by Peter Menkin
Today, again, I asked myself during centering prayer, to let my heart be open to God. This is the Christocentric God of the Trinity about which I speak. The book, “A Seven Day Journey with Thomas Merton” by Esther de Waal is an
|Thomas Merton at ease|
Irregardless, through the words or by looking at the photographs, one can find a way of looking at the world in the everyday and finding God. Set out as a seven day journey, take the book kindly and give it attention during the day, setting aside the time to go into the retreat. In the notes on Thomas Merton, the writer says, “The message of love, the primacy of love, this is the most basic definition of monastic life as Merton discovered it…” Thomas Merton was a man who lived a life of love, learning so much about it and Esther de Waal, a Benedictine, is a good person to help us along the way with this love that Thomas Merton knew.
She asks questions in the days of the retreat. In day one, she asks, “Who am I before God at this point in my life?” She goes on in an intimate way, teaching us to become intimate with God: “…I am overawed to think of the person that I am, that unique person, so lovingly created by God in all the fullness and riches of my own individuality, a person made to be His daughter, His son.” Is this too
|Thomas Merton, portrait|
Another thing this book helps with is the way of contemplation. As she quotes Thomas Merton, using his poetry throughout the book, we have a guide to help us in our spiritual exercise and quest. On “Day Three–The Solitary Within: The True Self” Merton is quoted: “What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?” From Psalm 139 she quotes a response for this retreat exercise. “For it was you who created my being/knit me together in my mother’s womb/I thank you for the wonder of my being,/for the wonders of all your creation.”
“Day Four–Encounter With Christ” is the fourth day, and the central day of the retreat. Remember,this book is a retreat for seven days read a chapter at a time, day by day. The great gift Merton offers readers is a sharing of his experience in contemplation, his spiritual journey, and mostly his coming to know God. The book is kept under the section of books for “Spirituality/Prayer” and those interested will find that they too are with “..the Christ of God who in
|In the wood|
How religious is this book? I ask the question so that you as a reader will know that this is a book that is approachable. It “answers” the statement by John Cassian, in his “Conferences” which I am now reading about the relationship with God that a seeker may look for in his life. Even the advanced who are spiritually inclined will find this an approachable book by this measure of Cassian’s: “…We ought to know where we should fix our mind’s attention and to what goal we should always recall our soul’s gaze.” That can be an advanced question for many of us, and this book is helpful in meeting the statement’s intent for one’s life. This is a book that has life moving possibilities, one step at a time.
|Book Reviewer: Peter Menkin|
A commentary on Thomas Merton by a woman who is well prepared and able to make such commentary, essentially this book is her interpretation of Merton’s writings set as a retreat for people at home or use in a retreat setting away from home. With a foreword by Henri Nouwen, and photographs by Thomas Merton (including a most intriguing one of him next to a cross — large, large one) on the cover, the title by Esther de Waal is published by Servant Publications of Ann Arbor, Michigan. I listened to a webcast some years ago, from Trinity Church in New York if memory is correct, when a woman editor with Publisher’s Weekly said that one of the things that competed with Church life was good reading — in other words books. This is one of those books that can compete with a retreat time away from home, and for me that was the value of it. I could have the book at home, use it for study and prayer on a seven day course and come closer to God in my relationship with Him by the book. This book is a good thing in the world.
This review appears on the pages of The Church of England Newspaper, London. Originally written in 2005, it is now posted 2011 again.