Stand On Your Own Feet
Topic: Courage, Integrity, & Purpose
To my mind, this is an extremely important monastic statement. If you forget everything else that has been said, I would suggest that you remember this for the future: ‘From now on, each one will have to stand on his own feet. Don’t rely on structure; stand on your own feet. Yes, we do need structures; we are supported by structures. But they may be destroyed at any moment by a political power or a political force. We cannot rely on structures. Use structures, but do not rely on structures.’
Born on 31 January 1915, Thomas Merton was a significant spiritual thinker of the 20th century. Raised in a non-religious household, his spiritual journey eventually led him to the Roman Catholic Church, and later, into the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, more commonly known as the Trappists, at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. Merton adopted a life of monastic contemplation, but his profound reflections on faith, spirituality, and society went on to have a widespread impact. As a writer, his diverse oeuvre included poetry, essays, and over 70 books, touching on a broad spectrum of spiritual traditions and social issues.
Merton's works often showcased his deep commitment to fostering understanding among different faiths. As a student of comparative religion, he sought to highlight the universal values and shared wisdom that transcended the boundaries of individual faith traditions. His exploration of Eastern religions and their intersections with Christian mysticism was particularly groundbreaking for its time. Merton's dialogues with leading Asian spiritual figures, such as the Dalai Lama, D.T. Suzuki, a prominent scholar of Zen Buddhism, and Thich Nhat Hanh, a renowned Vietnamese monk, further cemented his reputation as a pioneering figure in interfaith dialogue.
Unfortunately, Merton's life was tragically cut short when he died on 10 December 1968. Despite his untimely death, his influence continues to reverberate in contemporary religious and spiritual discourse. Through his writings and activism, Merton fostered a greater awareness of social justice issues within the church and inspired a more inclusive, holistic approach to spirituality. His legacy as a monastic scholar, a prolific writer, and a tireless advocate for interfaith understanding endures, solidifying his place as one of the most influential Catholic figures of the 20th century.
Merton, Thomas. "Marxism and Monastic Perspective." Paper presented at the Bangkok conference of Benedictine and Trappist Abbots, December 10, 1968. Quoted in Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB, "Thomas Merton: Now at the Crack of Dawn." Gratefulness.org, n.d. Web. October 18, 2023.
Theme: Moral Courage