If you accept your emptiness

If we loved our poverty more, we would take it a lot better. I want to strive with intellectual and spiritual possessions, but that is not the way to union with God, nor the way to sanctity and perfection of love. Blessed are the poor in spirit is to be without talents, or to lose them, or have them frustrated; to be without distinctions, without colors or decorations, without special abilities, or to have them ignored and denied. That can be one way to sanctity, if you accept your emptiness with burning love and gratitude and wait for God to fill you. And when He does, you will get all the rest thrown in with His wisdom.

~ Thomas Merton, Entering the Silence: Becoming a Monk and a Writer (The Journals of Thomas Merton Book 2)

For man to regain control

If technology remained in the service of what is higher than itself — reason, man, God — it might indeed fulfill some of the functions that are now mythically attributed to it. But becoming autonomous, existing only for itself, it imposes upon man its own irrational demands, and threatens to destroy him. Let us hope it is not too late for man to regain control.

Turns to ashes

Everything I do, reading, study, writing, etc., simply must be done in such a way that it is prayer and preparation for prayer. That means first of all not doing it to satisfy my voracious appetite to know, to enjoy, to achieve things, to get tangible results and taste the immediate reward of my own efforts because, if that is what leads me, everything turns to ashes as soon as I touch it.

~ Thomas Merton, Entering the Silence: Becoming a Monk and a Writer (The Journals of Thomas Merton Book 2)

We have no right

Christian social action is first of all action that discovers religion in politics, religion in work, religion in social programs for better wages, Social Security, etc., not at all to “win the worker for the Church,” but because God became man, because every man is potentially Christ, because Christ is our brother, and because we have no right to let our brother live in want, or in degradation, or in any form of squalor whether physical or spiritual. In a word, if we really understood the meaning of Christianity in social life we would see it as part of the redemptive work of Christ, liberating man from misery, squalor, subhuman living conditions, economic or political slavery, ignorance, alienation.

Who feeds not wolves

As long as we remain sheep, we overcome. Even though we may be surrounded by a thousand wolves, we overcome and are victorious. But as soon as we are wolves, we are beaten: for then we lose the support from the Shepherd who feeds not wolves, but only sheep.

~ St. John Chrysostom, Homily 33 on Matthew (trans. Thomas Merton)

Values that have no concern for the soul

I have come to think that care of the soul requires a high degree of resistance to the culture around us, simply because that culture is dedicated to values that have no concern for the soul. To preserve our precious hearts, we may have to live economically against the grain, perhaps so as not to be forced into soul­ maiming work just to place bread on the table or put our children through college. We may not want to be plugged into electronic media and have our thoughts laundered daily with biased news, superficial commentary, and “lite” entertainment. We may not want to contribute to disastrous pollution of nature or participate in the current value ­empty philosophy of education. This comtemptus mundi is not a misanthropic, superior rejection of life’s pleasures but, rather, a compassionate attempt to find more grounded pleasure and communal fulfillment in deep appreciation for life relieved of ambition and control.

~ Thomas Moore, writing in the introduction to Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton

Embracing minority

The new way to live our lives is found in the embodiment of the position of minority rooted in a commitment to lifelong conversion. When capital gain and power over others are the measures of success, voluntarily embracing minority is indeed a novel way to live. [St.] Francis demonstrates that authentic Christian living is rooted in becoming subject to our brothers and sisters and, by doing so, avoiding the pitfalls of power and unjust authority. Merton teaches us that it is God who models the greatest example of humility through the Incarnation, and it is through contemplation that we come to see this more clearly. The lives of Francis and Merton show us that this is not an overnight process. Rather, we must remain committed to the process of lifelong conversion that draws us nearer to God and each other.

Strive for peace

Not to be attached to peace in such a way as to be disturbed by the prospect of losing it, but strive for peace by active humility and obedience and renunciation of my will in order to please God—keep empty. It is essential to our vocation and therefore a duty.

~ Thomas Merton, Entering the Silence: Becoming a Monk and a Writer (The Journals of Thomas Merton Book 2)

Such is our present condition (Thomas Merton writing in 1965)

This is no longer a time of systematic ethical speculation, for such speculation implies time to reason, and the power to bring social and individual action under the concerted control of reasoned principles upon which most men agree.

There is no time to reason out, calmly and objectively, the moral implications of technical developments which are perhaps already superseded by the time one knows enough to reason about them.

Action is not governed by moral reason but by political expediency and the demands of technology — translated into the simple abstract formulas of propaganda. These formulas have nothing to do with reasoned moral action, even though they may appeal to apparent moral values — they simply condition the mass of men to react in a desired way to certain stimuli.

Men do not agree in moral reasoning. They concur in the emotional use of slogans and political formulas. There is no persuasion but that of power, of quantity, of pressure, of fear, of desire. Such is our present condition–and it is critical!

~ Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander