“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)
FR. LOUIS MARY MERTON: Blessed Are The Meek: The Christian Roots of Non-Violence
CPF Members Maria Surat and Leah Coming were glad to be able to attend the 14th general meeting of the International Thomas Merton Society in early June. In honor of the 100th anniversary of Thomas Merton’s birth, we share this piece written by Merton for CPF in the mid-1960s.
It would be a serious mistake to regard Christian nonviolence simply as a novel tactic which is at once efficacious and even edifying, and which enables the sensitive man to participate in the struggles of the world without being dirtied with blood. Nonviolence is not simply a way of proving one’s point and getting what one wants without being involved in behavior that one considers ugly and evil. Nor is it, for that matter, a means which anyone legitimately can make use of according to his fancy for any purpose whatever. To practice nonviolence for a purely selfish or arbitrary end would in fact discredit and distort the truth of nonviolent resistance.
Nonviolence is perhaps the most exacting of all forms of struggle, not only because it demands first of all that one be ready to suffer evil and even face the threat of death without violent retaliation, but because it excludes mere transient self-interest from its considerations. In a very real sense, he who practices nonviolent resistance must commit himself not to the defense of his own interests or even those of a particular group: he must commit himself to the defense of objective truth and right above all of man. His aim is then not simply to “prevail” or to prove that he is right and the adversary wrong, or to make the adversary give in and yield what is demanded of him.
Nor should the nonviolent resister be content to prove to himself that he is virtuous and right, and that his hands and heart are pure enough though the adversary’s may be evil and defiled. Still less should he seek for himself the psychological gratification of upsetting the adversary’s may be evil and defiled. Still less should he seek for himself the psychological gratification of upsetting the adversary’s conscience and perhaps driving him to an act of bad faith and refusal of the truth. We know that our unconscious motives may, at times, make our nonviolence a form of moral aggression and even a subtle provocation designed (without awareness) to bring out the evil we hope to find in the adversary, and thus to justify ourselves in our own eyes and in the eyes of “decent people.” Wherever there is a high moral ideal there is an attendant risk of pharisaism, and nonviolence is no exception. The basis of pharisaism is division: on one had this morally or socially privileged self and the elite to which it belongs. On the other hand, the “others,” the wicked, the unenlightened, whoever they may be, Communists, capitalists, colonialists, traitors, international Jewry, racists, etc.
Christian nonviolence is not built on a presupposed division, but on the basic unity of man. It is not out of the conversion of the wicked to the good ideas of the good, but for the healing and reconciliation of man with himself, man the person and man the human family.
Jim Forest, Tom Cornell and Bob Cunnane on Thomas Merton’s 1964 Peacemaking Retreat on the Spiritual Roots of Protest
Fifty years ago a handful of peace advocates gathered with the contemplative monk and writer Thomas Merton to discuss the “spiritual roots” that nurtured their calling and shaped their actions. In October of 2014 the CPF co-sponsored an event entitled PURSUING THE SPIRITUAL ROOTS OF PROTEST- 1964-2014 with the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky which explored this gathering, which contributed to the formation of the Catholic Peace Fellowship. One of the panels at the gathering featured three of the retreatants: Bob Cunnane and CPF co-founders, Jim Forest and Tom Cornell. You can listen to their reflections on the retreat here.
“Seek peace and pursue it.”- Psalm 34:15
Guided by a personalist philosophy, the Catholic Peace Fellowship works for peace before, during, and after war through education, counseling, advocacy, and accompaniment.
The Catholic Peace Fellowship (CPF) offers practical and pastoral support to military and veterans who are struggling with the contradiction between their personal participation in war and their consciences. The CPF provides:
-Counseling, advocacy, and support for conscientious objectors and selective conscientious objectors to war
-Catholic resources for conscience formation in regard to questions about war and peace for families, teachers, parishes, and campus ministers in and through web and print media, talks, lesson plans, and workshops
-Staff prepared to address what modern clinicians, philosophers and theologians call “moral injury” and what St. Augustine called “anguish of soul” or “heartfelt grief” through our David’s Heart ministry
-Spiritual direction, guidance and accompaniment for military, former military, and their families
-Information on upcoming retreat opportunities, listening circles, pilgrimages and other resources for those returned from combat and their families in the Midwest and beyond
-Experienced staff and advisors who have worked to advocate for justice for and aid in healing of those who have been in the military and their families, as well as for reparations for and outreach to victims of war in lands ravaged by combat.
Contact CPF Director, Shawn T. Storer directly at 574.339.1100 or by email at email@example.com
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