The New Man

The New Man

by Thomas Merton (1961)

This is the least informal writing I have yet seen from Merton. And the most philosophical. Neither trait hurts the book, but I did find myself taking longer than usual to decide whether I would finish the book. Then about a third of the way through I began to start realizing that this could be one of his strongest works ever.

The topic is about Adam vs. the New Adam, Christ. And the Fall. And Baptism. It does not sound all that original, as St. Paul covers this quite well in his epistles. But in his usual fashion, Merton finds something new to say, and a way of saying it that holds the reader’s interest.

Let’s supply some excerpts to demonstrate the point. From the chapter “Life in Christ”:

Everything that has the power to make us real, to bring us to the fulfilment of our destiny, to perfect happiness, and peace with ourselves and one another, is contained in God’s will for us: first His will as implanted in our very nature, and then His will as supernaturally revealed. To want to know something besides this one great good, to desire to add the knowledge of evil to the knowledge of good by turning away from God, is to turn away from life itself and from reality. We die the death.

(pg. 185)

And again from the same chapter:

[T]he patience of the charitable man [is not] merely a hidden weapon by which he shames and defeats his enemies. It is the strength which knows the difference between good and evil, and which knows how to overcome evil with good. Without this strength, this alchemy which silently and inexorably destroys evil, the passive aspects of Christian charity would have no reason for existence. They are never really negative. They are the negation of evil, and evil is a negation. Hence even the passive elements in charity are positive, constructive forces. Very often they are more constructive than the more obvious and affirmative acts of the charitable man.

(pp. 191-192)

So as not to spoil it for you, I will omit the part where Merton gives the best explanation I have ever seen as to why Adam (and we along with him) lost his immortality.

 

Navigating the Interior Life

Navigating the Interior Life: Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God

by Daniel Burke (2012) with Fr. John Bartunek, LC, STL

This book has the same basic objective as Fr. Thomas Dubay’s Seeking Spiritual Direction, but it’s much shorter and addresses some topics not covered by Dubay, such as whether you should pay for spiritual direction.

It also advises the reader about preparing for sessions with your director. There is a questionnaire designed to help you identify your “root sin”, which is primarily what holds you back from progress. Finally, there is also a section on how to develop what is called a Plan of Life, which is not altogether different than how the monastic orders structure their day between prayer and work,  and which anyone can benefit from.

NOTE: Dan Burke and Fr. Bartunek started and continue to lead a blog with several other contributors (such as Anthony Lilles) on Roman Catholic spirituality called RCSpiritualDirection.com and it can be found along with other recommended blogs at our Online Spiritual Reading link at the upper right of this web page.