Merton: Epiphany

Merton: Epiphany

“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.” Thomas Merton

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This is the first line of Thomas Merton’s famous mystical revelation and epiphany in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, described in his 1968 journal about the world of the 1960’s, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. pp. 140-142.

Merton had been a Trappist monk now for seventeen years and was on an errand for the monastery in the middle of an ordinary day on March 18, 1958. The story becomes so famous that the city of Louisville erects a plaque at the site in 2008 at the 50th anniversary of Merton’s revelation. Ordinary people and popes continue to visit the corner of Fifth and Walnut that was life changing for Merton and for those who read his works.

Merton’s experience seems similar to what James Finley describes in Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God as “having a finger in the pulse of Christ, realizing oneness with God in life itself.”

This experience may also be similar to what St. Francis realized in nature when he called the sun his brother and the moon his sister. Richard Rohr calls it finding our True Self, “our basic and unchangeable identity in God.” 1

Methodists might relate it to John Wesley’s experience at 8:45 pm on May 24th, 1738, at a Society meeting in Aldersgate Street when someone read from Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to Romans and Wesley says, “I felt my heart strangely warmed.”2

1 Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation,” Richard Rohr Meditation: “Thomas Merton Part II,” October 6, 2017

2 John Wesley, Journal of John Wesley, Charles H. Kelly, London, 1903, p. 51.


Home by Another Road

Home by Another Road

‘Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” Matthew 2:12


The Epiphany readings from January 6th still ring in my ears. The wise men are told to return home by another road or way. In this new year what is the other road we may be asked to take? I keep hearing Scott Peck whispering that it is The Road Less Traveled. Barbara Brown Taylor also must have been intrigued by this message. She named one of her books of sermons, Home By Another Way. My spiritual director, Bridget, tells me the road for the wise men was away from Herod, away from power. Even more specifically it was away from corrupt, sinful power.

The wise men were going back home to the east. Facing the east is the rising sun. When I have not been able to sleep, I have often sat outside and watched the sun rise. Whatever has been troubling me frequently seems manageable. As I see the sun rise, light comes out of darkness, and I know it is a new day and I am enveloped with forgiveness and love for myself and for others. We do not need to stay in the darkness that has consumed us, but we learn a great deal about ourselves in darkness. We have been promised a new day where things will become brighter, clearer, where we are given another chance by a God who never ever gives up on us. We are called out of the darkness that has been festering inside of us into the light outside of ourselves. This light then illuminates the light inside of us, the light of Christ within us.

I am spending each day this year in prayer about what and where is the new path home I am being offered and asked to journey on.

My spiritual director suggests it may be more fruitful to start by considering what the road is moving away from.

This is beginning to sound more like a good Lenten discipline.


Rohr: Service

Rohr: Service

“If your spiritual practice doesn’t lead you to some acts of concrete caring or service, then you have every reason not to trust it.”

Richard Rohr, Adapted from Richard Rohr, 107-108, Near Occasions of Grace, Orbis Books 1993, From Richard Rohr Daily Meditation from Center for Action and Contemplation,

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Richard Rohr gives us an outstanding benchmark to determine if our spiritual practices are relevant, if this practice is really working for us. If the practice leads to service or caring for others, then we are on the right track. When friends come for spiritual direction and talk about being “dry,” this can be a good test to use to determine if they should change their spiritual practices. If they are still feeling compassion for others, we might suggest to keep going with the practice a little longer. If there is no concern for others, this may be a sign to try another spiritual practice to find connection to God.

If the Spirit is working in our lives, there is only one way it can go, and that is outward. The Holy Spirit is not a halo but more like a river on the move. It can be like the current in the mighty Mississippi flowing downstream to the Gulf of Mexico, sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly. On occasion, it can be like the rapids on the Snake River. Watch out! We will need to keep our life jackets on and stay close to our community for this one.

When we are connected to the Love of God, it must flow outward. When we are aware of God, the Christ within ourselves, it can only flow out and lead us to seeing the Christ in another.