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Fr. John Dear S.J. is an interesting character. I first “met” him when he was a retreat leader for a weekend session I was attending. His primary claim to fame is his passion around the cause of peace.

I stumbled upon an article Fr. Dear wrote called: “The wisdom of Robert Lax: ‘Cultivate, exercise compassion’”

Robert Lax was a poet and is known to anyone who has read Thomas Merton’s book The Seven Storey Mountain as he was Merton’s best friend.

Here is a small excerpt from Fr. Dear’s article (Click here for the full reflection.)

Born a Jew, Lax befriended Merton at Colombia and also converted to Catholicism. After teaching for a while, Lax worked as an editor at TIME magazine and The New Yorker; a Hollywood screenwriter; a reporter for the progressive Catholic magazine Jubilee; and even a circus clown.

Lax’s dear friend Jack Kerouac called him “a laughing Buddha.” Living in Greenwich Village in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he befriended Bob Dylan and was with him the night he wrote “Blowin’ In the Wind.” Later, he knew Padre Pio, and stayed in touch with a wide array of artists, writers and thinkers.

“Lax was born with the deepest sense of who God was,” Thomas Merton wrote. “He was much wiser than I, and he had clearer vision, and was, in fact, corresponding much more truly to the grace of God than I. He had seen what was the one important thing.”

In a memorable scene in Merton’s book The Seven Storey Mountain, Lax and Merton are walking down Fifth Avenue one day when Lax asks: “What do you want to be anyway?”

Merton hesitates, and says, “I guess I want to be a good Catholic.”

“What you should say,” Lax declares, “is that you want to be a saint.”

“How do you expect me to be a saint?” Merton asks.

“By wanting to,” Lax answers. “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. All you have to do is desire it.”

That conversation set Merton’s heart and mind on a long search that took him to Gethsemani. Lax, on the other hand, seems to have achieved a palpable holiness at an early age. Merton really admired Lax. That comes through in the recently published collection of their zany letters, called If Prophecy Still Had a Voice.

“We are meant to be holy, all of us,” Lax told Steve Georgiou. “We’re all called to be saints.”

Lax’s advice to the young graduate student is short and simple: “Relax,” “Slow down,” “Simplify,” “Love everyone unconditionally.”

The wisdom of Robert Lax is beatifully summarized in his advce to all of us: “Relax,” “Slow down,” “Simplify,” “Love everyone unconditionally.”

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