Start From Where We Are – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s writings – The School of Charity: Letters on Religious Renewal and Spiritual Direction

by Mark Votava

51DC5NQGMAL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. The Nativity of God

“The Nativity of God in the world develops in the history of man. The Christ lives in the history of the people, not of rich and powerful people, not of powerful peoples, no, but in that of the poor…”

2. A constant struggle with unreality

“…our life is a constant struggle with unreality, and the thing that complicates it is that the unreality in us is what seems to itself quite sincerely to be struggling for the truth…”

3. Stability is much more reasonable

“Stability is much more reasonable… when one has grown roots in the soil… by work and concern, and when one has been participating in the productive endeavors of the community, sharing in work and in the fruits of work…”

4. Start from where we are

“…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…”

5. We have forgotten how to be that simple

“The idea of community really needs reviving: it has got lost in the idea of institution. Community and person are correlative. No community without persons; no persons without community. Too organized an institutional life tends to stifle both community and personality. Primacy tends to be given to an organizational task. Community is an end in itself, not a means to carry out tasks. Community is ordered to life, as a good in its own right. It is life-centered, person-centered. Hence we should not be too anxious about ‘getting anywhere’ with community, except that community itself should ‘be’ and celebrate itself in love. Probably one of the things about it is that it is too simple. We have forgotten how to be that simple…”

6. America and Europe

“…you can’t judge the world by America and Europe…”

7. In rather poor shape

“…we are in rather poor shape here in this country…”

8. Open one’s heart to the Spirit

“Naturally one needs to understand what is happening and open one’s heart to the Spirit.”

9. Greater solitude and contemplation

“…every opportunity should be granted for the fulfillment of true vocations to greater solitude and contemplation…”

10. Betrayed all true revolution

“Basically, also, I am a revolutionist – in a broad, non-violent sense of the word. I believe that those who have used violence have betrayed all true revolution, they have changed nothing, they have simply enforced with greater brutality the anti-spiritual and anti-human drives that are destructive of truth and love in man. I believe that the true revolution must come slowly and painfully…”

How can we start from where we are in life?

Purchase The School of Charity

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