Lenten Reflection: Chs. 11 & 12 of Thoughts in Solitude

18 February 2008

Vocation is a wonderful thing, Merton lets us know: once we are nourished spiritually, we may find our vocation.  Having found our vocation, the spiritual life becomes simple: we know what we are called to do or be, and so we do it, humbly, patiently, obediently, every day.

Very hopeful stuff: properly oriented, a person cannot help but live as they ought, recognizing his own weaknesses, living by faith in the mercy of God and the charity of others, doing what is necessary to live.

Then, Merton brings down the hammer in Ch. 12.  In a Buddhistic turn, Merton says we must unify our lives to live spiritually, and to do so we must unify our desires, and to do that  we must spiritualize our desires, and to accomplish that we must desire to not desire.

But Merton is no Buddhist.  To find one’s vocation is to do God’s will, and doing so means finding Wisdom, because Wisdom is God.  Although he primarily examines this idea in a monastic context, it is clear that it could apply to anyone doing what they ought: a teacher, an attorney, a salesman, a parent, a partner, a friend.

His direct identification of Wisdom with God, while part of the tradition, is rather interesting.  While some try to cast Merton as heterodox, he clearly was not, or at least never intended to be.  At the same time, it is this very identification of Sophia (Gk. for “wisdom”) with God that folks like Bishop Laura base their work on.

For me, all of this is rather heartening.  The earnest search for God results in finding God.  This is Merton’s point in these chapters.  If one cannot sense God, it must be time to move on.  For some, it might mean changing a prayer routine.  For others, it means that it is time to take up something new.  Merton says more than once that the desire to find God only happens once God has already been found; the desire for God is really the desire for greater communion with God.

I don’t know why I chose this text.  Maybe because solitude has been an idea in my mind lately.  Maybe because I haven’t read much Merton lately.  But something about it really clicks with me right now.


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