Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk, poet, and essayist, the leading Catholic writer of the twentieth century. He eloquently wrote on religious and spiritual subjects, and was an ardent supporter of social justice, was passionately devoted to the abolition of nuclear weapons, and was an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam war. He was electrocuted to death in questionable circumstances in 1968.
I am not a Catholic, but have always felt that Merton was a kindred spirit, and possessed an authentic Christian spirituality. He admired John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, as I do. He knew all about the dark night of the soul, as well as the sun of righteousness, the agony as well as the ecstasy.
Here are some thoughts from Merton which apply equally to today’s radioactive crisis:
It is no exaggeration to say that our times are apocalyptic, in the sense that we seem to have come to a point at which all the hidden, mysterious dynamism of the “history of salvation” revealed in the Bible has flowered into final and decisive crisis. The term “end of the world” may or may not be one that we are capable of understanding. But at any rate we seem to be assisting at the unwrapping of the mysteriously vivid symbols of the last book of the New Testament. In their nakedness, they reveal to us our own selves as the men whose lot it is to live in the time of a possibly ultimate decision. In a word, the end of the world is quite really and quite literally up to us and to our immediate descendants, if any. And this, I might venture to suggest, is more “apocalyptic” than anything our fathers discovered in the Revelations of Saint John. (from Peace: Christian Duties and Perspectives)
Never has the total solidarity of all men, either in good or in evil, been so obvious and so unavoidable. I believe we live in a time in which one cannot help making decisions for or against man, for or against life, for or against truth.
And according to my way of thinking, all these decisions rolled into one (for they are inseparable) amount to a decision for or against God. (from In Acceptance of the Pax Medal)
Grant us prudence in proportion to our power,
Wisdom in proportion to our science,
Humaneness in proportion to our wealth and might.
And bless our earnest will to help all races and people to travel, in friendship with us,
Along the road to justice, liberty and lasting peace:
But 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 men:
Grant us to seek peace where it is truly found!
In your will, O God, is our peace! Amen.
(from Prayer for Peace… this prayer was read in the House of Representatives by Congressman Frank Kowalski (D. Connecticut) on April 12, 1962.)