Category Archives: Thomas Merton

In Stillness

Be still.
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
to speak your

to the living walls.

Who are you?
are you? Whose
silence are you?

Who (be quiet)
are you (as these stones
are quiet). Do not
think of what you are
still less of
what you may one day be.

be what you are (but who?)
be the unthinkable one
you do not know.

O be still, while
you are still alive,
and all things live around you

speaking (I do not hear)
to your own being,
speaking by the unknown
that is in you and in themselves.

“I will try, like them
to be my own silence:
and this is difficult. The whole
world is secretly on fire. The stones
burn, even the stones they burn me.
How can a man be still or
listen to all things burning?
How can he dare to sit with them
when all their silence is on fire?”

–Thomas Merton (from “The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton)

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Breathe God’s air

Keep your eyes clean and your ears quiet and your mind serene. Breathe God’s air.

Work, if you can, under God’s sky.

But if you have to live in a city and live among machines and ride in the subways and eat in a place where the radio makes you deaf with spurious news and where the food destroys your life and the sentiments of those around you poison your heart with boredom, do not be impatient, but accept it as the love of God and as a seed of solitude planted in your soul.

If you are appalled by those things, you will keep your appetite for the healing silence of recollection. But meanwhile—keep your sense of compassion for the people who have forgotten the very concept of solitude.

You, at least, know that it exists, and that it is the source of peace and joy.

You can still hope for such joy. They do not even hope for it anymore.

–Excerpt from New Seeds of Contemplation, by Thomas Merton.

*(changed “His” to “God’s” and “men” to “people” to make language more gender-inclusive)


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The Song of My Beloved…

The song of my Beloved beside the stream.
The birds descanting in their clerestories.
His skies have sanctified my eyes, His woods are clearer than the King’s palace.
But the air and I will never tell our secret.

Christ has sanctified the desert and the wilderness shines with promise.
The land is first in simplicity and strength.
I had never before spoken freely or so intimately with woods, hills, buds, water and sky.
On this great day, however, they understood their position and they remained mute in the presence of the Beloved.
Only His light was obvious and eloquent.
My, brother and sister, the light and the water.
The stump and the stone. The tables of rock.
The blue, naked sky.

–Excerpt from Entering the Silence, by Thomas Merton.

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A Prayer for Peace

(From a prayer read in the House of Representatives on April 12, 1962, Wednesday in Holy Week)

Almighty and merciful God, Father of all, Creator and Ruler
of the Universe, Lord of History Whose designs are inscrutable,
Whose glory is without blemish, Whose compassion for our errors is inexhaustible,

in Your will is our peace.

Mercifully hear this prayer which rises to You from the tumult
and desperation of a world in which You are forgotten, in which
Your name is not invoked, Your laws are derided, Your presence
is ignored.

Because we do not know You, we have no peace.

Help us to be masters of the weapons that threaten to master
us. Help us to use our science for peace and plenty, not for war
and destruction. Show us how to use nuclear power to bless
our children’s children, not to blight them.

Resolve our inner contradictions that now grow beyond belief
and beyond bearing. They are at once a torment and a blessing:
for if You had not left us the light of conscience, we would not
have to endure them. Teach us to be long-suffering in anguish
and insecurity. Teach us to wait and trust. Grant light, grant
strength and patience to all who work for peace.

Grant us Prudence in proportion to our power, Wisdom in
proportion to our science and Humaneness in proportion to
our wealth and might. Bless our earnest will to help all races
and people to travel in friendship along the road to justice,
liberty and lasting peace.

Grant us above all to see that our ways are not necessarily
Your ways, that we cannot fully penetrate the mystery of Your
designs and that the very storm of power now raging on this
earth reveals Your hidden will and Your inscrutable decision.
Grant us to see Your face in the lightning of this cosmic storm,
O God of holiness, merciful to all. Grant us to seek peace
where it is truly found!

In Your will, O God, is our peace! Amen.

–by Thomas Merton, from “The Non-Violent Alternative“, edited by Gordon C. Zahn. New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1980. pp. 269-270.

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Sacred Heart 2 (A Fragment–)

Geography comes to an end,
Compass has lost all earthly north,
Horizons have no meaning
Nor roads an explanation:

I cannot even hope for any special borealis
To rouse my darkness with a brief “Hurray”!

O flaming Heart,
Unseen and unimagined in this wilderness,

You, You alone are real, and here I’ve found You.
Here will I love and praise You in a tongueless death,
Until my white devoted bones,
Long bleached and polished by the winds of this Sahara,
Relive at Your command,
Rise and unfold the flowers of their everlasting spring.

–By Thomas Merton, from “The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton”

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“It is life that makes you dance” –Thomas Merton

You fool, it is life that makes you dance: have you forgotten? Come out of the smoke, the world is tossing in its sleep, the sun is up, the land is bursting in the silence of dawn.

The gentle earth relaxes and spreads out to embrace the strong sun. The grasses and flowers speak their own secret names.

The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1977), p. 691.

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Where have I been sleeping?

O Lord, my God, where have I been sleeping? What have I been doing? How slowly I awaken once again to the barrenness of my life and its confusion. You will forgive me if it is often that way—I do not mean it to be. How little faith there has been in me—how inert have been my hours of solitude, how my time has been wasted. You will forgive me if next week, too, my time is all wasted and I am once again in confusion. But at least this afternoon, sitting on a boulder among the birches, I thought with compunction of Your love and Your kingdom. And again tonight, by the gatehouse, I thought of the hope You have planted in our hearts and the Kingdom of Heaven that I have done so little to gain for myself and for others.

Forgive me, O Lord, by Your Cross and Passion and Resurrection. Teach me to see what it means that I am saved by Your Church. Teach me how, as a priest, I am to bring others to the knowledge of You and of the Kingdom and to salvation. Teach me to live in You with care for the purity of faith, with the zeal of true hope, and with true and objective charity for my brothers, for the glory of the Father, Amen.

–Excerpt from A Search for Solitude by Thomas Merton, pp. 61-62.

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Let My Trust Be In Your Mercy (Thomas Merton)

Let my trust be in Your mercy, not in myself. Let my hope be in Your love, not in health, or strength, or ability or human resources.

If I trust You, everything else will become, for me, strength, health, and support. Everything will bring me to heaven. If I do not trust You, everything will be my destruction.

–excerpted from Thoughts in Solitude, by Thomas Merton.
(the title “Let My Trust Be In Your Mercy” was created by me for my blog…this is not the title given by Thomas Merton)

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My Hope (Thomas Merton)

Why should I want to be rich, when You were poor? Why should I desire to be famous and powerful? Why should I cherish in my heart a hope that devours me–the hope for perfect happiness in this life–when such hope, doomed to frustration, is nothing but despair?
My hope is in what the eye has never seen. Therefore, let me not trust in visible rewards.
My hope is in what the heart cannot feel. Therefore let me not trust in the feelings of my heart.
My hope is in what the hand has never touched. Do not let me trust what I can grasp between my fingers.
Death will loosen my grasp and my vain hope will be gone.

–from Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton, p. 39
(the title “My Hope” was created by me for my blog…this is not the title given by Thomas Merton)

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You Know My Soul (Thomas Merton)

You know my soul. You know all that needs to be done there. Do it in Your own way. Draw me to You, O my God. Fill me with Pure Love of You alone. Make me never go aside from the way of Your love. Show me clearly that way and never let me depart from it: that will be enough. I leave everything in Your hands. You will guide me without error and without danger and I will love You all the way. I will belong to You. I will not be afraid of anything for I shall remain in Your hands and never leave You.

From Entering the Silence, by Thomas Merton; page 101.

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