Merton On Freedom


When I was crude dust, you imparted your breath.

When I awoke flesh, you handed me freedom.

When I rebuffed boundaries, you offered me grace.

A trinity of gifts, an eternal embrace.

Conscience is the soul of freedom, its eyes, its energy, its life. Without conscience, freedom never knows what to do with itself. And a rational being who does not know what to do with himself finds the tedium of life unbearable.

Just as love does not find its fulfillment merely in loving blindly, so freedom wastes away when it merely “acts freely” without any purpose – Thomas Merton


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Goats And Sheep


If I should find you lying on the side of the road,

With bruises, and cuts, and blood, and filth,

And I turn away from the stench of you,

I will have become as if your assassin

You will stand up as if my accuser

In those moments of choosing,

A chasm both left and right,

Will separate fake words,

From our true works,

As we then scatter

Like dead seeds

After a blast.



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Merton On Detachment, Briefly


If you wish to find another man’s soul,

Engage him with your strengths.

If you wish to test another man’s soul,

Confess to him your weaknesses.

If you wish to scrutinize your own soul,

Indulge neither your strengths

Nor your weaknesses.

We do not detach ourselves from things in order to attach ourselves to God, but rather we become detached from ourselves in order to see and use all things in and for God – Thomas Merton


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Merton: Simple And Secure


Late winter storm Stella hit the Northeast overnight and, even as I write, is in full force.

Stella is still blasting away, causing massive disruptions in my little corner of the world.

And yet, peaceful distractedness abounds.

There is something unspeakably gorgeous about an unexpected (and imposed) day away from the cares of the world, listening only to the wind, not the ringing of some blasted telephone or the constant ding that accompanies each new email.

My heart races with excitement, not anxiety.

I sit and write, watching the snow and freezing rain fall rapidly, erecting little piles of white and glazed purity everywhere – at least for now.

Time for some mindfulness from Thomas Merton

At such times, walking down a street, sweeping a floor, washing dishes, hoeing beans, reading a book, taking a stroll in the woods — all can be enriched with contemplation and with the obscure sense of the presence of God. This contemplation is all the more pure in that one does not ‘look’ to see if it is there.

Such ‘walking with God’ is one of the simplest and most secure ways of living a life of prayer, and one of the safest. It never attracts anybody’s attention, least of all the attention of him who lives it. And he soon learns not to want to see anything special in himself

I am grateful for today’s compelled opportunity.


Copyright 2017 (my verses)

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The Watching


The old man thought no one could see him.

Not when he stole a can of tuna from the market.

Not when he tricked the young boy out of his savings.

Not when he died all alone on the filthy streets of the city.

But it turned out that the old man was wrong, mostly.

Someone saw what he did that day in the market.

Someone saw how he swindled that young boy.

Someone watched over him as he lay, dying.


A wounded hand.

A welcoming kiss.

A final step home.


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The Guardian


On a busy Manhattan street corner, just outside of a small, trendy brownstone apartment building, the old beggar pleaded with the young man who was on his way to an important business meeting.

“Son, I need something to eat, can you spare a dollar?”

Not wanting to be thought heartless, the young man, not more than 25 or 30 years old, searched his pockets. He found 35 cents among his change – a quarter and a dime.

The young man tossed the two coins at the old man, who gratefully accepted them. The old man blessed the young one.

The young man, somewhat irritated, mumbled a halfhearted “thank you” and went on his way.

Having completed his business meeting about an hour and a half later, the young man headed back home.

As he appproached his building, the young man saw the old beggar still sitting by his doorway. The young man was hoping to avoid any more contact.

He needn’t have been concerned.

As he got closer, he realized that the old man was propped up against the wall, seemingly asleep. Then he noticed a half-eaten Subway sandwich lying next to the old man. He also saw an open gash, about an inch long, on the old man’s head. It had already stopped bleeding but still looked raw.

Concerned, the young man gently roused the old man. The young man asked if he was ok, and wanted to know what had happened in the short time he had last seen him.

The old man’s answer startled him.

“I was on my way back from getting something to eat, when I was hit from behind by something – or someone. I heard some kind of a fight going on behind me. I turned around quickly but no one was there. No one. Not a thing.

Then it happened again, just a few seconds later. This time, though, it felt like a knife was starting to cut into my head. Then I heard something like a slapping sound and, whatever it was that was cutting into me, fell to the sidewalk. I didn’t see anyone that time either.”

“Where’s the knife?” the young man asked (by this time he had figured that the old man was either drunk or crazy. Quite possibly both).

“I don’t know” said the old man. “I mean, I never saw it but I sure did feel it. And I know that I heard it fall to the ground.”

Now the young man was convinced that the old man was indeed crazy.

And yet, that gash was real and needed tending. His compassion for the old man took charge.

The young man told him to wait while he ran across the street to the pharmacy to get some bandages and ointment.

While on line, the young man heard an explosion from across the street. Turning towards the sound, he realized that it had come from his building.

Racing back, the young man could find no trace of the old man. Most of his building had literally been blown to ashes.

Shaken and scared, the young man stood there and wept.

A few hours later, after the first responders had made their way around, they determined that no one had been in the building at the time of the propane gas explosion that started in the building’s basement. Their official report noted that likely no one would have made it out alive.

It was, they all said, a miracle that no one was killed or injured.

Michael, the old man, wouldn’t have much disagreed.


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22,000 Days


I am not yet who I was meant to be

in 22,000 days

My steps are slower, my muscles convulsive

in 22,000 days

I’ve burned with passion, I’ve walked all alone

in 22,000 days

Promises made, promises still broken

in 22,000 days

Today is ending, tomorrow’s long-gone

in 22,000 days

It is both dangerous and easy to hate man as he is because he is not what he ought to be.

If we do not first respect what he is we will never suffer him to become what he ought to be: in our impatience we do away with him altogether – Thomas Merton

Be patient with me, find my heart, graft my soul

sans 22,000 days


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Who Am I?


Who am I,

If not an odd,


Grain of sand?

Or some unvoiced


Cast in a play

So long ago,

For a role

That’s still

Being written?

Yet, as if for me,

(And for me alone),

You forged the stars

And the sun,

You set apart the


From the day.

You cleared

A narrow path

With the very

Sword that

Pierced your


The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble – Blaise Pascal


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Aquinas, Injustice, And Anger


I am not made of stone, but I yearn to be your rock.

I am not of today, but I treasure, always, your eternity.

I am not of this world, but I long to be within your heart.

I am sometimes judged silent, but I am forever your voice.

If you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust – Thomas Aquinas

Pray, speak, act, forgive, love, repeat.


Copyright 2017 (my verses)

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