One Step at a Time – 12 quotes from Thomas Merton’s Writings – The School of Charity: Letters on Religious Renewal and Spiritual Direction edited by Patrick Hart

by Mark Votava

51DC5NQGMAL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. An appearance of autonomy

“A ‘zombie’ is a person, or rather a human being, that has been brought back to the semblance of life from death by voodoo and goes about with an appearance of autonomy but no soul.  A rather ugly concept, but one which forcefully expresses the depersonalization of mass man.”

2. The risk of letting people really discover themselves

“Perhaps our problem here is that we prefer the security that can be gained by screwing everything down tight and keeping it that way, to the risk of letting people really discover themselves.”

3. Spirit of unity in diversity

“One thing I think is going to be very important is the preservation of a sane and broad minded spirit of unity in diversity with lots of sober flexibility in adaptations, so that there will not be a few rigid norms laid down which all must meet, but that, especially during the interim of experimentation, there will be a certain amount of choice left open…”

4. Not to cling desperately to structures of the past

“It is not enough for us to arrange things so we can survive in today’s world.  We need a real renewal…  For this renewal we need an atmosphere of courage and liberty where it would be permitted not to cling desperately to structures of the past…”

5. So many people desire control

“…so many people desire control and though they do not even admit this, they fear freedom and want to be told what to do all the time…”

6. Constant talking

“And may God help us if we get ourselves imprisoned in a system of relationships that involve constant talking, contacts on a superficial level…”

7. No amount of theory can substitute for a grain of practice

“In this question of solitude, no amount of theory can substitute for a grain of practice…”

8. True simplicity is almost impossible for an American

“To begin with I am becoming more and more convinced that true simplicity, in the depths of the heart, is almost impossible for an American or a European.  Certainly they may be subjectively sincere and mean well, but the fact that they come from a society that divides man from the very start and fills him with conflicts and doubts must mean something…”

9. The grace of solitude

“The more I appreciate the grace of solitude, the more I see its depths and its pure gratuity…”

10. We must not seek some special experience or “state”

“…we must not seek some special experience or ‘state’ but only God…”

11. To be tolerant and patient and open to new ideas

“People who are insecure are usually quite aggressive towards others, and there is much insecurity today…  The thing is to be tolerant and patient ourselves and open to new ideas insofar as they have any value: but one can’t swallow all the current absurdities…”

12. We have to take one step at a time

“…we have to start from where we are, and respond to grace as we are, within our own communities and we have to take one step at a time.  The main thing is to be ready to refuse nothing when the call really comes, and to be open to each little thing, each new opportunity to make our life more real and less of a systematic and mechanical routine.  But we have to be patient and not demand instant sweeping results…”

Which quotes do you like the best?

Here are some other posts I have done on Thomas Merton and his writings.