The Deacon's Bench

A joyful h/t to Jim Martin at the America blog, for pointing out this momentous event:

I wanted to celebrate today, March 18, the 50th anniversary of a great epiphany that changed the course of Thomas Merton’s life. After years of feeling “separate” from other men and women (as a result of his choosing to live a monastic life) he had a clarifying moment of grace on the corner of Fourth and Walnut Streets in Louisville, which would set the agenda for the rest of his life. From this inspiration would come much of Merton’s writings on war and peace, civil rights, religious freedom and, in general, spirituality for the modern world.

Here is his description of that moment in his book “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander.”

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream…There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun….

I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each on is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all of the time.”

Today on that spot the city of Louisville will dedicate “Thomas Merton Square.”

What a happy way to begin the most important time of the Christian calendar.

Thanks, Jim. And thank you, Fr. Louis.

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