Monday Morning with Merton: Sometimes I Wonder

It’s a tremendous benefit having a large body of work available from a writer such as Merton.  We can identify with the material at so many points along the journey.

Most assuredly Merton would eventually arrive at answers to his musings in the following excerpt, yet it brings us solace and comfort in knowing that early on, he dealt with many of the same questions, frustrations and heartaches as we do:

“Just because a cross is a cross, does it follow that it is the cross God intends for you?
Just because a job is a nuisance, is it therefore good for you?
Is it an act of virtue for a contemplative to sit down and let himself be snowed under by activities?
What am I doing in that room over there: piling up fuel for Purgatory?
Does the fact that all this is obedience make it really pleasing to God? I wonder. I do not ask these questions in a spirit of rebellion. I would really like to know the answers.”

[The Sign of Jonas.  The Journal of Thomas Merton].  pg. 46.  Entry of May 1, 1947.  Merton has been five years in the monastery at this point, and is approaching the time when he will take his solemn vows.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Merton was perfectly serious, as am I… but it’s Monday morning, so I simply can’t resist. Just a little something to get us through the week.  It’s a catchy tune, with a refrain you might find very familiar.



14 thoughts on “Monday Morning with Merton: Sometimes I Wonder

  1. Abandonment to Divine Prov…is it all in the attitude, the answers to these questions, perhaps? I dunno.

    I remember singing the Job Blues..but when predictions of severe budget cuts hit the front page like they did last week …..’I love my job, I love my job’ was my tune. I am glad I took an early retirement. (rub it in) Those budget cuts were stressful.
    I got to set up my own schedule, so I eased it up on Monday and put the greater load on Friday. People would wonder why on earth I would love Mondays! LOL…The secret?..I had just received the Blessed Sacrament the day before and saw fantastic students on Monday!

  2. The really horrible thing is to be utterly ancient by the time one asks one’s self all these questions. But because that is truly horrible, there’s something wonderful of His that out-shouts it: God is timeless; wherever our breath remains, hope may grow.

  3. There’s so much we’re asked to take in, and so much we’re expected to accept especially when it comes to all the man – made rules – I mean no-one can really speak for God – is it pleasing to Him that a young friar in a monastery does something just because his Prior tells him to? It’s pleasing to the Prior, yes! I think that’s where Merton is coming from when he questions things. What is pleasing to God? I hope that through prayer and through communion with the all – knowing God he found at least some peace, if not answers.

  4. Well, the video, though cute, is pretty depressing if you think about it!

    My attitude is to face my job while there, but I refuse to bring work related problems home with me. It’s like changing channels with a remote control.

  5. I remember a priest explaining once that priests, nuns and other religious through prayer receive a special grace one of the fruits of which is obedience. As far as I know the term piety can also refer to this – respect and obedience towards those in authority even if the person is absolutely convinced that whatever he or she is being asked to do is wrong or not for the good of themselves or others.
    I suppose Merton at times felt a bit rebellious – I feel that way sometimes, but that’s when we need to pray most and rein ourselves back in. We will never be blamed by God for being obedient to a superior and i suppose that’s the bottom line. Hard as it might be, and it’s very hard at times, it strips us of all pride and self will and perhaps misguided intent and self love …..but then the good part comes – there’s room for God!
    And He can do wonders with us, if only we let Him.

  6. It’s amazing AND comforting to me, that Merton had these honest, pointed questions…it reminds me of some of St. Paul’s heartfelt words, where he cries out in weakness & humility…reminding himself (& us) just how frail and incapable he was…but having the faith to realize that God’s strength truly IS made perfect in his (our) weakness. Often when I read Merton, I have the feeling that I have just engaged in a “personal conversation” with him. He often makes me look inward – and outward – all at the same time, and I seem to identify with these words on a very personal level. I recall a long-standing “discussion” with a pastor (Church of Christ, I think), years ago, via email. He insisted that “doubt” was a sign of having a “lack of faith”, and was an influence that was rooted in an evil source. I insisted that it was often part of the GROWTH process, and not “inherently evil”. We bounced our questions, ideas and insights back and forth for months. In the end, he said he saw the truth to my explanations….but only AFTER he had gone thru a particularly painful, personal ordeal…in which he gave up his position as church pastor, and had to move on.

    I have shared this story link with some friends, knowing that they, too, will relate…and that it will help, in some small way, to strengthen their own walk of faith.

    Oh, and Thank You, too, for sharing the WONDERFUL little video!! I am back to work, after 2 days off to move (more on THAT later…suffice to say that there isn’t one place on my body that doesn’t hurt today)….and at the moment, I can’t see above the pile of “stuff” that was waiting for me… was a great tension/anxiety release, and I laughed out loud! I think I will lay claim to this little “ditty” as my “work theme song” for the next few days! 🙂

    Thank you, Gabrielle, for the Monday morning inspiration…that has inspired me…. on Wednesday. 🙂

    May God bless you (and keep you from frostbite, if you get stuck in a snowdrift today)!! 🙂


  7. Thank you, Gabrielle, for extending your best wishes to me over at Veritas’ site, “Poetry Prayer and Praise” (re: prayer for spiritual discernment). I’m so pleased to find you here and will wander around a bit. 🙂

  8. Can’t say I hate my job. That being said, there are days when I wish I didn’t have to work…Perhaps, that’s the “Cross” for me. Being cheerful when I don’t feel like it. Answering the phone or making the phone calls when all I want is solitude and quiet to do the job. But certainly, to have employment is a gift and one for which I am also grateful…A bit ambivalent, aren’t I? Good evening and God Bless!

    The clip was cute…HEHEHEHE!

  9. About the very salvific importance of obedience, we never have to look further than at Jesus (or Mary or Joseph), but since I have often forgotten that, or couldn’t identify with it, we never have to look further than the example of the two most famous Stigmatics, Br. Francis and Padre Pio. Francis had to break himself to it and to insist obedience is gravely important, and Pio suffered for many years due to it. And if that fails to sink in with me (and somehow it does!) and I need an even more contemporary witness to obedience, there is John Paul II.

    There are absolutely abysmal aspects to any commitment, be it employment, Orders, or lifelong matrimony. “Hard as it might be, and it’s very hard at times, it strips us of all pride and self will and perhaps misguided intent and self love …..but then the good part comes – there’s room for God!
    And He can do wonders with us, if only we let Him.” Yes. But *sigh.. nonetheless, sometimes I wish I wouldn’t look in here.

    But only sometimes. : – )

  10. Thank you all very much for your wonderful responses! In my reading of the lives of the saints, I have certainly found much evidence that in the life of a religious, obedience to superiors is the most pleasing thing to the Lord, even when it means that something He desires to accomplish through a person is delayed or obstructed – He is first looking for obedience, and then He and the Holy Spirit work on the superiors to bring His desires to fruition. It is a little more difficult in the life of a layperson – we have to use our discernment skills to a greater degree, I think, because to whom are we obliged to be obedient? To the Church, to God, to our state in life – it can be straightforward, or it can be confusing, to say the least…I appreciate all of your thoughts on this subject.

    Laure, you’re very welcome. We need more caring and well-trained spiritual directors for lay people, so may God bless you in your discernment and in your future studies if you decide to go forward with this.

  11. Confusion in obedience–yes, that is the trickiest thing lay contemplatives grapple with the most; hence, the utter mercy of a Merton, and of contemplative havens.

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