Communion and Solidarity – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Life and Holiness

by Mark Votava

thomas-mertonE (1)1. To respond to our vocation in all its depths

“We do not really appreciate the meaning and greatness of our vocation…  Hence we do not have the courage or the strength to respond to our vocation in all its depths.  We unconsciously falsify it, distort its true perspectives, and reduce our Christian life to a kind of genteel and social propriety…  It becomes, in practice, a respectable conformity to what is commonly accepted as ‘good’ in the society in which we live.  The stress is then placed on exterior signs of respectability.”

2. Communion and solidarity

“The idea of ‘holiness’ seems to imply something of communion and solidarity…”

3. The meaning of the word “saint”

“…until we realize that before a man becomes a saint he must first of all be a man in all the humanity and fragility of man’s actual condition, we will never be able to understand the meaning of the word ‘saint.’  Not only were all the saints perfectly human, not only did their sanctity enrich and deepen their humanity, but the Holiest of all the Saints, the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, was himself the most deeply and perfectly human being who ever lived on the face of the earth…”

4. Our ideals have no relation to reality

“Unfortunately we forget that our ideal itself may be imperfect and misleading.  Although our ideal is based on objective norms, we may interpret those norms in a very limited and subjective manner: we may distort them unconsciously to fit our own inordinate needs and expectations.  These needs and expectations of ours, these demands we make on ourselves and on life – on God… – may be much more absurd and illusory than we are capable of realizing.  And therefore our whole idea of perfection, though it may be formulated in words that are theologically irreproachable, may be so utterly unreal in actual practice that we are reduced to helplessness and frustration.  We may ‘even lose our vocation,’ not because we have no ideals, but because our ideals have no relation to reality.”

5. Weaknesses and failures

“We will not be discouraged by our inevitable weaknesses and failures…”

6. Mutual interdependence

“We all need one another, we all complete one another.  God’s will is found in this mutual interdependence…”

7. Each one should cooperate with the Spirit of love, the “bond of unity”

“We are all bound to seek not only our own good, but the good of others…  Divine providence brings us in contact, whether directly or indirectly, with those whose lives we are to play a part… And the Holy Spirit also wills that we should receive from those to whom we give, and give to others from whom we receive…  The will of God is above all that each one should cooperate as freely as possible with the Holy Spirit of love, the ‘bond of unity.’”

8. Inadequate ideas of God and the church

“Our ideals must surely be tested in the most radical way.  We cannot avoid this testing.  Not only must we revise and renew our idea of holiness and of Christian maturity…, but we may also have to confront in our lives inadequate ideas of God and the Church. Indeed, we may have to grapple with actual abuses in the life of Christians, in a so called Christian society, and even in the Church herself.”

Which quotes are your favorite?

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