Thomas Merton On The Ultimate Meaning Of Life

Thomas Merton On The Ultimate Meaning Of Life February 6, 2016


In which direction are we heading? Which path will finally lead us home? Why are we even here?

For most of us, the answers to these questions just might hold the key which can unlock the purpose, the very end goal, of our lives.

And – perhaps – confirm the authenticity of our faith.

Now, if we were put here for a specific purpose, it makes sense that we would want to know whether our movements, our everyday actions, will help get us there.

Or whether we are, in reality, being led astray.

We, each of us, all too often are in a hurry to condemn others who are in the midst of exploring their own God-led destinies – as if our purpose must be theirs, our timetable alone must prevail.

But there is another way to think about these things.

Another way which says, I have my own purpose, my own destiny, my own particular goal imbued within me by the Creator Himself, from the beginning of time.

And it has nothing at all to do with selfishness, self-aggrandizement, or ego.

Nothing at all.

But it does have everything to do with the glory and the due honor to Him, and Him alone.

And it’s about respecting, with no small amount of awe, the specific, individual, and rightful path that He has opened up to us.

Readers of this blog, by now, have come to know my deep admiration for the writings of Thomas Merton. So many of his words speak directly to me – especially those taken from his earliest writings.

As I now read through Echoing Silence, Thomas Merton on the Vocation of Writing (edited by Robert Inchausti), I am constantly bombarded by consequential and moving passages. Ones which remind me that I must often take the time to be silent, to think, to be still.

These words, an excerpt from a 1948 letter to Merton’s one-time Professor, Mark Van Doren, touch upon our subject today: our travels, our goals, our direction, our own particular destiny:

I can no longer see the ultimate meaning of a man’s life in terms of either “being a poet” or “being a contemplative” or even in a certain sense in “being a saint” (although that is the only thing to be).

It must be something much more immediate than that. I – and every other person in the world – must say:

“I have my own special, peculiar destiny which no one else ever has had or ever will have. There exists for me a particular goal, a fulfillment which must be all my own – nobody else’s – [and] it does not really identify that destiny to put it under some category – “poet,” “monk,” “hermit.” Because my own individual destiny is a meeting, an encounter with God that He has destined for me alone.

His glory in me will be to receive from me something He can never receive from anyone else – because it is a gift of His to me which he has never given to anyone else [and] never will.

My whole life is only that – to establish that particular constant with God which is the one He has planned for my eternity!”

We, each of us, were created for a specific purpose. That purpose is designed to lead us home.

It is a gift unique to us. As unique a gift to us as we are to Him

I hope that you can take some time this day to better understand that – and then begin to find your own path back home.


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