Someone will say: “You worry about birds. Why not worry about people?” I worry about both birds and people. We are in the world and part of it, and we are destroying everything because we are destroying ourselves spiritually, morally, and in every way. It is all part of the same sickness, it all hangs together.
——Thomas Merton from his Journals
I find Merton’s approach to creation care well worth considering. Far too often care of God’s creation is presented as an “either or choice,” but it is not so simple. We ALL share this planet that was created by God and entrusted, BY HIM, to our care. Many of us are frightened by the changes we see in our world around us. As a ”marsh dweller,” (I live in New Orleans and we are surrounded by marsh land), I find myself very disturbed by the constant loss of this land that protects from tides and hurricanes. There are various answers to the loss of wetlands, but one thread runs through them all, man messed this thing up. For us to properly worry about birds and people, we must take seriously our roles as stewards of the earth.
Stewards are never owners, but always caretakers. They are to exercise their roles for the true owner. In the case of the earth, God is the owner/creator. What is good for the land is always good for the people who dwell on that land.
How different it would be if we saw creation care as vitally linked to our spirituality. Merton makes this link in short order when he tells us that as we go down the road of moral depravity, we destroy the land entrusted to us as well. This all seems to be a part of a “don’t care” attitude that descends upon us when we are in full rebellion against God. Merton seems to propose that as we turn toward God, we will become better stewards of His creation. Now that’s something to think about.
Matthew 6:26 – Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Prayer Thought — Lord make me aware of what I consume each day. Help me to see a link between my spiritual heath and care of your creation. Amen
The seeds of contemplation and sanctity have been planted in those souls, (all people of good will)but they merely lie dormant. They do not grow. In other words: sanctifying grace occupies the substance of their souls but never flows out to inflame and irrigate and take possession of their faculties, their intellect and will. God will not manifest himself to these souls because they do not seek him.
Merton’s wisdom tells us that we can only achieve true unity with God when we seek it with our whole beings. God has implanted within each of us the seeds that will bring us to full fellowship with Him, but it is our mission to brings forth the fruit offered by these seeds. His grace is a gift that gives each one the capacity to fully possess the salvation of God.
Our desire to see ourselves fully sanctified with our creator is the lifelong mission of the Christian. Many a person has gone through life, many times a good life, without fully claiming the wonderful grace of God. Merton warns that Christian growth is a proactive venture, because God does not force Himself upon us. We are called to seek and desire Him.
- The Meaning of the Contemplative Life (christoschicago.wordpress.com)
- Pilgrimage (tbolto.wordpress.com)
Thomas Merton’s Hermitage
It would be a great mistake to think that mystical contemplation necessarily brings a whole litany of weird phenomena-ecstasies, raptures, stigmata and so on. These belong to quite a different order of things. They are “charismatic” gifts, and they are not directly ordered to the sanctification of the one who receives them.
—-Thomas Merton “What is Contemplation?”
The great cry of our time is,” Let me see it!” This cry pushes in on every aspect of our existence, even our spiritual journey. Somehow, we have begun to believe that every act of faith requires some sort of proof or outward manifestation for it to be real. Merton reminds us that not all things are for our own self-gratification. The “gifts” in particular, are for the edification of the church, and when we practice contemplation we should not expect some spectacular results that make us some guru of great faith. Contemplation and centering are acts of the individual and bring us to understand what it means to be close to a loving God. Through such closeness we can live a life that is spiritually fruitful and face the many trials that we encounter.
The fact remains that contemplation will not be given to those who willfully remain at a distance from God, who confine their interior life to a few exercises of piety and a few external acts of worship and service performed as a matter of duty. Such people are careful to avoid sin. They respect God as master. But their heart does not belong to Him.
——-Thomas Merton “What is Contemplation?”
Those words written by Merton over sixty years ago still resonate for Christians in our diverse and increasingly secularized world. Surprisingly, Merton’s little book was written to lead young men as they sought to be formed as Trappist monks. The twenty first century is bringing a great cry for a deepening spirituality from all areas of society. The New Monastic movement, and interest in all forms of spirituality are on the rise. A real sense of lostness, uncertainty, and fear is gripping our world. Merton cuts to the heart of the problem. Mere personal piety, no matter how sincere, will not bring us to a heart union with God.
Let me suggest a simple spirituality that is based on contemplative prayer that allows God to enter into our lives in times of quiet stillness. This is an offering of ourselves to God without expectation or certainty. It is a call to embrace the mystery of God as a journey to the unknown. Such a journey cannot be measured by acts of piety, times of worship, but in the giving of ourselves to a God we cannot fully understand. Such acts of trust allow God to be the transforming factor of our lives.
- Be still and know that I am God (faithandpracticeindc.wordpress.com)