Week 3: Suffering and Contemplation

No Man Is an Island

This month, we’re reading a spiritual classic, No Man Is an Island by Thomas Merton. In chapter five, Merton explores the theme of suffering. Suffering, Merton observes, comes to us because of the fall. He writes: “The Christian must not only accept suffering: he must make it holy. Nothing so easily becomes unholy as suffering.”

How, then, is suffering made holy? Merton spends the chapter unpacking this and related questions. Again and again, he relates our suffering to the cross and also to contemplation. The chapter is so rich that I can’t do it justice here. I’ll share a few quotes with you — and then I encourage you to go read it yourself!




To know the Cross is to know that we are saved by the sufferings of Christ; more, it is to know the love of Christ Who underwent suffering and death in order to save us. . . This explains the connection between suffering and contemplation. For contemplation is simply the penetration, by divine wisdom, into the mystery of God’s love, in the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.


We cannot suffer well unless we see Christ everywhere—both in suffering and in the charity of those who come to the aid of our affliction.


In order to face suffering in peace: Suffer without imposing on others a theory of suffering, without weaving a new philosophy of life from your own material pain, without proclaiming yourself a martyr, without counting out the price of your courage, without disdaining sympathy and without seeking too much of it.


In the end, we should seek God everywhere, even in the darkness of suffering.

You can read No Man Is an Island here.


For reflection:


Merton week 3