A Merton Miscellany

From New Seeds of Contemplation.

Love your enemies.

Do not think that you can show your love for Christ by hating those who seem to be His enemies on earth. Suppose they really do hate Him: nevertheless He loves them, and you cannot be united with Him unless you love them too. (176)

Do not be too quick to assume your enemy is a savage just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy because he thinks you are a savage. (177)

Do not be too quick to assume that your enemy is an enemy of God just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy precisely because he can find nothing in you that gives glory to God. (177)

Consider the possibility you may be at fault.

Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God, for it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice, your mediocrity and materialism, your sensuality and selfishness that have killed his faith. (177)


If you have money, consider that perhaps the only reason God allowed it to fall into your hands was in order that you might find joy and perfection by giving it all away. (179)

Despair is selfishness.

Despair is the absolute extreme of self-love. It is reached when a man deliberately turns his back on all help from anyone else in order to taste the rotten luxury of knowing himself to be lost. (180)

Despair is the ultimate development of a pride so great and so stiff-necked that it selects the absolute misery of damnation rather than accept happiness from the hands of God and thereby acknowledge that He is above us and that we are not capable of fulfilling our destiny by ourselves. (180)

Without humility, what is there?

If there were no humility in the world, everybody would long ago have committed suicide. (181)

A loss of faith may not be a loss, but the pruning away of illusions for the possibility of true faith.

How many people there are in the world of today who have ‘lost their faith’ along with the vain hopes and illusions of their childhood. What they call ‘faith’ was just one among all the other illusions. They placed all their hope in a certain sense of spiritual peace, of comfort, of interior equilibrium, of self-respect. Then when they began to struggle with the real difficulties and burdens of mature life, when they became aware of their own weakness, they lost their peace, they let go of their precious self-respect, and it became impossible for them to ‘believe.’ That is to say it became impossible for them to comfort themselves, to reassure themselves, with the images and concepts that they found reassuring in childhood. (186-187)

Meditation in the ordinary day.

Learn to meditate on paper. Drawing and writing are forms of mediation. Learn how to contemplate works of art. learn how to pray in the streets or in the country. Know how to meditate not only when you have a book in your hand but when you are waiting for a bus or riding in a train. Above all, enter into the Church’s liturgy and make the liturgical cycle part of your life–let its rhythm work its way into your body and soul. (216)

Love of God is more than just words and feelings.

A less serious error–for now we come closer to the truth–is that meditation is supposed to produce in us greater love for God. Whether or not this concept is satisfactory depends on what you mean by loving God. If you think meditation has done its work when it has made you say you love God or feel that you love God, then you are still wrong. (216)

Entering the darkness of God.

And so, suppose your meditation takes you to the point where you are baffled and repelled by the cloud that surrounds God, ‘Who maketh darkness His covert.’ Far from realizing Him, you begin to realize nothing more than your own helplessness to know Him, and you begin to think that meditation is something altogether hopeless and impossible. And yet the more helpless you are, the more you seem to desire to see Him and to know Him. The tension between your desires and your failure generate in you a painful longing for God which nothing seems able to satisfy. (218)

Prayer is sometimes wordless.

You may perhaps be led into a completely simple form of affective prayer in which your will, with few words or none, reaches out into the darkness where God is hidden, with a kind of mute, half-hopeless and yet supernaturally confident desire of knowing and loving Him. Or else, perhaps, knowing by faith that he is present to you and realizing the utter hopelessness of trying to think intelligibly about this immense reality and all that it can mean, you relax in a simple contemplative gaze that keeps your attention peacefully aware of Him hidden somewhere in this deep cloud into which you also feel yourself drawn to enter. (219)

Prayer and love are found in the desert.

Prayer and love are really learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible and your heart turns to stone. (221)

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