As the anniversary of 9/11 approaches, we are witnessing a surge of anti-Muslim attitudes. A Florida church is threatening to burn the Quran. Protesters across the nation are trying to stop the building of mosques. Our fear of the other and our insecurities based on memories of 9/11 are rendering us less than Christian in our approach to real-life situations.
Thomas Merton believed that we find God in the ordinary circumstances of life. He nurtured and developed a great innate ability to cut to the chase, to drill down, to peel back the onion to get at the truth of matters. Merton developed an appreciation for world religions and took to heart the Vatican II teaching that we are to honor that which is true and holy in other religions. Much of Merton’s contemplative spirituality comes from Sufism–the mystical tradition in Islam. In his final pilgrimage–the Asian journey–Merton encountered the truth and beauty of Eastern religions. Some have speculated that Merton was about to abandon Catholicism and his monastic vows; however, Abbot John Eudes Bamberger writes that there is no justification for this conclusion.
Merton rings as true today as he did in the 60s. This prayer from Merton’s final days may help us shape our response to the memories of a most tragic event. Merton would be the first to tell us that all Muslims are not terrorists. Pray this prayer often in the coming days:
O God, we are one with You. You have made us one with You. You have taught us that if we are open to one another, You dwell in us. Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our hearts. Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection. O God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely, we accept You, and we thank You, and we adore You, and we love You with our whole being, because our being is Your being, our spirit is rooted in Your spirit. Fill us then with love, and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways, united in this one spirit which makes You present in the world, and which makes You witness to the ultimate reality that is love. Love has overcome. Love is victorious. Amen.
- Closing statements and prayer from an informal address delivered in Calcutta, India (October 1968), from The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton (1975); quoted in Thomas Merton, Spiritual Master : The Essential Writings (1992), p. 237