Sunday, January 8, 2012

Thomas Merton, the contemplative life, and grace

Almost done with "The Seven Storey Mountain." The second half is easier and more interesting for me, when he really gets enraptured by everything about Catholicism and his vocation as a contemplative monk.

He describes grace as well as I've seen it done anywhere. He spoke of the Baroness de Hueck, who worked with the black community in Harlem during World War II. She came to speak at St. Bonaventure College in New York, where he taught. He described her as nondescript, drab, and of course a woman -- meaning that he didn't expect her to inspire much attention or interest! But he said he came in to the hall while she was speaking and immediately became aware of the rapt attention of the audience on what she was saying. It was because of the strong, simple message she carried, and her conviction in her work. In fact, he later watched her ministering to ordained priests, carrying that divine power with her wherever she went.

This was more than an individual alone could ever do. This is where grace comes in, and a person is able to channel the power of the holy spirit, that transforms an individual human being into a channel for doing God's work in this world.

Merton's greatest love was writing, it seems, and he experienced God through his writing. He is still alive to us today because of the body of his work. How amazing for all writers, the immortality given by the written word! (Hopefully, the writing is good, not mediocre! Wouldn't it be simply ghastly to be mediocre for all eternity?)

Some other amazing thoughts from Merton. If we wish to be saints, we pray to be so. God does the rest, the part that we cannot do. We cannot predict the outcome of any action where God is involved.

I've gotten to the part where Merton experiences a complete surrender to the will of God, and is able to rest in it for the first time in his life. This is shortly before he is accepted as a Trappist monk. (They are a silent order except that they also chant and sing.) He realizes that it no longer matters whether he becomes a monk or if he's drafted into the Army, because it is God's will. But before this, he went through tremendous suffering about whether he should be a priest.

Finished reading his book tonight. I need to buy it and reread the Epilogue often. Simply devastating, his brother's young death in WWII. All those young men whose lives have been cut off by war!

Merton is also an Enneagram Type 4. Here's more information on Type 4's if you are interested:

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