Paperback Reader

In 2000, I spent the first week of Advent alone in Thomas Merton’s hermitage on the grounds of Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky. How I was given that chance is a long story, with which I shall not burden you. Occasionally throughout the balance of Advent I will present brief excerpts from the journal I kept during that amazing week. Here is the first one.

On December 7, 2000, Thomas Merton’s Hermitage: I spent a few hours today reading Merton’s No Man Is An Island. I bought the paperback edition I’m reading a long time ago…I know because it has a sticker price of $4.95 on it. What I found interesting as I read it, besides Merton’s insights and his way of expressing himself, is the passages I had highlighted with a yellow marking pen when I first read it, perhaps a dozen years ago [circa 1988]. Back then, I caught a glimpse of what Merton was saying, but not enough of it to have any real impact on my life. Today as I read it, Merton’s thoughts were jumping off the pages and I was able to catch hold of them and apply them to my life. And that is not to say that by next week, when I’m home in North Hollywood, I will not have forgotten. It simply means that progress along the spiritual road is slow, deliberate, and cannot be rushed. Each day, each season of our lives, hopefully adds a little more to our understanding and our ability to surrender more and more to God. This stuff is actually very simple yet somehow we have made it complicated. There seems to be so many options, so many ways to God – yet it all comes down to one basic truth which each of us needs to discover, embrace and live.

Reading that more than a dozen years later, I more fully realize just how painfully slow progress along the spiritual road truly is. I’ve only been crawling these past twelve years. In truth, I’ve been resisting the changes the Gospel requires of me, unwilling or unable to make the sacrifices required in order to give up or let go of things I know are not good for me.

“A lamp cannot be kept burning without oil; nor can the light of spiritual gifts continue to shine unless one inwardly sustains it with actions and thoughts consonant with it. For every spiritual gift requires a corresponding inner quality in the recipient to feed it spiritually as though with oil, thus preserving its presence.” –St Maximos the Confessor


1 Response to “Paperback Reader”

  1. 1 aliceny December 5, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Gerry, your incisive comments in the next-to-last paragraph are powerful reminders of the day-to-day battles and roadblocks that we face in the course of our spiritual growth. For me, progress has been slow – painfully so. It is as if I take one joyful satisfying step forward and then one discouraging step backward. The most difficult decision is the temptation to give up and let go of things and persistent thoughts that I know are not good or healthy for me. (Recall the lyrics in a Sinatra song, “I did it my way.”) Your encouraging words here remind me that my Lord knows what I need and what is good (and not good) for my soul and for my peace of mind.

    Thank you for this and for all the spiritual food and practical encouragement that your words provide me.

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