Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The good Fr. Louis

Photo by Jim Forest
I finished the Lipsey book ("Make Peace Before the Sun Goes Down") last night. I had been reading it almost non-stop since it arrived. I knew that Lipsey could do this. He  could honestly delve into the muddle of confused emotion that characterized Merton’s relationship with his abbot, Dom James Fox, and come out with something authentic and believable. Even more than Merton’s own journal writing, Lipsey’s accounting of what was happening between Merton and his abbot makes Merton more believable. More human and relatable. Here is a popular monk, the 20th Century’s most prominent spiritual writer, and he is embroiled in the same complicated and painful relationship patterns that afflict most every family. Resentments, deceit, dysfunction, self-doubt, distrust, projection, exasperation. Arm wrestling indeed, and under the cover of politeness and piety. Merton’s own writing about the struggle is one sided, not giving the full context. Lipsey gives Dom James’ side of the story. He looks for ways to understand and explain Dom James and gives him the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. In the end, it is what it is and one is left seeing more clearly the role of providence in this particular relationship and all relationships.

While Merton was writing exquisite poetry and funny letters, THIS was going on. This is encouraging.

Thank you Roger Lipsey. It all had to be said. The next time I visit Gethsemane I will be sure to bring some flowers to the grave of Dom James Fox.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

How Merton might have described Ad Reinhardt's paintings

Ad Reinhardt

How Merton might have described Ad Reinhardt's paintings:

"It is in this darkness, when there is nothing left in us that can please or comfort our own minds, when we seem to be useless and worthy of all contempt, when we seem to have failed, when we seem to be destroyed and devoured, it is then that the deep and secret selfishness that is too close for us to identify is stripped away from our souls. It is in this darkness that we find true liberty. It is in this abandonment that we are made strong. This is the night which empties us and makes us pure. Do not look for rest in any pleasure, because you were not created for pleasure: you were created for spiritual JOY. And if you do not know the difference between pleasure and spiritual joy you have not yet begun to live." - Thomas Merton

From New Seeds if Contemplation, Chapter 25

Quoted in "Ad Reinhardt and the Via Negative / The Brooklyn Rail", an article by John Yau.

Friday, May 8, 2015

about Faith (and the Via Negativa) - "You can only believe what you do not know."

Ad Reinhardt
"First of all, faith is not an emotion, not a feeling. It is not a blind sub-conscious urge toward something vaguely supernatural. It is simply not an elemental need in man’s spirit. It is not a feeling that God exists. It is not a conviction that one is saved or “justified” for no special reason except that one happens to feel that way. It is not something entirely interior and subjective, with no reference to any exterior motive. It is not just a “soul-force.” It is not something that bubbles up out of the recesses of your soul and fills you with an indefinable “sense” that everything is all right. It is not something so purely yours that its content is incommunicable. It is not some personal myth that you cannot share with anyone else, and the objective validity of which does not matter either to you or God or anybody else. ... But it is also not an opinion. It is not a conviction based on rational analysis. It is not the fruit of scientific evidence. You can only believe what you do not know." - Thomas Merton
From New Seeds if Contemplation, Chapter 18

Quoted in "Ad Reinhardt and the Via Negative / The Brooklyn Rail", an article by John Yau.

Robert Ellsberg on Dorothy Day Canonization

Robert Lax "Legend"

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Make Peace Before the Sun Goes Down

Excellent article about a new book by Roger Lipsey on the vocation of Thomas Merton and his relationship with his abbot, Dom James Fox.
“Meeting with God does not come to man in order that he may concern himself with God, but in order that he may confirm that there is meaning in the world. “All revelation is summons and sending.... God remains present to you when you have been sent forth; he who goes on a mission has always God before him: the truer the fulfillment the stronger and more constant his nearness. He cannot concern himself directly with God but he can converse with Him.”
Responding to this passage, Merton continued, “Ten years ago I would have been perplexed and scandalized by [these thoughts], but in the depths of my heart I realize how true they are. And I realize how monumentally we fail, in this monastery, to understand this!”
Excerpted with the publisher’s kind permission from Make Peace Before the Sun Goes Down: The Long Encounter of Thomas Merton and His Abbot, James Fox, Shambhala Publications, May 2015.

The Good Shepherd’s commitments to us

Photo (by me) from the Basilica of Sts. Cosmos and Damian, Roma HT to John Predmore SJ for the following: I would like to talk about God’s ...