I finally finished The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. Here are some thoughts on the book.
I’m not a Catholic so it was interesting to see his perspective on Mary and purgatory. What I enjoyed was that his faith was so real and his worldview as a result of that. And that also made it convicting because he points out where he settled for just a “nice” life and then when he was disturbed enough to move deeper in and higher up.
Here is an example: “I made the terrible mistake of entering upon the Christian life as if it were merely the natural life invested with a kind of supernatural mode by grace.” All he has to do is live as he did before while avoiding mortal sin. This is so true and I still struggle with this.
My initial reaction was that I would rather read more of his contemplative work and not have spent 400+ pages going through his life. But since I finished reading it, I have found that it was the story of his life that has been coming back to my thoughts. His last days with his brother during a visit to the monastery, his struggles to come to grips with the faith that was pursuing him, his change from wanting the easiest order so he would know he could “make it” to wanting to give it all to God and walk into a very difficult order as a monk. Perhaps it was best to see it all in the scope of his story told by him.
I loved the introduction where they explain that this is not a deeply researched biography, it is an autobiography so of course the author skips some things and isn’t always exactly right with the order of events. That is exactly how my autobiography would come out, so I could relate. This is what he remembered as the important points and events.
Here is another quote that hit home:
I did not have the humility to care nothing about what people thought or said. I was afraid of their remarks, even kind ones, even approving ones. Indeed, it is a kind of quintessence of pride to hate and fear even the kind and legitimate approval of those who love us! I mean, to resent it as a humiliating patronage.
This quote from the first chapter grabbed me and kept me wanting more from the book. Then he talks about not wanting his little brother hanging around, even though John Paul just loved Tom and wanted to be with him.
“And in a sense, this terrible situation is the pattern and prototype of all sin: the deliberate and formal will to reject disinterested love for us for the purely arbitrary reason that we simply do not want it. We will to separate ourselves from that love. We reject it entirely and absolutely, and will not acknowledge it, simply because it does not please us to be loved. Perhaps the inner motive is that the fact of being loved disinterestedly reminds us that we all need love from others, and depend upon the charity of others to carry on our own lives. And we refuse love, and reject society, in so far as it seems, in our own perverse imagination, to imply some obscure kind of humiliation.” p26