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Nonviolence and Thomas Merton

December 4, 2020
Peace banner in the sanctuary of Carrollton Presbyterian Church in Carrollton, GA

I have been reading (slowly because of work and schoolwork) John Dear’s book, Thomas Merton, Peacemaker: Meditations on Merton, Peacemaking, and the Spiritual Life. Fr John combines his own journey as a peacemaker with Merton’s interior journey of faith and its witness to the world. The fact that Merton’s writings are just as relevant and timely today as they were when he was writing in the 1950’s and 1960’s never ceases to amaze me. Discovering Thomas Merton in early 2015 was a watershed moment for me and he played a major role in the launching of my Doctor of Ministry in Public Theology studies which I began this past summer.

Sadly, just as it was in the 1960’s for Merton, I see too often the church being complicit in justifying violence in the nation and world. Yes, that struggle is still very real for me and I am far from the nonviolent peacemaker that I desire to become. These words from Fr John struck close to home for me:

In contemplative violence, oddly enough, we can be quite peaceful with ourselves—as we go forward in our unconscious support of violence and empire… A nonviolent person often does not feel centered or peaceful, because he or she is attending to an inner violence as well as the world’s violence. It’s a long-haul, ever-deepening awareness, a daily surrender of our violence to God, so that over time we are transformed by God’s disarming love and sent into the world of war as God’s peacemakers. Merton underwent and taught about this journey, a journey that few really want, yet that God requires of us all. (Thomas Merton, Peacemaker, p. 15)

As we approach the holy day commemorating the birth of the Prince of Peace, may we also heed his call to be peacemakers. In the words of the Prophet Micah: He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8)

This Sunday on the Second Sunday of Advent we will light the candle of hope and the words of the Psalmist will be shared: Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet, righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. (Psalm 85:10-11)

Help us, Lord, to be peacemakers as your children. Give us the courage and the strength to stand with you as a counter to violence. Amen.

  1. pynkoski2 permalink

    This: “…a journey that few really want, yet that God requires of us all.”

  2. I have always been offended by those who tried to “cheer” me up during the last 4 weeks of the year, especially since I rarely saw them the other 48. My idea of ‘celebration’ is more in line with contemplative communities. Prayer, meditation, and silence seem much more appropriate than going out and spending a months, or more, earnings just to please ourselves or each other. It has taken me many years to come to grips with what I believe is best and what others think is best for me. Now I simply do what I want with no apologies. So no matter how you celebrate may the peace and love we see born in the world be with you all the year long. Ruth

  3. Thank you for an awesome post 🙂

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