Our Common Responsibility – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Life and Holiness

by Mark Votava

thomas-mertonE (1)1. A spirit of love, humility, and service

“In all things, the Christian spirit is a spirit of love, humility, and service, not a spirit of violence in defense of absolutism and power…”

2. A way of love, of gratitude

“The Christian way of perfection is then in every sense a way of love, of gratitude, of trust in God…”

3. An interior revolution of one’s whole self

“The tendency of our modern society and of all its thought and culture is to deny and to deride this simple, natural awareness, and to make man from the very beginning both afraid of faith and shamed of it. The first step to living faith is then, as it has always been one way or another, a denial and a rejection of the standards of thought complacently accepted by rationalistic doubt. And in actual practice what this usually amounts to is not the rejection of “reason” and the acceptance of ‘faith’ but rather a choice between two faiths. One, a human, limited, external faith in human society with all its inert patrimony of assumptions and prejudices, a faith based on fear of solitude and on the need to ‘belong’ to the group and to accept its standards with passive acquiescence. Or, in the second place, a faith in what we do not ‘see,’ a faith in the transcendent and invisible God, a faith that goes beyond all proofs, a faith that demands an interior revolution of one’s whole self and a reorientation of one’s existence in a contrary sense to the orientation taken by mundane prejudice…”  

4. Without love and compassion

“Without love and compassion for others, our own apparent ‘love’ for Christ is a fiction.”

5. Love one another

“The will of Christ is above all that we love one another…”

6. The humanity and fragility of man’s actual condition

“…until we realize that before a man can become 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 Saints, the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, was himself the most deeply and perfectly human being who ever lived on the face of the earth…”

7. Our common responsibility

“Christian holiness in our age means more than ever the awareness of our common responsibility to cooperate with the mysterious designs of God for the human race…”

8. Are we really supposed to be saints?

“Are we really seriously supposed to be saints? Can a man even desire such a thing without making a complete fool of himself in the eyes of everyone else? It is not presumptuous? Is such a thing even possible at all?…”

What do you think our common responsibility is 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