A 40 Year "Retrospective Journey"

“Be good, keep your feet dry,
your eyes open, your heart at peace
and your soul in the joy of Christ.”
Thomas Merton

October 18, 2008

Interfaith Merton

One of the areas in which Merton's message remains vital and relevant for today is in the realm of interfaith dialogue and action. In this Merton was truly a pioneer. His words to Dona Luisa Coomaraswamy in January 1961 express his conviction...
"I believe that the only really valid thing that can be accomplished in the direction of world peace and unity at the moment is the preparation of the way by the formation of men [and women] who... are able to unite in themselves and experience in their own lives all that is best and most true in the various great spiritual traditions. Such men [and women] can become as it were "sacraments" or signs of peace, at least. Our task is one of very remote preparation, a kind of arduous and unthanked pioneering."
Merton speaks of the "the preparation of the way" and sees himself, and his many interfaith friends and correspondents, as part of an advance movement towards greater religious unity. I like his use of the word "sacrament". Merton's interfaith community becomes an outward and visible symbol of the inward and invisible truth of our unity in God's love.
The Unity of God is a focus of some of the correspondence between Merton and his Sufi friend Abdul Aziz. On October 18, 1963 he writes...
"The one thing which we must absolutely confess without any hesitation is the supreme transcendent Unity of God..."
Merton is able to enter this dialogue in a way which allows him to find common ground with Aziz, while at the same time respecting the differences that exist between their respective traditions.
It is inspiring to reflect on the interfaith message of Thomas Merton and his many friends as we engage in our own processes of interfaith dialogue and action today. We are truly surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses!!

Peace and blessings... Rob
"We are one, after all, you and I. Together we suffer, together exist, and forever will recreate each other." Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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