Thomas Merton

Letter To A Young Activist

By Thomas Merton

Extract from a letter to Jim Forest from the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, dated February 21, 1966; the full text is published in The Hidden Ground of Love, edited by William Shannon; New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1985.

Jim Forest is now Editor of In Communion, the journal of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship.

Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.