A recapitulation of his earlier work Seeds of Contemplation, this collection of sixteen essays plumbs aspects of human spirituality. Merton addresses those in search of enduring values, fulfillment, and salvation in prose that is, as always, inspiring and compassionate. “A stimulating series of spiritual reflections which will prove helpful for all struggling to...live the richest, fullest and noblest life” (Chicago Tribune).
The range of topics Merton covers is broad. He deals with everything from Love to Conscience, Solitude to Vocation, Intention to Charity. You can tell by reading these chapters that he has lived out his thoughts and ideas. He drills deep into human nature as he examines every aspect of our being in the light of God.
This book makes for great spiritual reading. I found that the best way to read it was to take it in small portions. To rush would be to miss his wisdom. I found his insight beneficial especially when I saw the tendencies he described in my own life. It takes time to make these discoveries.
My only frustration with Merton is the influence of Eastern Philosophy on his work. A good example of this is his words on Asceticism:
In order to spiritualize our lives and make them pleasing to God, we must become quiet. The peace of a soul that is detached from all things and from itself is the sign that our sacrifice is truly acceptable to God. (108)
In a few places like these, he makes the spiritual life sound like something Jesus certainly didn't experience. Jesus, who cried at Lazarus' tomb, who braided a whip to drive out money changers from the temple, and who begged God to relieve him of his burden, was anything but dispassionate!
That said, this volume is abundant in material to enrich the spiritual life of any thoughtful Christ follower.
objections which were occurring to me as I read.
I can appreciate the way Merton talks about fairly basic tenets of Christianity, but manages to update them for the 20th century or just provide his thoughtful twist on the subject. However, the essays seem to assume that the reader is already a Christian with an understanding of broad concepts such as "faith", "love", "spiritual solitude", etc. And I guess that's fine if he just intended to reach other people of faith. As someone who has some understanding of these concepts, I could generally follow along, but found aspects of the essays vague and admit to skipping over large portions.
Good T Merton, also read "the monastic way" by him, also good.
Come on, Catholicism is in desperate need of a sweeping reform, a fresh look at the same old truths, and it needs the oxygen of plain English talk, especially in our times. But these type of books never dare to challenge the official doctrine imposed by the Vatican, they never provide anything with a bit of any real "flavor". Tell me about scientific and historic truth as being a different thing altogether from the Gospel's theological truths. Aknowledge the elephant in the room, which is the scientific impossibility of many things you are talking about, and propose some ways for science and faith to co-exist, as they can do. Acknowledge the fact that most catholics today have absolutely no idea about the real concept of "God", as articulated by St Augustine and others. Tell me about the money that the Church owns, how about that, before exhalting poverty and telling me to devoid myself of all my material goods. Tell me about the Church's unwillingness to open her eyes to the fact that homosexual love is just a different kind of love, and it is not a "disordered emotion", like the catechism says. Tell me that faith is mainly a way to live well with yourself and with other people (like Pope Benedict dared to say in one of his books).
None of that here.
Religion is made of spiritual life, yes, but it should also be made of practical life, facts and examples. In this book there is none of that. Only grand statements, expressed in a rather cerebral and theoretical way.
Matter of tastes, but I need examples if you want me to understand what you are saying with your philosophical meanderings.
Having said that, there are some passages that I found very inspiring.