Thomas Merton

Thomas
Merton
1915
1968

French-born Anglo-American Catholic Writer, Poet, Trappist Monk and Social Activist

Author Quotes

We have to have a deep, patient compassion for the fears of men and irrational mania of those who hate or condemn us.

What a revelation it was, to discover so many ordinary people in a place together, more conscious of God than of one another: not there to show off their hats or their clothes, but to pray, or at least to fulfill a religious obligation, not a human one. For even those who might have been there for no better motive than that they were obliged to be, were at least free from any of the self-conscious and human constraint which is never absent from a Protestant church where people are definitely gathered together as people, as neighbors, and always have at least half an eye for one another, if not all of both eyes.

Where there is no love of man, no love of life, then make all the laws you want, all the edicts and treaties, issue all the anathemas; set up all the safeguards and inspections, fill the air with spying satellites, and hang cameras on the moon. As long as you see your fellow man being essentially to be feared, mistrusted, hated, and destroyed, there cannot be peace on Earth.

The land which thou goest to possess is not like the land of Egypt from whence thou camest out...For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord...Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near...Why do you spend money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which doth not satisfy you?

The most dangerous man in the world is the contemplative who is guided by nobody. He trusts his own visions. He obeys the attractions of an interior voice but will not listen to other men. He identifies the will of God with anything that makes him feel, within his own heart, a big, warm, sweet interior glow. The sweeter and the warmer the feeling is, the more he is convinced of his own infallibility.

The solution of the problem of life is life itself. Life is not attained by reason and analysis but first of all by living.

The world as pure object is something that is not there. It is not a reality outside us for which we exist... It is a living and self-creating mystery of which I am myself a part, to which I am myself, my own unique door.

There remains always the hope that man will finally, after many mistakes and even disasters, learn to disarm and to make peace, recognizing that he must live at peace with his brother.

To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell.

We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and God is shining through it all the time. God manifests Himself everywhere, in everything in people and in things and in nature and in events ... The only thing is we don't see it. ... I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.

We have to recognize that a spirit of individualism and confusion has reduced us to an ethic of “every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.” This ethic, unfortunately sometimes consecrated by formulas, is nothing but the secular ethic of the affluent society, based on the false assumption that if everyone is bent on making money for himself the common good will automatically follow, due to the operation of economic laws.

What are we going to do about it? Well, for one thing, we can be aware of these immature and inadequate ideas. We do not have to let ourselves be dominated by them. We are free to think in better terms. Of course, we cannot do this all by ourselves. We need the help of articulate voices, themselves taught and inspired by love. This is the mission of the poet, the artist, and the prophet. Unfortunately, the confusion of our world has made the message of our poets obscure and our prophets seem altogether silent–unless they are devoting their talents to the praise of toothpaste.

Wherever things become more important than people we are in trouble.

The life of contemplation in action and purity of heart is, then, a life of great simplicity and inner liberty. One is not seeking anything special or demanding any particular satisfaction. One is content with what is. One does what is to be done, and the more concrete it is, the better. One is not worried about the results of what is done. One is content to have good motives and not too anxious about making mistakes. In this way one can swim with the living stream of life and remain at every moment in contact with God, in the hiddenness and ordinariness of the present moment with its obvious task.

The only thing to seek in contemplative prayer is God; and we seek Him successfully when we realize that we cannot find Him unless He shows Himself to us, and yet at the same time that He would not have inspired us to seek Him unless we had already found Him.

The soul of man, left to its own natural level, is a potentially lucid crystal left in darkness. It is perfect in its own nature, but it lacks something that it can only receive from outside and above itself. But when the light shines in it, it becomes in a manner transformed into light and seems to lose its nature in the splendor of a higher nature, the nature of the light that is in it.

The world is… more real in proportion as the people in it are able to be more fully and more humanly alive: that is to say, better able to make a lucid and conscious use of their freedom. Basically, this freedom must consist first of all in the capacity to choose their own lives, to find themselves on the deepest possible level.

There was this shadow, this double, this writer who had followed me into the cloister. He rides my shoulders I cannot lose him.

To desire Him to be merciful to us is to acknowledge Him as God. To seek His pity when we deserve no pity is to ask Him to be just with a justice so holy that it knows no evil and shows mercy to everyone who does not fly from Him in despair.

We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.

We have what we seek, it is there all the time, and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us.

What do I mean by loving ourselves properly? I mean first of all, desiring to live, accepting life as a very great gift and a great good, not because of what it gives us, but because of what it enables us to give to others.

Who is willing to be satisfied with a job that expresses all his limitations? He will accept such work only as a 'means of livelihood' while he waits to discover his 'true vocation'. The world is full of unsuccessful businessmen who still secretly believe they were meant to be artists or writers or actors in the movies.

In our creation, God asked a question and in our truly living; God answers the question.

It is a kind of pride to insist that none of our prayers should ever be petitions for our own needs: for this is only another subtle way of trying to put ourselves on the same plane as God – acting as if we had no needs, as if we were not creatures, not dependent on Him and dependent, by His will, on material things, too.

Author Picture
First Name
Thomas
Last Name
Merton
Birth Date
1915
Death Date
1968
Bio

French-born Anglo-American Catholic Writer, Poet, Trappist Monk and Social Activist