[ by Charles Cameron — politics and the pope — but you could go straight to Thomas Merton on contemplation, right at the end, and skip the rest ]
After a busy week, I have seven or eight unfinished ZP pieces to polish up and post — here’s the first.
Think Progress, Catholic Congressman Will Skip Papal Address To Congress, Cites Climate Change Good magazine, Pope Francis to Skip Lunch With Congressmen, Will Eat With DC’s Homeless Community Instead
Notably absent were Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, all of whom are Catholic. Also absent were Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, who are Jewish.
NPR saw fit to post The 10 Most Political Moments In Pope Francis’ Address To Congress:
Embracing John Kerry A call to rise above polarization A call for the country to open its arms to immigrants and refugees A reminder on abortion Strongly advocating for abolishing the death penalty Poverty and the necessity of ‘distribution of wealth’ Business should be about ‘service to the common good’ Calling on Congress to act on climate change Antiwar message and a call to stop arms trade importance of family and marriage
As for myself, I particularly liked #2, the “call to rise above polarization”:
Francis warned against the “temptation” of “the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps.” .. He also noted one his heroes, American Thomas Merton, whom Francis said had “the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.”
It is hard to say which party Pope Francis would chose under the rubric “Whoever is not with me is against me” now popular in Congress.
And what, finally, of Thomas Merton himself? Who is this Trappist monk the Pope mentions?
I had the good fortune to correspond briefly with Fr Merton while I was still an undergraduate at Oxford in 1964, more than a half century ago, and he was kind enough to say of my letter “It makes me feel somehow I am in contact with the human race”. His response can be found in Road To Joy: The Letters Of Thomas Merton To New And Old Friends.
Here’s the voice of Thomas Merton, speaking of the central practice of his life — central, too, I would suggest, to the politics of this Pope: