BOOK OF THE MONTH: NO MAN IS AN ISLAND

Week Four: Give Love Away
No Man Is an Island

This is our last week exploring some of the rich themes in Thomas Merton’s classic book, No Man Is an Island.

In this book, Merton is seeking the spiritual life, which, he reminds us in the prologue, is the only real life, the most real life we can imagine or have. The spiritual life is primarily about being or existing as opposed to doing. It’s about our identity as children of God.

We don’t exist for ourselves. We exist (we “are”) for God. We also exist for others, since we love God largely through loving others. This thought leads Merton to quote the seventeenth-century poet John Donne, whence the title of the book comes: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

Merton continues this train of thought in Chapter One, which is titled, “Love Can Be Kept Only By Being Given Away.” In this chapter, Merton explores what it means to love. A true love, he notes, wishes the good of the beloved over all other things.

Sometimes it seems easy to love because it gives us pleasure or satisfaction. However, to seek one’s good wholly in the good of another is a different matter. It requires loving the truth, and it demands total unselfishness.

Here are some quotes from this rich and moving chapter on love:

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Infinite sharing is the law of God’s inner life. He has made the sharing of ourselves the law of our own being, so that it is in loving others that we best love ourselves.

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The gift of love is the gift of the power and capacity to love, and, therefore, to give love with full effect is also to receive it. So, love can only be kept by being given away, and it can only be given perfectly when it is also received.

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If I am to love my brother [or sister], I must somehow enter deeply into the mystery of God’s love for him. I must be moved not only by human sympathy but by that divine sympathy which is revealed to us in Jesus and which enriches our own lives by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

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The truth I must love in my brother is God himself, living in him.

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It occurred to me that today’s post probably should have been the first in our Book of the Month for May since the theme of love is the first to be discussed in Merton’s book . .  but maybe it’s also a good way to end.

Let’s see God living in our brothers and sisters this week. Let’s give some love away, shall we?

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You can read No Man Is an Island here.

Reflection:

Merton week 4

 

 

 

BOOK OF THE MONTH: NO MAN IS AN ISLAND BY THOMAS MERTON

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!

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

You can read No Man Is an Island here.

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For reflection:

 

Merton week 3

 

HOLY SATURDAY’S WORK: A POEM BY KELLY CHRIPCZUK

Today is Good Friday. Instead of posting our usual Friday Favorites, I thought it would be more appropriate to give us a beautiful piece on which to reflect as we head into Easter weekend.

So, today, I’d like to share a poem by Kelly Chripczuk, an amazing writer and a friend of The Contemplative Writer. Her poem, entitled “Holy Saturday’s Work,” is from her new book, Between Heaven and Earth. I hope that you’ll savor Kelly’s words today and especially tomorrow as you wait in the already-but-not-yet of Holy Saturday.

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Holy Saturday’s Work

(for that which is already, but not yet)

Go outside and kneel
beside still-sleeping beds.
Strip away all that’s dead;
the leaves, brown and curled,
and the dry, empty stems
of last year’s flowers.
Straighten, one-by-one,
the scallop-edged bricks
that have stood, leaning,
all year-long like forgotten
gravestones. Roll the giant
flowerpot aside and wonder
at the sound of stone
scraping against stone.

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Kelly Chripczuk is a writer, speaker, and spiritual director who lives on a small farm in Central PA. Read more and sign up for her monthly email reflections at www.thiscontemplativelife.org.

Kelly's book
Kelly’s new book of poems, Between Heaven and Earth, is available here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Each Friday I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, or just “be” better, I’ll include it below.

Do you have someone else’s article or post to share? Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group, comment on today’s post on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter (@LisaKDeam) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.

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How I Met My Inner Ezer: 7 Suggestions for Ditching the Past and Embracing Your Truest Self via Amy R. Buckley (finding the fullest expression of God’s purposes for us)

Blogging Benedict: Sleep with your clothes on via MJ Hos (what we can learn from one commandment in the Rule of St. Benedict)

The Totality Effect: Thoughts for a New Year via Melanie Bishop (on learning to see the phenomenal in everyday life)

Best Spiritual Books of 2017 via Spirituality & Practice (check out this great reading list)

Capturing the Numinous: Mary Karr’s Sacred Carnality via Annelise Jolley (lessons from Karr’s writing on putting the spiritual into words)

I Copied the Routines of Famous Writers and It Sucked via Nick Greene (a long read but very funny on the desperate bid of writers to find a writing routine that works)

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The Contemplative Writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous donations of our readers. Even a gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers.

Learn how your support can keep this website running: Support Us Today

 

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! Each Friday I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, or just “be” better, I’ll include it below.

I really like today’s finds — from walking a labyrinth to being more playful to overcoming doubt in our writing life. I hope you will read them and be enriched.

Friday Favorites will take a break for Thanksgiving next week. We’ll see you again soon!

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The Paradox of Getting Lost to be Found via Karen Gonzalez (what the practice of walking a labyrinth can teach us about our spiritual journey)

A Conversation with Marlena Graves via Anita Lustrea (listen to Marlena talk with Anita about passages from her book, A Beautiful Disaster)

The Lord is my Shepherd, it’s going to be okay (A Psalm for weary women) via Bronwyn Lea (really, I think just about everyone could use this psalm)

What Is Play? via Phil Steer (what does it mean to be more playful in our busy, oh-so-serious lives?)

Walking in Womanhood via Michelle Warren (hear what one woman has to say about the Ruby Woo Pilgrimage that has been going on this week)

What Flannery O’Connor’s College Journal Reveals via Karen Swallow Prior (see what O’Connor’s journal can teach us about doubt and faith in the writing life)

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Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable

The Contemplative writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous donations of our readers. Even a gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers.

Learn how your support can keep this website running: Support Us Today

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Friday Favorites is back after a break last week! I love sharing my favorite finds related to prayer and writing, and I hope you enjoy this week’s selections.

Do you have someone else’s article or post to share? Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group, comment on today’s post on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter (@LisaKDeam) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.

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On Discerning the Meaning of Spiritual Experience via Carl McColman (how do you know if a spiritual experience is God-inspired?)

Climate Change via Richard Rohr (can science and religion be partners in stewarding Creation?)

Daily Lectio Divina: Isaiah 43:14-15 via Laura K Cavanaugh (a guided lectio divina podcast)

Saying No In Order to Make Room via Grace P. Cho (saying no to embrace life-giving rhythms)

Hobbies With a Purpose via April Yamasaki (loving God and loving others in our “spare” time)

The Uncontrolling Love of God via Exile Liturgy (Ryan Cagle of Exile Liturgy interviews Thomas J. Oord about God’s providence, knowledge, and non-coercive love)

Don’t Back Down: Choose the Writing Territory You Can Defend Long and Fiercely via Ginger Moran (a guest post on Jane Friedman’s blog)

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! Wow, I really love this week’s favorites. Sometimes, the web is on fire. I hope you enjoy these articles and podcasts on Christian spirituality, writing, and creativity. If you have a minute, find me on Twitter (@LisaKDeam) or Facebook and let me know which favorite spoke to you the most.

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Stony Cliffs & Rock Badgers: Meditations on The Rule of Saint Benedict via Father SJMC (a wonderful lectio divina reflection on St. Benedict’s rule)

Who Are You? Learn to Locate the Authentic Source of Your Identity via Christopher L. Heuertz (read an excerpt from Chris’s new book, The Sacred Enneagram)

The Least of Us via Sarah Arthur (what do you do with the realization that you can’t fix the world?)

Writing As Pilgrimage via Jennifer Ochstein (I totally get the writing-pilgrimage connection; do you?)

Martha Graham on the Hidden Danger of Comparing Yourself to Others via James Clear (creatives, do you play the comparison game or have trouble judging your own work? You need to read this)

How a Book Really Gets Made via Anne Bogel (listen to Anne talk about the process of creating a book and get a behind-the-scenes look at her new book, Reading People)

Why Being A Perfectionist Wrecks Our Creativity (& How To Avoid It) via James Prescott (on grappling with the hard truth that no piece of writing will ever be perfect)

Tweet of the Week:

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! I have to tell you that this week’s favorites really fed my soul. In the midst of everything going on in our world, our fellow writers and Christians have responded with rich offerings to help us pray, write, grow, and navigate the stormy waters. I’m grateful for their generous outpouring of words this week.

The list below begins with a prayer for cities affected by the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and ends with two fantastic podcast interviews. I hope you’ll dig in and enjoy.

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A Prayer for the Cities Under Water via Kaitlin Curtice (“Calm the storms
That rage outside And inside us, We pray.”)

Finding God in the Routine & the Slow via Traci Rhoades (learn to be intentional about your everyday routine)

What I Wish St. Augustine Had Said via Lisa’s blog (I re-posted my essay on St. Augustine in honor of his feast day on Aug. 28)

Rachel Carson on Writing and the Loneliness of Creative Work via Brain Pickings (a haunting yet also encouraging exploration of the link between loneliness and creativity)

Tips for more productive writing sessions at home via Pat Olsen (if you write at home, like me, this is a must-read!)

Flee, Be Silent, Pray with author/contemplative Ed Cyzewski (Ryan Cagle interviews our founder, Ed Cyzewski, on the Lessons from Dead Guys podcast)

Theo-poetics (in the wild) with guest Michael Wright (Lisa DeLay interviews Michael on the Spark My Muse podcast)

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Tweet of the week:

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Each Friday I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, or just “be” better, I’ll include it below.

Do you have someone else’s article or post to share? Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group or follow me on Twitter (@LisaKDeam) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.

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Quieting the Mental Committee to Hear God by Jan Johnson (a Renovaré podcast on contemplative prayer)

Who Are You? by Rich Lewis (how does one become the authentic man or woman that they truly are?)

The Shout of Sacred Consent by Eric Leroy Wilson (learning to live from a place of sacred consent)

My Friend, Francis by Abigail Carroll (on finding spiritual friendship with a beloved saint)

Returning to Rest by Tina Osterhouse (going to the the other side of fear, into a place of rest and companionship with God)

Why I Write (because don’t we sometimes need to remember?) by Leslie Verner (concerning one of my favorite questions – why does a writer write?)

What a Social Media Break Taught Me about Soul-Care by Karen Gonzalez (on developing practices, social media and otherwise, to foster a healthy pace of life)

CONTEMPLATIVE HISTORY: BEATRIJS OF NAZARETH

Beatrijs of Nazareth (c. 1200 – 1268), a Flemish Cistercian nun, was prioress of the Abbey of Our Lady of Nazareth in Brabant (present-day Belgium). She is often studied in the context of the beguine movement since she received her education from beguines before becoming a nun. In the mid-thirteenth century, Beatrijs wrote The Seven Manners of Loving, a mystical treatise that describes the soul advancing in love for God.

I’m drawn to the striking imagery that mystics often use to describe spiritual growth. Beatrijs of Nazareth does not disappoint! In one passage of her treatise, she likens the soul to a housewife putting everything in order. Although housework seems down to earth, it characterizes a very advanced kind of love in Beatrijs’s treatise.

In the sixth manner, as the bride of our Lord advances and climbs into greater holiness, she feels love to be of a different nature, and her knowledge of this love is closer and higher.

The soul has advanced this far because she has prepared her house for love . . .

And you may see that now the soul is like a housewife who has put all her household in good order and prudently arranged it and well disposed it; she has taken good care that nothing will damage it, her provision for the future is wise, she knows exactly what she is doing, she acquires and discards, she does what is proper, she avoids mistakes, and always she knows how everything should be.

I suppose that calling anyone or anything a “housewife” sounds a little out of date today. I wouldn’t want to be called that! And Beatrijs’s standards for housework seem impossibly high. But I do like the image of the soul bustling around preparing and making room for love.

The rewards of this spiritual work are great. When the inner house is ready, love moves in, and the soul is able to have a “close comprehension of God.”

And then love makes the soul so bold that it no longer fears man nor friend, angel or saint or God himself in all that it does or abandons, in all its working and resting. And now the soul feels indeed that love is within it, as mighty and as active when the body is at rest as when it performs many deeds.

Does Beatrijs’s household imagery resonate with you? Can you picture your soul bustling around preparing an inner home for love? For more examples of this kind of imagery in medieval devotional literature, see the post Finding Christ in the Kitchen by Louise Campion.

For more on Beatrijs of Nazareth, see, among other sources, Medieval Women’s Visionary Literature by Elizabeth Alvilda Petroff.