31 July marks the feast day of Saint Ignatius Loyola (b.1491), the founder of the Society of Jesus (more commonly known as the Jesuits). In a breviary, I was interested to read a passage from the Acts of Saint Ignatius taken down by Luis Gonzalez, which describes the reading habits of the young saint:

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Reading Butler’s Lives of the Saints, I come across a passage on St Pambo, an Egyptian monk (c.390) thought to be a disciple of St Antony. I was struck by the following passage:

“His life was typical of the desert monks: hard manual labour, long fasts and physical penance, and sustained periods of prayer. Pambo was especially noted for his silence and a reluctance to speak any more than was necessary, seeing in control of the tongue a basic first step towards a deeper spirituality; he is said to have meditated on this verse from the Psalms for six months: ‘I will watch how I behave, and not let my tongue lead me into sin’ (Ps. 39:1). On the other hand, he had a broader outlook than many of his colleagues in the desert and did not believe their way of life was necessarily the best; he settled an argument between to monks as to which was more perfect, becoming a monk or staying in the world and doing works of mercy, by saying: ‘Before God both are perfect. There are other roads to perfection besides being a monk.'” (18 July, Butler’s Lives of the Saints)

I recently finished re-reading Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain, one of my favourite books. Now, I am dipping into the multi-volume edition of his letters. All of the books are secondhand copies, and I am sure that some of them have their own stories to tell. My copy of the first volume once sat on the shelves of a branch of The New York Public Library at 455 Fifth Avenue in Mid-Manhattan.

The letters are collected according to theme. There’s a volume of correspondence covering Merton‘s close friendships; there’s one devoted to poetry, literature, and the vocation of writing; and yet another two that deal with religious experience. The fifth and final volume collects together his letters on “Times of Crisis”. I think I might start with that one.