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God is Love: From Thoughts in Solitude by the Reverend Thomas Merton (vegetarian), Part 1 of 2

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The Reverend Thomas Merton, an important Catholic mystic and spiritual thinker, was born in 1915, to a New Zealand father and an American mother. The many life situations he encountered in his youth led him to explore religion and spirituality and eventually to devote his life to God by becoming a monk, and later a deacon, at the Abbey of Gethsemani, a part of the Order of Trappists, in Kentucky, USA. He also enjoyed living alone in a hermitage in the monastery’s wilderness area. Today, we will explore a selection from the Reverend Thomas Merton’s book, “Thoughts in Solitude,” where we’ll find truths about the essence of self-conquest and the way of obtaining a virtue. “Real self-conquest is the conquest of ourselves not by ourselves but by the Holy Spirit. Self-conquest is really self-surrender. Yet, before we can surrender ourselves, we must become ourselves. For no one can give up what he does not possess. More precisely — we have to have enough mastery of ourselves to renounce our own will into the hands of Christ — so that He may conquer what we cannot reach by our own efforts.” “But what if we have no virtue? How can we then experience it? The Grace of God, through Christ Our Lord, produces in us a desire for virtue, which is an anticipated experience of that virtue. He makes us capable of ‘liking’ virtue before we fully possess it. Grace, which is charity, contains in itself all virtues in a hidden and potential manner, like the leaves and the branches of the oak, hidden in the meat of an acorn. To be an acorn is to have a taste for being an oak tree. Habitual grace brings with it all the Christian virtues in their seed.” “Without courage we can never attain to true simplicity. Cowardice keeps us ‘double minded’ — hesitating between the world and God. In this hesitation, there is no true faith — faith remains an opinion. We are never certain, because we never quite give in to the authority of an invisible God. This hesitation is the death of hope. We never let go of those visible supports which, we well know, must one day surely fail us.”
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