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Dialogue – A Reflection

January 26, 2020

Is it just me or is dialogue something that seems to be a vanishing species of sorts. I see it everywhere from the church, on the street, on Social Media, and especially in Washington, D.C. The “it” I see is a complete breakdown of any sort of civil discourse or dialogue. Instead of dialogue and respect, I see name calling and the demonization of “the other.”

Right now I am in the middle of reading Merton’s Seventh Journal, The Other Side of the Mountain (1967-1968) Merton was at Our Lady of Gethsemane Abbey when the news of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. He was heartbroken as was much of America. In RFK, Merton saw hope for a future in this country. Instead he saw the continued breakdown of society.

This breakdown has sadly continued. The emergence of the totalitarian state which Merton foretold is sadly among us. Civil rights being revoked… secret prisons where the “enemy” was tortured in a manner and fashion that totally destroyed any semblance of decency and violated multiple parts of the Geneva Conventions.

On the one hand I am blown away by the prophetic vision of Merton. On the other hand I am incredibly saddened that this vision is still a reality today. Yet even in the midst of all of the turmoil of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement, Merton and others like Dr King encouraged dialogue and a non-violent alternative to settling conflict.

Lord knows we need that sort of dialogue and work for peace today. I came across an article from The Irish Times about the address which Pope Francis delivered to the Houses of Congress in 2015. Here is an excerpt:

When Pope Francis addressed the American Congress in 2015 he listed Thomas Merton as one of four exemplary Americans who provide wisdom for today, besides Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr and Dorothy Day: “Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.’’ — Irish Times (Dec 3, 2018)

I can only pray that you and I, dear reader, have the courage and the conviction to speak the words that are needed to challenge totalitarianism and promote the way of peace. May God grant us that courage.

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