News flash: Merton Square, Louisville

Word has come (from an anonymous but reliable source) that on Tuesday of this Holy Week the corner of Fourth and Walnut Streets in Louisville, familiar to any fan of Thomas Merton, will be named "Merton Square." It was there that Merton, in 1958, stopping in town for a visit to his physician, stood on the corner and had a startling epiphany. For many years after entering the Trappist monastery in nearby Bardstown, Kentucky, Merton had felt, in a way, "separated" from the rest of humanity. The monastery was one reality; the "world" another. Or so he thought when he entered religious life, and sought a kind of spiritual refuge. But as he watched the people eddy about him on that busy corner of Louisville, he had a flash of insight about his fellow human beings. Here is the original entry from his journal, on March 19, 1958, the Feast of St. Joseph. Yesterday, in Louisville, at the corner of 4th and Walnut, suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were, or, could be totally alien to me. As if waking from a dream--the dream of separateness, of the "special" vocation to be different. My vocation does not really make me different from the rest of men or put me is a special category except artificially, juridically. I am still a member of the human race--and what more glorious destiny is there for man, since the Word was made flesh and became, too, a member of the Human Race! Thank God! Thank God! I am only another member of the human race, like all the rest of them. I have the immense joy of being a man! As if the sorrows of our condition could really matter, once we begin to realize who and what we are--as if we could ever begin to realize it on earth. Later, in his book "Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander" he describes the same experience and ends with the famous paragraph: I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. James Martin, SJ
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