Monday, June 23, 2008

if there is no silence ...

This week's reflection from the Merton Institute for Contemplative Living:

If there is no silence beyond and within the words of doctrine, there is no religion, only religious ideology. For religion goes beyond words and actions, and attains to the ultimate truth in silence. When this silence is lacking, where there are only the "many words" and not the One Word, then there is much bustle and activity, but no peace, no deep thought, no understanding, no inner quiet. Where there is no peace, there is no light. The mind that is hyper-active seems to itself to be awake and productive, but it is dreaming. Only in silence and solitude, in the quiet of worship, the reverent peace of prayer, the adoration in which the entire ego-self silences and abases itself in the presence of the Invisible God, only in these "activities" which are "non-actions" does the spirit truly awake from the dream of a multifarious and confused existence.

Thomas Merton. Honorable Reader: Reflections on My Work.
Edited by Robert E. Daggy (New York: Crossroad, 1989): 115.]

If you want a spiritual life, you must unify your life. A life is either all spiritual or not 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.

Thomas Merton. Thoughts in Solitude (New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1958): 56.


  1. Beth:

    Hi. I just got an email from Jim Forest about your blog. It's been a long time since the old Merton-L days. I hope and pray you and yours are all doing well.

    Bill F.

  2. Nice to hear from you Bill!
    Yes, it's a long time since the old Merton-l days - we didn't even have web browsers or proper email programs back then!

    Anyway, this is where I hang out now, and feed my Merton-attachment. I'm reading the Merton and Hesychasm book now - Jim's photos of the icons really enhance that sense of Orthodoxy that influenced Merton. I'm not at the point yet where I feel like I even know what I'm talking about when I speak about it!

  3. My oldest graduated from HS this spring where he won it's "Thomas Merton Award," so that was pretty cool. And he is going to Binghamton University to major in bioengineering partially because in the Honors Program into which he was accepted has an engineering prof who runs it and teaches a special peace and justice course that features readings from Merton, Day -- and places it all in the context of engineering (pretty wild).

    Bill F.

  4. Wow, you done well, Bill. Congratulations, it sounds like your son has a very special passion for justice.

    Combining Engineering with Social Justice sounds EXCITING!!! That professor must be really something.

    In the autumn of 2001 I was traveling with Kathy Kelly to several universities up the East Coast. Kathy, at that time (just after 9/11) was making her plea for ending the sanctions against Iraq (which was the last thing that our government had in mind). Anyway, we went to several universities and parishes in NorthWestern NY and I was impressed with the strong PRESENCE of social justice within the Catholic Communities. Maybe it is leftover from the Berrigan years, I don't know. But it seemed somehow different from the Catholicism that I was running into in other parts of the country.


The Merton Center

I don't know why it took me so long to get to The Merton Center in Louisville. I've been in and out of KY several times over the yea...