Title Image - Quotes by Author Thomas MertonPhoto Credit: WikiMedia Commons

Welcome to our collection of quotes (with shareable picture quotes) by Thomas Merton. We hope you enjoy pondering them and that you will share them widely.

Wikipedia Summary for Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968) was an American Trappist monk, writer, theologian, mystic, poet, social activist, and scholar of comparative religion. On May 26, 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name "Father Louis". He was a member of the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, near Bardstown, Kentucky, living there from 1941 to his death.

Merton wrote more than 50 books in a period of 27 years, mostly on spirituality, social justice and a quiet pacifism, as well as scores of essays and reviews. Among Merton's most enduring works is his bestselling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain (1948). His account of his spiritual journey inspired scores of World War II veterans, students, and teenagers to explore offerings of monasteries across the US. It is on National Review's list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the century.

Merton became a keen proponent of interfaith understanding, exploring Eastern religions through his study of mystic practice. He is particularly known for having pioneered dialogue with prominent Asian spiritual figures, including the Dalai Lama; Japanese writer D. T. Suzuki; Thai Buddhist monk Buddhadasa, and Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. He traveled extensively in the course of meeting with them and attending international conferences on religion. In addition, he wrote books on Zen Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, and how Christianity related to them. This was highly unusual at the time in the United States, particularly within the religious orders.

It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers.

--Thomas Merton

Contemplation means rest, suspension of activity, withdrawal into the mysterious interior solitude in which the soul is absorbed in the immense and fruitful silence of God and learns something of the secret of His perfections less by seeing than by fruitive love.

--Thomas Merton

Despair is the absolute extreme of self-love. It is reached when a man deliberately turns his back on all help from anyone else in order to taste the rotten luxury of knowing himself to be lost.

--Thomas Merton

The meaning of life is found in openness to being and being present in full awareness.

--Thomas Merton

To love our nothingness we must love everything in us that the proud man loves when he loves himself. But we must love it all for exactly the opposite reason.

--Thomas Merton

Conscience is the light by which we interpret the will of God in our own lives.

--Thomas Merton

One opens the inner doors of one's heart to the infinite silences of the Spirit, out of whose abysses love wells up without fail and gives itself to all.

--Thomas Merton

No matter how ruined man and his world may seem to be, and no matter how terrible man's despair may become, as long as he continues to be a man his very humanity continues to tell him that life has a meaning.

--Thomas Merton

God, have mercy on me in the blindness in which I hope I am seeking You!

--Thomas Merton

The least of the work of learning is done in classrooms.

--Thomas Merton

You will never be able to have perfect interior peace and recollection unless you are detached even from the desire of peace and recollection. You will never be able to pray perfectly until you are detached from the pleasures of prayer.

--Thomas Merton

The true contemplative is one who has discovered the art of finding leisure even in the midst of his work, by working with such a spirit of detachment and recollection that even his work is a prayer.

--Thomas Merton

The man who sweats under his mask, whose role makes him itch with discomfort, who hates the division in himself, is already beginning to be free.

--Thomas Merton

Love is the epiphany of God in our poverty.

--Thomas Merton

The goal of fasting is inner unity.

--Thomas Merton

Sincerity must be bought at a price: the humility to recognize our innumerable errors, and fidelity in tirelessly setting them right.

--Thomas Merton

Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false Self. We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves.

--Thomas Merton

All theology is a kind of birthday
Each one who is born
Comes into the world as a question
For which old answers
Are not sufficient.

--Thomas Merton

Spread abroad the name of Jesus in humility and with a meek heart; show him your feebleness, and he will become your strength.

--Thomas Merton

We have to have a deep, patient compassion for the fears of others and irrational mania of those who hate or condemn us.

--Thomas Merton

The center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth.

--Thomas Merton

True happiness is not found in any other reward than that of being united with God. If I seek some other reward besides God Himself, I may get my reward but I cannot be happy.

--Thomas Merton

I shall lead you through the loneliness, the solitude you will not understand; but it is my shortcut to your soul.

--Thomas Merton

We do not exist for ourselves alone, and it is only when we are fully convinced of this fact that we begin to love ourselves properly and thus also love others.

--Thomas Merton

In the devil's theology, the important thing is to be absolutely right and to prove that everybody else is absolutely wrong.

--Thomas Merton

We are not converted only once in our lives but many times and this endless series of conversions and inner revolutions leads to our transformation.

--Thomas Merton

If there was no other proof of the infinite patience of God, a very good one could be found in His toleration of the pictures that are painted of Him.

--Thomas Merton

The greatest temptations are not those that solicit our consent to obvious sin, but those that offer us great evils masking as the greatest goods.

--Thomas Merton

From the moment you put a piece of bread in your mouth you are part of the world. Who grew the wheat? Who made the bread? Where did it come from? You are in relationship with all who brought it to the table. We are least separate and most in common when we eat and drink.

--Thomas Merton

We must suffer. Our five sense are dulled by inordinate pleasure. Penance makes them keen, gives them back their natural vitality, and more. Penance clears the eye of conscience and of reason. It helps think clearly, judge sanely. It strengthens the action of our will.

--Thomas Merton

Every man has a vocation to be someone: but he must understand clearly that in order to fulfill this vocation he can only be one person: himself.

--Thomas Merton

Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny....To work out our identity in God.

--Thomas Merton

A man knows when he has found his vocation when he stops thinking about how to live and begins to live.

--Thomas Merton

But precisely this illusion that everything is clear is what is blinding us all. It is a serious temptation, and it is a subtle form of pride and worldly love of power and revenge.

--Thomas Merton

Into this world, this demented inn
in which there is absolutely no room for him at all,
Christ comes uninvited.

--Thomas Merton

Let me rest in Your will and be silent. Then the light of Your joy will warm my life. Its fire will burn in my heart and shine for Your glory. This is what I live for. Amen, amen.

--Thomas Merton

Love is free; it does not depend on the desirability of its object, but loves for love's sake.

--Thomas Merton

I simply have no business being in love and playing around with a girl, however innocently.... After all I am supposed to be a monk with a vow of chastity and though I have kept my vow--I wonder if I can keep it indefinitely and still play this gorgeous game!

--Thomas Merton

They were in the world and not of it -- not because they were saints, but in a different way: because they were artists. The integrity of an artist lifts a man above the level of the world without delivering him from it.

--Thomas Merton

There were only a few shepherds at the first Bethlehem. The ox and the donkey understood more of the first Christmas than the high priests in Jerusalem. And it is the same today.

--Thomas Merton

We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners, all our life!

--Thomas Merton

Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God: for it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice and mediocrity and materialism and selfishness that have chilled his faith.

--Thomas Merton

The light of truth burns without a flicker in the depths of a house that is shaken with storms of passion and fear.

--Thomas Merton

We cannot possess the truth fully until it has entered into the very substance of our life by good habits, and by a certain perfection of moral activity.

--Thomas Merton

To desire Him to be merciful to us is to acknowledge Him as God. To seek His pity when we deserve no pity is to ask Him to be just with a justice so holy that it knows no evil and shows mercy to everyone who does not fly from Him in despair.

--Thomas Merton

Ash Wednesday is full of joy...The source of all sorrow is the illusion that of ourselves we are anything but dust.

--Thomas Merton

For pride, which is the inordinate attribution of goods and values and glories to one's own contingent self, cannot exist where there is no contingent self to which anything can be attributed.

--Thomas Merton

We who claim to love peace and justice must always be careful that we do not use our righteousness to provoke the violent, and in this way bring about the conflict for which we, too, like other men, are hungering in secret, and with suppressed barbarity.

--Thomas Merton

And yet with every wound You robbed me of a crime,
And as each blow was paid with Blood,
You paid me also each great sin with greater graces.
For even as I killed You,
You made Yourself a greater thief than any in Your company,
Stealing my sins into Your dying life,
Robbing me even of my death.

--Thomas Merton

How can I be sincere if I am constantly changing my mind to conform with the shadow of what I think others expect of me?

--Thomas Merton

The only thing to seek in contemplative prayer is God; and we seek Him successfully when we realize that we cannot find Him unless He shows Himself to us, and yet at the same time that He would not have inspired us to seek Him unless we had already found Him.

--Thomas Merton

This is the crucifixion of Christ: in which He dies again and again in the individuals who were made to share the joy and freedom of His grace, and who deny Him.

--Thomas Merton

Faith is a light of such supreme brilliance that it dazzles the mind and darkens all its visions of other realities, but in the end when we become used to the new light, we gain a new view of all reality transfigured and elevated in the light itself.

--Thomas Merton

The whole function of the life of prayer is, then, to enlighten and strengthen our conscience so that it not only knows and perceives the outward, written precepts of the moral and divine laws, but above all lives God's law in concrete reality by perfect and continual union with His will.

--Thomas Merton

While some men see ordinary happenings, others see divine light and guidance.

--Thomas Merton

Love triumphs, at least in this life, not by eliminating evil once for all, but by resisting and overcoming it anew every day.

--Thomas Merton

If you have love you will do all things well.

--Thomas Merton

The first step toward finding God, Who is Truth, is to discover the truth about myself: and if I have been in error, this first step to truth is the discovery of my error.

--Thomas Merton

The fruitfulness of our lives depends in large measure in our ability to doubt our own words and to question the value of our own work. The man who completely trusts his own estimate of himself is doomed to sterility.

--Thomas Merton

A superficial freedom to wander aimlessly here or there, to taste this or that, to make a choice of distractions, is simply a sham. It claims to be a freedom of choice when it has evaded the basic task of discovering who it is that chooses.

--Thomas Merton

The gate of heaven is everywhere.

--Thomas Merton

The gift of love is the gift of the power and capacity to love, and therefore, to give love with full effect is also to receive it. So love can only be kept by being given away, and it can only be given perfectly when it is also received.

--Thomas Merton

The only trouble is that in the spiritual life there are no tricks and no shortcuts. Those who imagine that they can discover spiritual gimmicks and put them to work for themselves usually ignore God's will and his grace.

--Thomas Merton

Every moment and every event of everyman's life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men.

--Thomas Merton

What do I mean by loving ourselves properly? I mean first of all, desiring to live, accepting life as a very great gift and a great good, not because of what it gives us, but because of what it enables us to give to others.

--Thomas Merton

Before we can realize who we really are, we must become conscious of the fact that the person we think we are, here and now, is at best an impostor and a stranger.

--Thomas Merton


We are not perfectly free until we live in pure hope. For when our hope is pure, it no longer trusts exclusively in human and visible means, nor rests in any visible end. He who hopes in God trusts God, Whom he never sees, to bring him to the possession of things that are beyond imagination.

--Thomas Merton

He who hopes in God trusts God, Whom he never sees, to bring him to the possession of things that are beyond imagination.

--Thomas Merton

And of course most non-Catholics imagine that the Church is immensely rich, and that all Catholic institutions make money hand over fist, and that all the money is stored away somewhere to buy gold and silver dishes for the Pope and cigars for the College of Cardinals.

--Thomas Merton

Prayer is an expression of who we are...We are a living incompleteness. We are a gap, an emptiness that calls for fulfillment.

--Thomas Merton

You are certainly one of the joys of life for all who have ever come within a mile of you.

--Thomas Merton

For the birds there is not a time that they tell, but the point vierge between darkness and light, between being and nonbeing. You can tell yourself the time by their waking, if you are experienced. But that is your folly, not theirs.

--Thomas Merton

Lovely morning! How lovely life can be!

--Thomas Merton

Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.

--Thomas Merton

If a writer is so cautious that he never writes anything that cannot be criticized, he will never be able to write anything that can be read. If you want to help other people you have got to make up your mind to write things that some men will condemn.

--Thomas Merton


Living is not thinking. Thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way that we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus life is always new.

--Thomas Merton

Our real journey in life is interior.

--Thomas Merton

For perfect hope is achieved on the brink of despair, when instead of falling over the edge, we find ourselves walking on air.

--Thomas Merton

None of our prayers should ever be petitions for our own needs: for this is only another subtle way of trying to put ourselves on the same plane as God -- acting as if we had no needs, as if we were not creatures, not dependent on Him.

--Thomas Merton

Nothing has ever been said about God that hasn't already been said better by the wind in the pine trees.

--Thomas Merton

No writing on the solitary, meditative dimensions of life can say anything that has not already been said better by the wind in the pine trees.

--Thomas Merton

How deluded we sometimes are by the clear notions we get out of books. They make us think that we really understand things of which we have no practical knowledge at all.

--Thomas Merton

Longer Version:

How deluded we sometimes are by the clear notions we get out of books. They make us think that we really understand things of which we have no practical knowledge at all. I remember how learnedly and enthusiastically I could talk for hours about mysticism and the experiential knowledge of God, and all the while I was stoking the fires of the argument with Scotch and soda.


Know a quote that we are missing? Please use our suggest a quote form below and let us know. Thank YOU for visiting -- we wish you a perfect day!