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Thomas Merton on the nature of personhood

May 21, 2007 Leave a comment

Here’s a great quote on the human person from Thomas Merton:

“The person is defined in terms of freedom, hence in terms of responsibility also: responsibility to other persons, responsibility for other persons. To put it in concrete terms, the Christian is not only one who seeks the expansion and development of his own individuality and the satisfaction of his most legitimate natural needs but one who recognizes himself responsible for the good of others, for their own temporal fulfillment, and ultimately for their eternal salvation. Hence, the Christian person reaches maturity with the realization that each one of us is indeed his “brother’s keeper,” and that if men are suffering and dying in Asia or Africa, other men in Europe and America are summoned to self-judgment before the bar of conscience to see whether, in fact, some choice or neglect on their own part has had a part in this suffering and this dying, which otherwise may seem so strange and remote. For today the whole world is bound tightly together by economic, cultural and sociological ties which make us all, to some extent, responsible for what happens to others on the far side of the earth. Man is now not only a social being; his social nature transcends national and regional limits, and whether we like it or not, we must think in terms of one human family, one world.”

Thomas Merton. Love and Living. Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, editors. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979: 152-153 

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Disciplining our Watchful Eye

November 27, 2006 1 comment

During Advent, I am focusing on the idea of surprise. And this quote spoke to me about that in some way. Thought someone might enjoy:

“The need for discipline is the same need for watchfulness, for readiness, as in the parable. The ones who wait for the Lord must have oil in their lamps and the lamps must be trimmed. …[Monastic discipline] implies  cultivation of certain inner conditions of awareness, of openness, of readiness for the new and the unexpected.”
Thomas Merton

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Thomas Merton and the Election

November 8, 2006 Leave a comment

The Merton Center for Contemplation sent out this wonderful quote today that fits perfect for our political frenzy.

“Meditation does not necessarily give us a privileged insight into the meaning of isolated historical events. These can remain for the Christian as much of an agonizing mystery as they do for anyone else. But for us the mystery contains, within its own darkness and its own silences, a presence and a meaning which we apprehend without fully understanding them. And by this spiritual contact, this act of faith, we are ourselves properly situated in the events around us, even though we may not quite see where they are going.

One thing is certain: the humility of faith, if it is followed by the proper consequences—by the acceptance of the work and sacrifice demanded by our providential task—will do far more to launch us into the full current of historical reality than the pompous rationalizations of politicians who think they are somehow the directors and manipulators of history. Politicians may indeed make history, but the meaning of what they are making turns out, inexorably, to have been something in a language they will never understand, which contradicts their own programs and turns all their achievements into an absurd parody of their promises and ideals.

Of course, it is true that religion on a superficial level, religion that is untrue to itself and God, easily comes to serve as the “opium of the people.” And this takes place whenever religion and prayer invoke the name of God for reasons and ends that have nothing to do with Him. When religion becomes a mere artificial façade to justify a social or economic system—when religion hands over its rites and language completely to the political propagandist, and when prayer becomes the vehicle for a purely secular ideological program, then religion does tend to become an opiate. It deadens the spirit enough to permit the substitution of a superficial fiction and mythology for the truth of life. And this brings about the alienation of the believer, so that his religious zeal becomes political fanaticism. His faith in God, while preserving its traditional formulas, becomes in fact faith in his own nation, class or race. His ethic ceases to be the law of God and love, and becomes the law of might-makes-right:  established privilege justifies everything. God is the status quo.”
Thomas Merton

From Contemplative Prayer. New York: Doubleday, 1996 edition

 

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