The Call to Dialogue Fearlessly
Trappist monk Thomas Merton with the Dalai Lama in 1968, whom Merton met during his Asia trip. (CNS photo/Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University)
In his September 27th Sunday sermon, God's Circles of Faith, Brent referenced the recent papal visit and, in particular, a phrase used by Pope Francis as he addressed the United States Congress and US Catholic bishops.
It is a call to "dialogue fearlessly."
Pope Francis’ reminder to the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina during an earlier June address referenced this inter-religious dialogue as "an indispensable condition for peace" and "duty for all believers," as he visited with Muslim, Catholic and Jewish leaders in Sarajevo.
The message to our legislative representatives and the country's Catholic leaders last week was the same. Dialogue fearlessly – with humility, with each other, with families, with society.
"Dialogue is our method, not as shrewd strategy but in fidelity to Christ, who never wearies of proposing his offer of love," said Pope Francis.
In that same congressional address, the pope offered an example in the life and work of Thomas Merton; a name not as familiar as Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Catholic activist, Dorothy Day, whom he also referenced.
Thomas Merton was an American Catholic author and monk of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists), the most ascetic Roman Catholic monastic order.
It was Merton's social and civil activism during the 1960s that resulted in Catholic leadership, as recently as this decade, labeling Merton as 'not Catholic enough' and a 'lapsed monk.' Specifically Merton’s desire to promote East-West dialogue and his interest in Asian religions like Buddhism precipitated his fall from the good graces of the church's leadership.
In mentioning him personally, as an exemplary American, the pope put a heart and face to the call. Like Father Merton, and despite many worldly arguments to the contrary, we must persist in our efforts to dialogue fearlessly.
Seek not to battle, but strive to understand. Reach out in love and discourse, departing from division and difference.
"We are obliged to love one another. We are not strictly bound to like one another. Love governs the will: liking is a matter of sense and sensibility. Nevertheless, if we really love others it will not be too hard to like them also."
– Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island
You can learn about Father Thomas Merton from the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University.
Read the full transcript of Pope Francis' speech to Congress here.