Monday Merton 5.27.13

I’m pre-loading my Monday Mertons for the next two weeks in my insomnia before leaving on a trip to the Dominican Republic. So I don’t have enough mental energy to analyze the quotes I’m going to share, but they’re gems nonetheless. This first set of quotes is from chapter 6, “Asceticism and Sacrifice,” in No Man Is An Island.

“The false ascetic begins by being cruel to everybody because he is cruel to himself. But he ends by being cruel to everybody but himself.” 96

“Those, then, who put their passions to death not with the poison of their own ambition but with the clean blade of the will of God will live in the silence of true interior peace, for their lives are hidden with Christ in God. Such is the meek ‘violence’ of those who take heaven by storm.” 97

“We cannot become saints merely by trying to run away from material things. To have a spiritual life is to have a life that is spiritual in all its wholeness… The saint therefore is sanctified not only by fasting when he should fast but also by eating when he should eat.” 98-99

“It gives great glory to God for a person to live in this world using and appreciating the good things of life without care, without anxiety, and without inordinate passion… The tremulous scrupulosity of those who are obsessed with pleasures they love and fear narrows their souls and makes it impossible for them to get away from their own flesh. They have tried to become spiritual by worrying about the flesh, and as a result they are haunted by it… In their very self-denial, they defile themselves with what they pretend to avoid.” 100-101

“Because we love God alone… we become indifferent to all that is not God. But at the same time our love enables us to find, in God Himself, the goodness and the reality of all the things we have renounced for His sake.” 103

“Christian renunciation is not a matter of technical self-denial, beginning and ending within the narrow limits of our own soul. It is the first movement of a liberty which escapes the boundaries of all that is finite and natural and contingent, enters into a contact of charity with the infinite goodness of God, and then goes forth from God to reach all that He loves.” 104-105

“The real purpose of asceticism is to disclose the difference between the evil use of created things, which is sin, and their good use, which is virtue… Self-denial should not make us forget the essential distinction between sin, which is a negation, and pleasure, which is a positive good.” 106

“Work occupies the body and the mind and is necessary for the health of the spirit… Agitation, however, destroys the spiritual usefulness of work and even tends to frustrate its physical and social purpose. Agitation is the useless and ill-directed action of the body. It expresses the inner confusion of a soul without peace… In order to defend ourselves from agitation, we must be detached not only from the immediate results of our work… but from the whole complex of aims that govern our earthly lives.” 109-110

“Asceticism is utterly useless if it turns us into freaks. The cornerstone of all asceticism is humility, and Christian humility is first of all a matter of supernatural common sense… St. Paul teaches (2 Thessalonians 3) that Christian humility and asceticism should normally help us to lead quite ordinary lives, peacefully earning our bread and working form day to day in a world that will pass away.” 113

“God is more glorified by a man who uses the good things of this life in simplicity and with gratitude than by the nervous asceticism of someone who is agitated about every detail of his self-denial.” 114


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