The first few weeks of my prayer practice with Thomas Merton was rocky for a couple reasons. First off, I had been struggling with what prayer was for exactly, and my ability to understand it seemed to be slipping away. Secondly, this feeling had been taking away some of my motivation for prayer, which made a spiritual practice that was built around prayer, a hard thing to stay committed to. What eventually got me in a routine, was the way Merton writes. I love to read, and do so on a much more consistent basis than I pray. Because of this, Thomas Merton’s Book of Hours allowed me to see the wisdom and language behind a prayer practice I could follow. It began to stimulate me intellectually as well as it calmed my soul (some of the time) spiritually. My journal has lots of ‘what am I praying for’ comments, as well as some cynical tangents where I allowed my mind to give in to rabbit trails.
In the first week I wrote down the Examen section from Wednesday during the day, I remember it stuck with me. It says, “One of our great problems is to see clearly what we have to resist. I would say that at the moment we have to understand better than we do the war mentality. IF we do not understand it, we will run the risk of contributing to its confusion is and thereby helping the enemies of man and of peace. The great danger is that under the pressures of anxiety and fear, the alternation of crisis and relaxation and new crisis, the people of the world will come to accept gradually the idea of war, the idea of submission to total power, and the abdication of reason, spirit and individual conscience. The great peril is the deadening of conscience.”