The Last Refuge of Humility – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s Journals

by Mark Votava

download (13)1. This “safety” appears to be freedom

“One of the great temptations of an over institutionalized religion is precisely this: to keep man under the constraints of his own and his society’s past so that this ‘safety’ appears to be freedom. He is free to return to the familiar constraint, but this interferes with his freedom to respond to the gift of grace in Christ…” January 6, 1964 Dancing in the Water of Life

2. As if pretense were easy in solitude

“Who ever said that the solitary life is one of pretense and deception? As if pretense were easy in solitude!!! It is easy in the community, for one can have the support of a common illusion or a common agreement in forms that take the place of truth. One can pretend in the solitude of an afternoon walk, but the night destroys all pretenses, one is reduced to nothing, and compelled to begin laboriously the long return to truth.” December 5, 1964 Dancing in the Water of Life

3. Abandon one’s attachment to a particular ego

“…the idea of solitude as part of the clarification which includes living for others: dissolution of the self in ‘belonging to everyone’ and regarding everyone’s suffering as one’s own. This is really incomprehensible unless one shares something of the deep existential Buddhist concept of suffering as bound up with the arbitrary formation of an illusory-ego self. To be ‘homeless’ is to abandon one’s attachment to a particular ego – and yet to care for one’s own life (in the highest sense) in the service of others. A deep and beautiful idea.” June 29, 1968 The Other Side of the Mountain

4. Try not to be anyone outwardly51yldrcNI8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

“What matters is to love, to be in one place in silence, if necessary in suffering,… and not try to be anybody outwardly…” January 29, 1966 Learning to Love

5. The purest kind of activity

“Love is the purest kind of activity we know…” October 3, 1941 Run to the Mountain

6. No use in a reforming frenzy

“There is no use in a reforming frenzy!…” November 30, 1962 Turning Toward the World

7. The last refuge

“’Humility’ as the last refuge in which the self becomes impregnable! This is what we are looking for.” January 22, 1963 Turning Toward the World

8. Jesus lived in poverty and hardship

“…the life of a Christian has meaning and value only to the extent that it conforms to the life of Jesus. But Jesus lived in poverty and hardship…” February 13, 1949 Entering the Silence

Learning-to-Love9. The act by which we give ourselves to God

“The act by which we give ourselves to God is by its nature creation…” May 28, 1957 A Search for Solitude

10. Love takes care of it all

“Love takes care of it all. Whose love? Must I prove that I love? No, I hope in God’s love, i.e. in the incomprehensible. And in that love live at peace with myself and others. Someone questions the peace and asks to examine it. That’s his problem, not mine. It is not examinable.” September 19, 1966 Learning to Love

Have you embraced the last refuge of humility in life?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist