Though not in the Canon, I choose to honor him today. I think of him as the thinking man's mystic - a modern Doctor of the Church. I had the graceful gift to spent many years in Catholic schools, but while hungry for deeper theological exploration, was often just given the facts, ma'am - until my junior and senior years when the depths of Biblical scholarship and the richness of Church documents were opened to me. Until then I had cut my teeth on modern and mainly secular philosophers. Merton answered through the eyes of Faith all of these philosophers. What Bertrand Russel believed he had done for secular humanism Merton had done for Catholicism: how do we use the language of the modern to illuminate the ancient truths?
Merton did that for me. His Faith journey inspired me and his writings opened up for me the door to the depths of theology and the richness of the Faith I had been brought up in.
My only regret was being just a few short years away from his writings by the time he died. Still, even today his words ring true, even though they are misunderstood or misused. People have cherry-picked his works to shore up their desires to make him theirs or to denounce him.
They all miss his deep love of the Eucharist, the foundations of our Faith, his deep commitment to Trappist spirituality, and they miss his deep wonder at finding God in places that others dismiss.
Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self.
This is the man that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy.
My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God's will and God's love – outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion.
...All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honor, knowledge and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real. And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface.
...The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God.
But whatever is in God is really identical with Him, for His infinite simplicity admits no division and no distinction. Therefore I cannot hope to find myself anywhere except in Him.
Ultimately the only way that I can be myself is to be identified with Him in Whom is hidden the reason and fulfillment of my existence.
Therefore there is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.
...That is something that no man can ever do alone.
Nor can all the men and all the created things in the universe help him in this work.
The only One Who can teach me to find God is God, Himself, Alone.
-- New Seeds of Contemplation
Things to Think About