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Trappist Monk, author 1915-1968

Thomas Merton


In every man there is hidden some root of despair because in every man there is pride that vegetates and springs weeds and rank flowers of self-pity as soon as our own resources fail us.  But because our own resources inevitably fail us, we are all more or less subject to discouragement and to despair...

But a man who is truly humble cannot despair, because in the humble man there is no longer any such thing as self-pity...

Humility contains in itself the answer to all the great problems of the life of the soul.  It is the only key to faith with which the spiritual life begins: for faith and humility are inseparable...

If we were incapable of humility we would be incapable of joy, because humility alone can destroy the self-centeredness that makes joy impossible.

New Seeds of Contemplation, p.180, 181

Magnificat Logo

 * In Christian iconography, the lily of the valley is often used to symbolize humility or the humbleness of Mary.

All of us rely on our own resources.  That is how we begin our journey in the Lord towards holiness of life.  All of us experience discouragement and the temptation to despair, because we somehow believe that we "should be able" to get ourselves to that state of perfection.  And we all do this whether we are aware of it or not. 

Merton very accurately states that to fall into despondency and to dally with despair leads us to self-pity, a state of great self-centeredness.  If we were truly humble, we would be like St. Thérèse de Lisieux who rejoiced in her littleness and in her powerlessness.  She knew that God was the source of all goodness and all holiness within her soul and that is why she could rejoice in her heavenly Father - even when she experienced failure - and declare that God was doing great things in her!  

As we journey towards that final perfection, let's try to keep in mind that God truly wants to do it all in us, just like he told St. Mechtilde, 8 centuries earlier.  He wants us to have absolute faith, trust and confidence in Him!!

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