Thursday, September 22, 2011

Seeds by Thomas Merton, Selected and edited by Robert Inchausti

Thomas Merton, renowned author and Trappist monk, defines himself as one who is "in opposition to the world" in both word and deed.  He  has written many insightful books, often with critiques of all sorts of things.  In this series of meditations or essays, he treats of Real and False Selves; The World We Live In; Truth, Silence, Solitude; Meditation and Prayer;  Monasticism, Faith, Charity, Humility, Vocation and God; Nonviolence, Sainthood and other topics.

In the section "The World We Live in" he says we live in a world of upheaval and revolution, a spiritual crisis, resulting from the chaotic forces that exist in everyone.  The good and the evil are bursting out, boiling over, like never before.  He calls the world an "Unquiet City", where some of its citizens merely pretend they are living, are  obsessed with lack of time and  lack of space, where we are so crowded together in cities that there is no room for nature.  He decries the indifference, meaninglessness, lack of true communication  -- and countless other traits that typify our society.

Merton claims that the distance between the poor and the rich is greater now  than ever before, where racism is rampant, and that we think we can solve all our problems by ourselves; that we have a schizoid society, schizoid national structures, schizoid military and business, and even schizoid religious sects.  He says the problem is that our habits of thought and action are basically idolatrous and mythical…and he explains each of these scathing critiques as only he can do.

In the final section, dealing with love in action and sainthood, Merton gives invaluable comments, observations and suggestions for better living.  In the entire book, merely paraphrasing what this author says is totally inadequate for capturing his entire message.  You need to read the book for yourselves to fully comprehend and benefit from the precious "Seeds" that he offers.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thin Places: Where Faith is Affirmed and Hope Dwells by Mary Treacy O'Keefe

The author defines thin places by a quote from Edward Sellner, an expert on Celtic spirituality as "geographical sites located throughout Ireland and the British Isles where a person experiences only a thin divide between past, present and future times, or places where a person is somehow able, possibly only for a moment, to encounter a more ancient reality within present time; or places where perhaps only in a glance we are somehow transported into the future."     
Another author, Marcus Borg, defines thin places further, saying  in The Heart of Christianity:  " There are minimally two dimensions of reality, the visible world of our ordinary experiences and God, the sacred Spirit…"Thin places are places where these two levels of reality meet or intersect…where the veil momentarily lifts, and we behold God, experience the one in whom we live, all around us and in us."
O'Keefe wrote this book as a gift to her nine brothers and sisters, in remembrance of their parents who had died a few years earlier…three months apart.  When their father died, the mother was already very ill, and the family knew her days were numbered,  making their life/death experience actually one, lasted for three months.  Their strong Catholic faith,   their firm family bonds and their love for one another and for their parents brought them closer together and to God in this painful time.
During these months, and even after, some of them had truly "thin place" experiences, when they felt keenly the presence of God or heavenly spirits, with signs such as a rain-bow occurring to assure them that all was well, and that both God and their parents were with them even after they had entered into eternal life.
This book would be an invaluable aid to families who face the death of loved ones, or who would soon be called to do so.  It is a wonderful testimony of a vibrant, lived faith.