Varieties of religious belief…

Just in case anyone imagines that all religions are the same or more to the point that all religious experience is the same they should read RS Thomas, quondam vicar of Aberdaron (Wales) and Father Thomas Merton, Trappist monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky.

And read them one after the other.

RS Thomas:

‘And God said, I will build a church here

And cause the people to worship me

And afflict them with poverty and sickness

In return for centuries of hard work

And patience. And its walls shall be as hard as

Their hearts, and its windows let in the light


This is from The Island. There are many other poems I could quote.

Thomas Merton:

‘Yesterday Father Macarius and I went out and blessed the fields, starting with the wheat and oats… Out in the calf pasture we blessed some calves who came running up and took an active interest in everything. Then we blessed some pigs…the sheep showed no concern and the chickens ran away as soon as we approached. The rabbits stayed quiet until we threw holy water at them and then they all jumped.’

(The Sign of Jonas, May 6, Ascension Day)

I’m with the rabbits.

RS Thomas, for whom the word curmudgeon could have been invented, and who is nonetheless wonderful, and Thomas Merton walked in different worlds. The one weighed down, just surviving amid the crags as do the mountain sheep, the other spreading grace and jumping for joy, at one with the sheep who showed no concern, for sprinkled holy water or for anything else it seems.

Merton’s time to show concern would come later. (Nuclear disarmament and radical America of the 50s and 60s.)


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