“Hence faith is by no means a mere act of choice, an option for a special solution to the problems of existence. It is birth to a higher life by obedience to the Source of Life: to believe is thus to consent to hear and to obey a creative command that raises us from the dead. And what can be a deeper motive for belief?
“We believe, not because we want to know, but because we want to be. And supernatural faith responds to the mystery of that natural faith which is the core and centre of our personal being, the will to be ourselves that is the heart of our natural identity. The higher faith is the will not only to be ourselves, but to find ourselves truly in Christ by obedience to His Father.”
“Winter morning, pale sunshine. White smoke rises up in the valley, against the light, slowly taking on animal forms against the dark wall of wooden hills behind. Menacing and peaceful forms. Probably this is the smoke of brush fires in the hollow. It might be the smoke of a burning house. Probably not a burning house. Big animal against the blue wall of the hill, a lion of smoke changing into a smoke bear. Cold quiet morning, the watch ticks on the table, nothing happens. The smoke dragon rises, claws the winter sunlight, and vanishes over the hill.”
“Power has nothing to do with peace. The more men build up military power, the more they violate peace and destroy it.”
“Only he who loves can be sure that he is still in contact with the truth which is in fact too absolute to be grasped by his mind.”
“It seems to me that one of the reasons why my writing appeals to many people is precisely that I am so sure of myself and do not claim to have all the answers. In fact, I often wonder quite openly about these ‘answers’, and about the habit of always having them ready. The best I can do is to look for some of the questions.”
“Mass society is indeed made up of individuals who, left to themselves, know they are zero, and who, added together in a multitude of zeros, seem to themselves to acquire reality and power. But this is the negative individualism of the man who thinks he establishes himself as real by comparing himself with everything that is ‘not I’. (When you count up enough things that are not-I, you end up discovering that even I is not-I.) But meanwhile, who is to blame is not individualism, but collectivism. Reinhold Niebuhr says rightly: ‘Racial pride is revealed today as man’s primary collective sin.’”
“The first chirps of the waking day birds mark the ‘point vierge’ of the dawn under a sky as yet without real light, a moment of awe and inexpressible innocence, when the Father in perfect silence opens their eyes. They begin to speak to Him, not with their fluent song, but with an awakening question that is their dawn state, their state at that ‘point vierge’ Their condition asks if it is time for them to ‘be’. He answers ‘yes’. Then, they one by one wake up, and become birds. They manifest themselves as birds, beginning to sing. Presently they will be fully themselves, and will even fly.
“Meanwhile, the most wonderful moment of the day is that when creation in its innocence asks permission to ‘be’ once again, as it did on the first morning that ever was.
“All wisdom seeks to collect and manifest itself at that blind sweet point. Man’s wisdom does not succeed, for we are fallen into self-mastery and cannot ask permission of anyone. We face our mornings as men of undaunted purpose. We know the time and we dictate terms. We are in a position to dictate terms, we suppose: we have a clock that proves we are right from the very start. . . ‘Wisdom’ cries the dawn deacon, but we do not attend.”
“The more I am able to affirm others, to say ‘yes’ to them in myself, by discovering them in myself and myself in them, the more real I am. I am fully real if my own heart says yes to everyone.
“I will be a better Catholic, not if I can refute every shade of Protestantism, but if I can affirm the truth in it and still go further. . . if I affirm myself as a Catholic merely by denying all that is Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., in the end I will find that there is not much left for me to affirm as a Catholic: and certainly no breath of the Spirit with which to affirm it.”
“There is a time to listen, in the active life as everywhere else, and the better part of action is waiting, not knowing what next, and not having a glib answer.”
“God is asking me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of all my brothers and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed all us in God’s likeness. And to laugh, after all, at all preposterous ideas of ‘worthiness’.”
“The myth of work is thought to justify an existence that is essentially meaningless and futile.”
“Man’s sanity and balance and peace depend upon, I think, his keeping alive a continuous sense of what has been valid in his past.”
“In reality, what we want is time in which to trifle and vegetate without feeling guilty about it. But because we do not dare try it, we precipitate ourselves into another kind of trifling; that which is not idle, but dissimulated as action.”
“There is a story of a tiger cub that was brought up among goats. One day he got lost in the jungle and ran into a big strong tiger who took one look at him, saw him acting like a goal, and with one cuff of his paw knocked him halfway across the jungle.
“I meet a tiger in myself who is not familiar, who says, ‘Choose!’ and knocks me halfway across the jungle.”
Read Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, by Thomas Merton