Community and Contemplation – 9 quotes from Thomas Merton’s Writings – Thomas Merton in Alaska: The Alaskan Conferences, Journals, and Letters  

by Mark Votava

Thomas_Merton_In_Alaska1. What is first is God work, God’s spirit

“We need to remind ourselves that what we are doing is not a human action; it is divine.  This is God’s work, not our work.  We must be very conscious of that fact because today, in the midst of Church renewal, people are too often carried away by the merely human side of what is to be done, and they concentrate too much on their own work, their own efforts, and even their own desires, fancies, and inclinations.  All these things are good, but they are secondary, and what is secondary has to remain in second place.  What is first is God’s work, God’s Spirit, and especially is this true in the contemplative life.  As contemplatives we are never going to get anywhere unless we realize ourselves that we are completely in God’s hands.  This realization is much more important in the contemplative life than in any other because, for one thing, the contemplative life reaches far beyond the range of mere human endeavor which exists in the active life.”

2. Specialists in inner peace and love

“Never has the world been so violent and in many respects so insane, and so given to pressure and agitation and conflict…  In such a society there have to be specialists in inner peace and love…”

3. Called to peace and love and simplicity

“We are in the middle, called to peace and love and simplicity, called to this spirit of freedom…  Somehow we have to learn to be guided by the Holy Spirit toward this freedom which can hardly be defined.  And at the same time we are surrounded by conflict and criticism…”

4. We don’t know what meditation is

“We may think of ourselves as people who know how to meditate, but the Western Church doesn’t really know what meditation is…”

5. Several people can be right in different ways  

“But let’s respect individual differences and let each one do what is best for him or her…  But we tend too much towards a collective mentality and we are too much hung up on the idea that everybody has got to be doing the same thing.  If it is right, then you should all do it, and if you should not all do it, then what is the matter with it?  Is it wrong?  We are not used enough to the idea that several people can be right in different ways, and there can be different ways of being right.”

6. Community and contemplation

“…community and contemplation and understanding the mystery of Christ are all linked together.”

7. Where love is

“We have to be where love is and it is really the harder position, but it is also the creative position, and the constructive position…”

8. Respect our differences

“…we have to learn to respect our differences…  It really would not be right if everybody was exactly on the same level.”

9. Developing a new way

“If we really want to be saints in the full sense of the word, we must let God’s power really work on us, and build us into one piece.  But we don’t do that; we evade it one way or another, and this kind of evasion is almost universally accepted…  We are afraid to believe that this power is in us.  But if we do admit that this Divine force is present in our souls, it is not that we will automatically be asked to do something inhumanly difficult.  It is just that we have to transcend ourselves – we will have to go beyond our present level.  Too often we are content to maintain a fairly decent level and never surpass it.  But our life demands breakthroughs ; not every day, not every week, not every month, but once in a while we must break through and go beyond where we are.  You have to build up all you have done and push through with it, and then you find that you are out of the woods in a new clearing, you are somewhere else developing a new way.”

Which quotes are your favorite?

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

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