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Taking Risks – A Reflection

January 27, 2020

In his book, New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton said the following in the chapter titled “Sentences.”

To hope is to risk frustration. Therefore, make up your mind to risk frustration. Do not be one of those who, rather than risk failure, never attempts anything.

I am trying to unpack what my spiritual mentor is saying here. Merton was a mystic and prophet way ahead of his time. What he was saying about the 1960’s, Civil Rights, the Military Industrial Complex, and Vietnam was incredibly powerful in his day. It is even more powerful today as we look to the world around us. I sense from reading his journals that he often wanted to retreat away from the crowds of “fans” who invaded his personal space. He also said the following in his journal entry of July 5, 1968: I have felt a little compunction about continuing to proclaim a “message” just because that is what people expect of me. (The Other Side of the Mountain: Journals Volume Seven)

Even as he felt the desire to withdraw from the world, he also felt called to take the risk. He hoped that through his words and his mentoring of activists like Fr Daniel Berrigan, SJ who were actively fighting for peace he could make a difference. Merton often failed and fell short of his self-imposed goals, yet he persevered.

This gives me much hope as I continue to minister in sometimes difficult and frustrating situations. He reminds me that I must risk frustration as I seek to do God’s work in this broken world.

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