Day 30 – Forty Days with Thomas Merton

Day 30

When I speak of the contemplative life I do not mean the institutional cloistered life, the organized life of prayer. . . . I am talking about a special dimension of inner discipline and experience, a certain integrity and fullness of personal development, which are not compatible with a purely external, alienated, busy-busy existence. This does not mean that they are incompatible with action, with creative work, with dedicated love. On the contrary, these all go together. A certain depth of disciplined experience is a necessary ground for fruitful action. Without a more profound human understanding derived from exploration of the inner ground of human existence, love will tend to be superficial and deceptive. Traditionally, the ideas of prayer, meditation and contemplation have been associated with this deepening of one’s personal life and this expansion of the capacity to understand and serve others.

— Thomas Merton in Contemplation in a World of Action

Today: In the middle of seminary a spiritual mentor told me, “You seem to be so heavenly spiritual, you’re no earthly good.” Ouch. What do you see as the purpose of your spiritual life? Is it merely to grow closer to God? Consider today, what practical ways you might come closer to God through service to others.

+Ed Jansen, OSB

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2 Responses to Day 30 – Forty Days with Thomas Merton

  1. Barbara says:

    Again, I have a very hard time with contemplation. My mind does not let me….find quiet. The only time I have ever been able to achieve it is at the Lectio Divina. That being said, I feel as though I am missing something by not being able to have a peaceful quiet time to commune with God. I don’t really know about my “closeness” with Him. I know, I know that where I am right now in my life, and doing what I am doing is a purpose of my spiritual life.
    I pray to God everyday that I am in the place I need to be with Him. I let Him know that I am open to what ever He brings for me today. In my service to others I am serving God as well, doing His will (I pray).

    • Bishop Ed says:

      Barb, my experience with contemplative prayer is one that is intentional. I had to find a quiet place/time for me to be with God. I started out with 2-3 minutes per day and it grew from there. The overriding message I continued to receive was two-fold. As I spent time with God I realized how holy God is and how unholy I am. I know that God shows me that through contemplative prayer, not to make me feel bad, but to realize the differences between God and me. And when I see how unholy I am, I realize how unholy we all are in comparison to God. That helps me practice humility. Outside of God’s grace in my life, there’s not much difference between the best of us and the worst of us. The second message I receive from spending time with God is that regardless of how unholy I realize I am, God still loves me.

      This is a process and you can’t base it upon feelings. It requires you to believe, to have faith in a holy, loving God. And when I spend time with him, something else happens. God begins to change me in the ways I need changing. Often I don’t even know I need changing, and God does. The contemplative life is transformative. Don’t give up….one day you’ll “get it.”

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