Lessons from Thomas Merton for Vatican II: Resentment In the Heart

I want to look at resentment in the heart. Often a lot of this comes up when talking about Vatican II on both sides.

Thomas Merton in his New Seeds of Contemplation has an excellent chapter called sentences. In there he goes through one of the problems that can occur in the spiritual life – Resentment. I have applied the text to Vatican II in this post.

Sometimes in a world (or church) filled craziness and sin, where we feel that holiness is taken from us, resentment is used to protect ourselves. In protest to the confusion we simply offer a mute resentment.

Many times, there are those who feel that modern society has taken holiness from them, or through a great desire for perfection feel that modern society is so far gone it cannot offer the proper space to become holy. A solution to this sometimes becomes a mute resentment of Vatican II and the modern world.

This resentment may help us survive the confusion but it does not help us thrive and live life to the fullest. It is more an animal instinct to avoid hurt rather than an act of full human love.

The difficulty lies in being able to accept society or Vatican II for what it is, without selling yourselves out to what is wrong in society. (or what you think is wrong with Vatican II – I think it is great and clear of error but you may disagree. I am not writing this to debate that. I have done that elsewhere)

The solution is to let go of the false self which believes it cannot exist except in subjection to some system. The fact is that resentment is a way to maintain the thought that your personal happiness depends on others or the system in which you live and blame your lack of happiness or holiness on it. If only the system was different I would be happy! Then my life could be ordered better. Through thoughts like these man is not free, but uses resentment as a way to protest that he is not happy or holy in the current state and wants something better without personally doing much about it.

The better reaction is to realize that no one is keeping you from happiness but yourself. We are not masters but servants/slaves of God. He knows what holiness is. He has given us a chance to attain it. The truth is that the current world, the current Church and the current craziness will be the very place we find it. If the world was any different – if it was according to our wishes and the opposite of what we resent – it most positively would not be a place of holiness for us.

So what is the conclusion. If you land on either side of the debate about Vatican II, resentment is never the right choice. Don’t resent the council implementation. Don’t resent its opposition. Live it, breath it and get holy.

Ave Maria

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