“You will never be able to pray perfectly until you are detached from the pleasures of prayer.” These words capture the essence of Chapter 28, Detachment. I admit, I take pleasure in prayer time. My hour plus of God time at the end of the day, to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, to do a little spiritual reading, to listen to uplifting music, to sit in silent reflection. The pleasure continues often into the night as Relevant Radio or We Are One Body radio station plays softly through a pillow speaker or perhaps it is Fr. Roderick’s podcast The Break or Catholic Stuff You Should Know hosted by four Denver priests. Yes, Thomas Merton, I am guilty of being attached to this pleasure.
It is easy to see how detachment is necessary from other things, those pleasures that can consume us, such as material possessions, drugs, alcohol or sex. I’ll even give you my attachment to technology and gadgets or, selfishly, even that miniature Heath Bar that I savor while sipping a cup of tea from one of my selections from Harney and Sons. But my evening prayer ritual? Surely, that is a good attachment! It’s “God time” right? Not “me time”.
Merton gently reminds us that everything we value or treasure for its own sake prevents us from perfect attachment to God. It is a paradox that the things which help us to enter into communion with God can get in the way. But this is a slow journey to perfection! Hopefully, one day we attain perfect union with God when no pleasure is more desired than to rest in God. Until that time, we do need to rid our lives of attachments to other pleasures, even if, at times, we fall short by looking forward to and treasuring our God time for its own sake.
Title: New Seeds of Contemplation
Author: Thomas Merton
Publisher: New Directions Publishing
Release Date: 1972