"I am not one who was born in the custody of wisdom. I am one who is fond of olden times and intense in quest of the sacred knowing of the ancients." Gustave Courbet

26 December 2021


Thomas Merton with a dare ...
“What a revelation it was,” he would later write, “to discover so many people in a place together, more conscious of God than of one another; not there to show off their hats or their clothes, but to pray, or at least to fulfill a religious obligation, not a human one.” The student was Thomas Merton, and given the dissolute shape of his life to this point, he thought it no small miracle to find himself sitting among the regular worshipers on this particular morning. Indeed, just a few lines earlier in his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, Merton confesses that this was the first time he “had ever really spent a sober Sunday in New York.” He could not escape the feeling that the parishioners surrounding him in the pews “had spotted me for a pagan and were just waiting for me to miss a few more genuflections before throwing me out.” At age 23, somewhat adrift and deeply insecure about the direction of his life, the young Merton was terrified of walking into a Catholic church. Yet by the time the Mass ended, he says, “my eyes looked about me at a new world … I could not understand what it was that had happened to make me so happy, why I was so much at peace."

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