Monday, March 27, 2006

Henri Nouwen & Thomas Merton

Two of the great spiritual influences on my life are the Roman Catholic writers Thomas Merton (far right picture) and Henri Nouwen (left picture). Nouwen and Merton both spent countless hours in prayer and meditating on Scripture. They both acquired an ability to hear the voice of God. They are both enourmously gifted in communicating God's voice to us. I am not Roman Catholic, so at times I separate out some things from their writings. For example, when they write about the Eucharist I am not in agreement with some of what they write because, theologically, I do not place the Eucharist as the summum bonum of spirituality. Yet it remains true, for me, that God has spoken a lot of things to me through Nouwen and Merton.
I receive daily Nouwen-thoughts from his writings and a once-a-week Merton quote from his writings. You can get the Nouwen stuff here and the Merton stuff here.
Here is an example of what is, for me, a great quote from Merton: "The only thing worth living for is sanctity. Then you will be satisfied to let God lead you to sanctity by paths that you cannot understand. You will travel in darkness in which you will no longer be concerned with yourself and no longer compare yourself to other men. Those who have gone by that way have finally found out that sanctity is in everything and that God is all around them. Having given up all desire to compete with other men, they suddenly wake up and find that the joy of God is everywhere, and they are able to exult in the virtues and goodness of others more than ever they could have done in their own. They are so dazzled by the reflection of God in the souls of the men they live with that they no longer have any power to condemn anything they see in another. Even in the greatest sinners they can see virtues and goodness that no one else can find. As for themselves, if they still consider themselves, they no longer dare to compare themselves with others. The idea has now become unthinkable. But it is no longer a source of suffering and lamentation: they have finally reached the point where they take their own insignificance for granted. They are no longer interested in their external selves.” - Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, 59-60.