Friday, July 30, 2010

A school for happiness

Artist: Frank Fox

It's long past time for me to recommend another book that has had a formative influence on me and so today I want to direct your attention to The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. This is Merton's early autobiography that was heavily censored by his superiors so as not to bring embarrassment to the community over the unsavory details of his misspent youth. Merton himself considered this an immature work -- and it is compared to his later offerings. Nevertheless this book is both a fascinating and illuminating narrative of one way a conversion experience can unfold.

Here's a brief passage that spoke to me powerfully when I was in the process of trying to discern my own vocation:
The monastery is a school -- a school in which we learn from God how to be happy. Our happiness consists in sharing the happiness of God, the perfection of His unlimited freedom, the perfection of His love.

What has to be healed in us is our true nature, made in the likeness of God. What we have to learn is love. The healing and the learning are the same thing for at the very core of our essence we are constituted in God's likeness...


  1. Hurray!! I've been waiting for another recommendation, though you often quote from books, quite a number of which I chase up out of interest, Ellie. I have read this, ages and ages ago, but I was thinking it might be time to read some more Thomas Merton. I'm fascinated to read about his misspent youth - I'm going to have to track down some details now, if they're around.

  2. Thanks, Ellie--I have had the book for years, but have never read it, even though I seriously like other Merton books. I needed this nudge--when I get back home from this long vacation, I'll start reading it!

    We're in Bellingham, WA today and it is a cool, gray and rainy day--only 61 degrees. I am happy it's so quiet at my husband's parents' house, so I can visit some of my blogging friends, whom I've been missing!

  3. I just re-read this autobiography after years...liked it even better the second time around.
    annie c


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