warmth comes the secret that is heard only in silence,
but it is the root of all the secrets that are whispered
by all the lovers in their beds
all over the world. 
So perhaps I have an obligation
to preserve the stillness,
the silence,
the poverty,
the virginal point of pure nothingness
which is at the center of all other loves. 
I attempt to cultivate this plant
without contempt
in the middle of the night
and water it with psalms and prophecies
in silence.
It becomes the most rare
of all the trees in the garden,
at once the primordial paradise tree,
the cosmic axle,
and the Cross ... 
There is only one such tree.
It cannot be multiplied. 
- Thomas Merton, essay, "Day of the Stranger", 1965

- Jim Forest,  "Thomas Merton: One Foot in the Wilderness, One Foot in the World."

Sunday, February 24, 2019

the door to silence is everywhere

Photo by Thomas Merton, New Mexico 1968
"Silence is not silent. There is a torrent of sound even at midnight on the driest, most remote desert: breezes scraping the sand, the tireless conversation of insects, the tidal sound of one’s own breathing, the drumming of one’s heart, the roar of being. It’s an active silence, being attentive rather than speaking, praying rather than engaging in chatter. So long as we breathe, so long as our heart keeps beating, we will never hear absolute silence, but by avoiding distractions and listening to what remains, we discover that the door to silence is everywhere, even in Times Square and Piccadilly Circus. To listen is always an act of being silent. Yet finding places of relative silence can help a pilgrim discover inner silence. As Merton’s friend, the poet Bob Lax, who in his later years made his hermit-like home on the quiet Greek island of Patmos, once put it in a letter:
The thing to do with nature … is to listen to it, and watch it, and look deep into its eyes in a sense, as though you were listening to and watching a friend, not just hearing the words or even just watching the gestures but trying to guess, or get a sense, or share the spirit underneath it, trying to listen (if this isn’t too fancy) to the silence under the sound and trying to get an idea (not starting with any preconceived formulation) of what kind of silence it is." 
- Robert Lax, Letter by Bob Lax to Jubilee magazine staff, quoted by Jim Harford in his book Merton and Friends; New York: Continuum, 2006, p 105-6
- Jim Forest, "Thomas Merton: One Foot in the Wilderness, One Foot in the World."

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Merton's 3rd level of Silence

Still deeper down, Merton was aware of a third level,

"Swimming in the rich darkness
which is no longer thick like water
but pure, like air.

and you do not know where it is coming from.

Moonlight is in this prayer,
waiting for the Redeemer ...

Everything is charged with intelligence,
though all is night.

There is no speculation here.
There is vigilance ...
Everything is spirit.

Here God is adored,
His coming is recognized,
He is received as soon as He is expected
and because He is expected He is receieved,
but He has passed by sooner than He arrived,
He was gone before He came.
He returned forever.
He never yet passed by
and already He had disappeared for all eternity.

He is and He is not.

Everything and Nothing.

Not light not dark,
not high not low,
not this side not that side.

Forever and forever.

In the wind of His passing the angels cry,
"The Holy One is gone."

Therefore I lie dead in the air of their wings ...

It is a strange awakening to find the sky inside you
and beneath you
and above you
and all around you
so that your spirit is one with the sky,
and all is positive night."


From an essay by Jim Forest, "Thomas Merton: One Foot in the Wilderness, One Foot in the World."

Merton's quoted words from Sign of Jonas, 338-39

Merton's 2nd level of Silence

Photo by Thomas Merton

February, 1952

Siting on a cedar log under a tree
gazing out at light blue hills in the distance,
Merton saw his true self
as a kind of 
solitary sea creature
dwelling in a water cavern
which knows of the world of dry land
only by faint rumor.

When he got free of plans and projects 
-- the first level of the sea with its troubled surface --
then he entered a deeper second level,
the deep waters out of reach of storms
where there was ...

"peace, peace, peace ...
We pray therein, slightly waving among the fish ...
Words, as I think, do not spring from this second level.
They are only meant to drown there."

"The question of socialization does not concern
these waters.
They are nobody's property."

"No questions whatever
perturb their holy botany.
Neutral territory.
No man's sea."

"I think God meant me to write about this second level."

From an essay by Jim Forest, "Thomas Merton: One Foot in the Wilderness, One Foot in the World."

Merton's quoted words from Sign of Jonas, 338-39

striving to rid ourselves of our fear

The present world crisis is not merely a political and economic conflict. It goes deeper than ideologies. It is a crisis of man’s spirit. It is a great religious and moral upheaval of the human race, and we do not really know half the causes of this upheaval. We cannot pretend to have a full understanding of what is going on in ourselves and in our society. That is why our desperate hunger for clear and definite solutions sometimes leads us into temptation. We oversimplify. We seek the cause of evil and find it here or there in a particular nation, class, race, ideology, system. And we discharge upon this scapegoat all the virulent force of our hatred, compounded with fear and anguish, striving to rid ourselves of our fear by destroying the object we have arbitrarily singled out as the embodiment of all evil. Far from curing us, this is only another paroxysm which aggravates our sickness. 
The moral evil in the world is due to man’s alienation from the deepest truth, from the springs of spiritual life within himself, to his alienation from God. Those who realize this, try desperately to persuade and enlighten their brothers. But we are in a radically different position from the first Christians, who revolutionized an essentially religious world of paganism with the message of a new religion that had never been heard of."

— Thomas Merton
From his essay “Christian Action in World Crisis”
Passion for Peace: The Social Essays of Thomas Merton; William Shannon, editor (New York: Crossroad, 1995), p 83.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

On the Road with Thomas Merton

 Photo by Thomas Merton - New Mexico 1968
This is really well done.

On the Road with Thomas Merton
Film by Jeremy Seifert
Essay by Fred Bahnson

I, too, have made my way to some of the places in California that Merton visited and to the Christ in the Desert monastery in New Mexico. I, too, was inspired by Merton's 1968 spring trip. I wanted to see what he saw when he ventured out of his Gethsemane monastery those months before he died.

There are many good Merton thoughts in this film and essay. Many good reflections. Many Merton photos I had not seen before. Even some Merton words that are new to me.
"Man instinctively regards himself as a wanderer and wayfarer, and it is second nature for him to go on pilgrimage in search of a privileged and holy place, a center and source of indefectible life. This hope is built into his psychology, and whether he acts it out or simply dreams it, his heart seeks to return to a mythical source, a place of “origin,” the “home” where the ancestors came from, the mountain where the ancient fathers were in direct communication with heaven, the place of the creation of the world, paradise itself, with its sacred tree of life."
- Thomas Merton, from the essay, "From Pilgrimage to Crusade"

Thursday, January 31, 2019

the wind in the pine trees

Nothing has ever been said about God that hasn’t already been said better by the wind in the pine trees.
— Thomas Merton, born 104 years ago today in the town of Prades in the south of France.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
- Mary Oliver

Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles was among the last people to speak to Dr. King, visiting him in his motel room to take him to dinner. When they walked out, Dr. King was shot. The night before Rev. King 
had given his mountaintop speech.

In a 2008 interview, Rev. Kyles of Memphis, describes his famous "mountaintop" speech:

"Many of us, grown men, were crying, we had no idea why we were crying. We had no way of knowing that would be the last speech of his life. And then he took us to the mountaintop ..."

"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life — longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything, I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord." — the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Kyles says he's "so certain" that King "knew he wouldn't get there, but he wouldn't tell us that. That would have been too heavy for us, so he softened it." 

Afterward, "we had to help him to his seat behind that powerful, prophetic speech," Kyles says. 
"He preached himself through the fear of death," Kyles says. "He just got it out of him. He just dealt with it. And we were just standing there. It was like, what did he know that we didn't know?"
When he speaks to people who were not alive or too young to remember King, Kyle says he tells them, "we're not going to get to the place where we can say, 'Dr. King's dream has been realized. Now we can go to the beach.' That's not going to happen. Much of it has been realized, but there is so much to do. But each generation will have its portion, and that helps to keep the dream alive."

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