“The Christian must have the courage to follow Christ. The Christian who is risen in Christ must dare to be like Christ: he must dare to follow conscience even in unpopular causes. He must, if necessary, be able to disagree with the majority and make decisions that he knows to be according to the Gospel and teaching of Christ, even when others do not understand why he is acting this way… (p. 189).”
My first encounter with Merton was in 1969, when I was 19 years old investigating the pacifist roots of the Christian faith. I picked up Merton’s booklet entitled “Blessed Are the Meek: The Christian Roots of Nonviolence,” published by the Catholic Peace Fellowship. The entire contents of this booklet are included in these “Essential Writings.”)
This volume is divided into three sections, in addition to the preface and a brief biography of Merton’s life: contemplation, compassion and unity. The selections are presented, more or less, in chronological order, giving the reader some insight into the development of his thinking over the years. I have a friend who says that Merton “went off the deep end” near the end of his life. But I dare say that my friend probably didn’t read what Merton wrote. This book assures me that Merton never strayed from the Christian tradition, even while trying to engage in dialogue with monks and mystics from other traditions.
Below are favorite quotes.