Thursday, August 29, 2013


Among the many things that religious tradition holds in store for us is a legacy of wonder.  The surest way to suppress our ability to understand the meaning of God and the importance of worship is to take things for granted.  Indifference to the sublime wonder of living is the root of sin. 
Awareness of the divine begins with wonder.  It is the result of what man does with his higher incomprehension.  The greatest hindrance to such awareness is our adjustment to conventional notions, to mental cliches.  Wonder or radical amazement, the state of maladjustment to words and notions, is therefore a prerequisite for an authentic awareness of that which is. 
Abraham Joshua Heschel


  1. Dear Beth,

    I pray that you are doing well. Reading you post, it made me "Wonder."

    I have been reading the Letters of Thomas Merton to Robert Lax. I am really enjoying them. But something is on my mind. In 1947, Dom Nogues told Thomas M. To write- poems, everything, especially about the contemplative life. I recently read some words by a monk, I believe at New Melleray. he said that when one enters the monastery, one must give up everything that they loved - that could mean playing an instrument, cooking, whatever. This is to rid oneself of all the things that we are attached to, to make room for God and for change. Merton wrote all the time. Less in the beginning, more later.

    Of course, I am happy that he wrote. I have to be honest and say that I would not be a deacon, if not for Thomas Merton. (Of course it was Jesus working through him).

    What would have happened if the Abbot did not allow Merton to write at all?

    Would Merton have stayed in the monastery?

    Your thoughts?

    1. dunno, Brian.

      Reading Merton, one of the things that impresses me is faithfulness to the vow of obedience. He really does surrender to the dictates of his abbot whether he understands (or agrees) or not, and this obedience seems rooted in a deeper surrender of his soul to the will of God in the circumstances of his life.

      Whether or not he would have stayed in the monastery seems to be to be a secondary question. Merton was rooted in following God, not his own whims. Through his monastic vows, he followed the will of God through obedience to his abbot.

      If Merton were to leave the monastery, I think it would have had to be for reasons other than Merton's own sense of what was "right" for him personally.

  2. 2Cents ______________________________________

    i have looked at a lot of monastic and so called
    " spiritual " stuff and found much of it just plain egotistical
    the most dangerous people in the world are the
    ones who are going to do something for " god "
    i think god has no interest if you shoot a rabbit and eat it
    or kiss a girl or eat nettle soup and wonder why god
    maid sex - alas god wares a mask and when you take
    the mask off there you are ----

    Blessings ____________________________________________

  3. too cents more _________

    i like Merton stuff
    and do read his letters witness to freedom and hidden ground of love
    and most of his books and get the idea he is very dissatisfied with
    his life and the monastic setting as a baby wanting to born but cant
    get out of the womb - the monastic setting should be a school of learning
    but there should be a graduating day and Merton progressed to a dead end
    it is not usual after years in the monastic setting people feel trapped and
    anguish about leaving causing many personal problems our today
    society is not geared to prepare a person for 12thcentery institutionalism -

    blessings ____________________________________________________

  4. think you're right on, bob, about the god-mask. which is probably why I am so uncomfortable with public prayer. I can't seem to get beneath the ego stuff - yet that is who we are and how we are made so I'm not sure if that is just another of my own willie nillies.

    Have you read the Merton's last talk in Bangkok before he died. He talks about the end of institutionalism - where do you go from the top of a 10 foot pole? And agree with you about Merton's dissatisfactions and as he said, am I on my way out the back door?

    I just don't know if the dead end is not the point. Is there really a graduation at all? Seems to me that most everyone, monastic or not, gets trapped. The cramp afflicts all of us, monks and non-monks.

    Not sure what the future of monasticism is, but I like that they are there. Straightens me out to go to a monastery. I understand that monasteries in the East have a kind of revolving door, allowing people to come and go for periods of time in their lives.

  5. from September 9, 1968, the day Merton left Gethsemani:
    "I am not starting out with a firm plan never to return or with an absolute determination to return at all costs. I do feel there is not much for me here at the moment and that I need to be open to lost of new possibilities. I hope I shall be! But I remain a monk of Gethsemani. Whether or not I will end my days here, I don't know. Perhaps it is not so important. The great thing is to respond perfectly to God's Will in this providential opportunity, whatever it may bring."

  6. 2cents _________________________________________________

    i have Mertons Asian Journal back in Tn.
    also a photo taken some time around his last talk
    if i can find it when i get back to Tn. ill send you a copy -

    Blessings ______________________________________________



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