I Am Thomas Merton. And So Are You


I have mentioned before the influence that Thomas Merton has had on my reversion and growth. From his Seven Storey Mountain, to his simple, yet comprehensive everyday prayer, to his continuing impact even today, Merton has led me in ways that I do not yet, even now, fully comprehend.

Several of Father Jim Martin‘s books led me directly to Merton.

And so it is no exaggeration to say that because Thomas Merton changed Fr. Martin’s life, Merton has, indirectly at least, also changed mine.

But I am not alone in that recognition.

Back in January 2015, on the 100th anniversary of Merton’s birth, Fr. Martin wrote an essay for Faithstreet.com which he called 7 Ways Thomas Merton Changed The World.

It is Fr. Martin’s seventh observation that I found particularly meaningful.

It expresses, rather succinctly, just how connected – how much alike – we all are despite all of our differences, despite all of our conflicts.

Even as Merton had spent so many, semi-solitary, years as a Trappist Monk in the Abbey of Gethsemani, he came to recognize that we are one.

One with the Father, one with the Son, and one with each other.

And that we were made by our Creator to shine like the sun.

Standing on a busy street corner in Louisville, Kentucky, observing his surroundings, drinking in the movements of this little corner of the world, Merton was compelled to later write:

I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. . . . This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . . I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

Think about that for just a moment.

As we move about our day today, perhaps we can recognize the ways in which we were made to shine.

And perhaps we can recognize just how connected we really all are, whether to that corporate CEO on the 40th Floor of that office building, or to that unwashed street person at its entrance – the one that we’d rather not see – who is begging for a handout.

I find that as I now begin to fully contemplate Merton’s observation, I cannot help but also see that connection between us all.

We just have to take notice.

We just have to open our hearts.

In that way, I find that I am, more and more, Thomas Merton.

But then again, so are you.


Photo Image: Thomas Merton Hermitage Interior, Abbey of Gethsemani, via Wikimedia Commons (Bryan Sherwood)

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