Merton struggles with prayer, among other things . . .
Direction was the thing I most needed, and which I was least solicitous to avail myself of. And as far as I remember I only got around to asking Father Moore some trivial questions—what was a scapular, what was the difference between a breviary and a missal, and where could I get a missal?
The idea of the priesthood had been put aside, for the time being. I had good enough motives for doing so: it was too soon, perhaps, to think of that. Nevertheless, when I ceased to think of myself explicitly as a possible candidate for a high and arduous and special vocation in the Church, I tended automatically to slacken my will and to relax my vigilance, and to order my acts to nothing but an ordinary life. I needed a high ideal, a difficult aim, and the priesthood provided me with one. And there were many concrete factors in this. If I were going to enter a seminary or a monastery some day, I would have to begin to acquire some of the habits of religious or seminarians—to live more quietly, to give up so many amusements and such worldliness, and to be very careful to avoid things that threatened to provoke my passions to their old riot.
But without this ideal, I was in real and constant danger of carelessness and indifference, and the truth is, that after receiving the immense grace of Baptism, after all the struggles of persuasion and conversion, and after all the long way I had come, through so much of the no-man’s land that lies around the confines of hell, instead of becoming a strong and ardent and generous Catholic, I simply slipped into the ranks of the millions of tepid and dull and sluggish and indifferent Christians who live a life that is still half animal, and who barely put up a struggle to keep the breath of grace alive in their souls.
I should have begun to pray, really pray. I had read books all about mysticism, and what is more, at the moment of Baptism, had I but known it, the real mystical life—the life of sanctifying grace and the infused theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost—was laid open to me in all its fulness: I had only to enter in to it and help myself, and I would soon have advanced rapidly in prayer. But I did not. I did not even know what was ordinary mental prayer, and I was quite capable of practicing that from the start: but what is even worse, it was four or five months before I even learned how to say the Rosary properly, although I had one and used occasionally to say the Paters and Aves without knowing what else was required.
Merton struggles after his Baptism in the Catholic Church. Like most Catholics, he accepts the gifts given to him for free--the sacraments and beliefs and graces--without really putting in the hard work. Prayer and meditation and reflection. Examining yourself and recognizing the need to change your ways.
I live in a pretty polarized country right now. Domestic terrorists tried to overthrow the government, incited by a failed President of the United States, aided by corrupt politicians. Family members are fighting family members. Fathers and mothers against children. Friends against friends. Were these disagreements based on civil discourse about actual facts, I would be able to stomach this debate.
However, the people who stormed Washington, D. C., were armed, some with pipe bombs. They killed a police officer, beating him while he was unconscious. Any person who supports this type of behavior--thinks it's patriotic to commit murder and vandalism--is not anyone I wish to engage with in my personal life.
I have a large family, with diverse points of view. We don't agree on everything. I can respect that. What I can't respect--and most members of my family DO agree upon this point--is the beating to death of a member of law enforcement trying to defend the United States Capitol Building. That is a horrific act of violence. Nothing to debate about.
Any United States citizen--Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, Christian or atheist--who disagrees with me on this fact needs to do some self reflection and meditation and prayer. Because there's something wrong there. That person has lost his or her moral and ethical foundation.
Tonight, I cut myself off from a family member who was supporting the possibility of additional violence and uprising in Washington, D. C. Calling it "patriotic." I wish this family member well. Pray for him. However, I can't and won't allow myself to be associated with anyone who condones acts of sedition and the taking of life. This isn't about politics. It's about basic human decency.
I can respect people with ideas different from mine. I can love people with opposing points of view. Sometimes, however, there are lines that simply can't be crossed without repercussions. This is one of those lines for me.
Tonight, I'm going to pray for my family member. Will continue to pray for him every day. That's what I can do right now. Give him up to the universe in love.
And Saint Marty will keep his distance until this person does a little soul-searching.
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