Our last meeting (March 8th) was delightful. THANK YOU!
I don’t recall a time when nobody wanted to leave afterwards and everyone stuck around for a half hour continuing to talk.
We welcomed four new people (William, Rose, Jack, and Peach) to the group, learned much from them, including how they found themselves in that room with us.
The conclusion we always draw is that God brings people to our group – for whatever reason, for however long – because they’re looking for something.
The people who see our Merton flyers all seem to have at least one thing in common: they’re seekers. They’re looking for something (more or different or deeper) from what they’re currently experiencing in their spiritual lives.
Thomas Merton draws people in. Well, he draws in people of a certain kind: The seekers among us. That’s why I changed the copy on our flyer to reflect what attendees tell me they are and why they’re there.
During our last meeting, we discussed (among many other things) Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas V. Steere, member Bob Hudson’s forthcoming book about Merton (to be published next spring by Wm. Eerdmans), contemplation, Fr. Patrick’s series of talks about Thomas Merton at Marywood (on Tuesday, May 9…Tuesday, May 16…and Tuesday, May 23 from 6:30-8:00 p.m.), Karen’s simple (but profound) statement, “I think if you summed up all of this Bible in one word it would be ‘love’”, and Jim’s seeker’s path to this point in his life.
For our next meeting (April 12th), we will discuss Chapters III through VI from Thomas Merton’s book Contemplative Prayer, which should be available from Baker Book House again.
Here are a few questions to ponder:
1. What does Thomas Merton mean that meditation is a kind of “death”?
2. What are some of the problems one encounters when one begins a life of prayer?
3. Why is it important for a contemplative to have a “spiritual father”?
4. What does it mean to have beginner’s mind?
1. What does Merton say about dividing one’s inner (prayer/meditation) life from one’s outer (worldly/secular) life?
2. What does Merton mean that “the love of others is a stimulus to interior life, not a danger to it”?
3. Merton uses several terms to describe some of the “obstacles” to the life of thought and love which is meditation (walling ourselves up inside…idealism…discouragement…confusion, helplessness). Which of those “obstacles’ have you faced? (Or still do)
4. Who was Abbe Jules Monchanin? How does what he did compare to the Bede Griffiths? (Google Bede Griffiths.)
1. Why does Merton write that the prayer of the heart has to be always very simple?
2. Who was St. John of the Cross?
3. Have you experienced a kind of “dark night of the soul” in your spiritual life?
4. What is the purpose of monastic prayer, psalmody, ratio, meditatio, and lectio?
1. Merton again brings up the dualism that so many experience today – the perceived difference between public and private prayer. Do you see your spiritual life in that way – having a private side and a public side to it?
2. What is the Rule of St. Benedict?
3. Who were John Cassian and St. Basil?
4. What did you learn from Chapter IV that you didn’t know before?
You can download a pdf of our April flyer here. (Right click, Save As.)
Beth and I drive these flyers around all over Grand Rapids to attract seekers. It takes a couple of days and a few hours each day. So any help you could offer would be wonderful. Please print this out and put up a few yourself, or e-mail it to others. Either way, you’ll be extending our reach in ways we couldn’t even imagine.
See you on April 12th at Baker Book House!
Bill & Beth Murphy