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Becoming Who You Are: Insights on the True Self from Thomas Merton and Other Saints

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  585 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
By meditating on personal examples from the author's life, as well as reflecting on the inspirational life and writings of Thomas Merton, stories from the Gospels, as well as the lives of other holy men and women (among them, Henri Nouwen, Therese of Lisieux and Pope John XXIII) the reader will see how becoming who you are, and becoming the person that God created, is a si ...more
Paperback, 98 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by HiddenSpring
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Dec 09, 2015 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: church
a nice devotional read, essentially a long form essay on the merton quote "for me to be a saint I must be myself" though by the end I thought it could be summed up by c.s. lewis; "how gloriously different are the saints!" some favorite thoughts:

"One might read the lives of the saints and think: I could be more generous, more loving, more patient, and so on. But, when we think that we have to become them in order to be holy, we are denying the person whom God has created. The gifts and talents a
Maureen Milton
Jun 25, 2016 Maureen Milton rated it really liked it
Just returned from a Service Trip in Nicaragua & finished this book today. Here's what I wrote to my students & colleagues who were there.

I've so enjoyed looking at the photos of you all in Nicaragua-- holding, carrying, wheelbarrowing, playing with the children of the community.

I've spent some time upon my return from our trip considering my own experience in the community of El Jicarito, especially with my Dice Race-playing 10-year-old friend, Dixon.

How can I feel so attached to tha
Mar 23, 2010 Jaci rated it really liked it
A quick read by Jesuit James Martin (his most recent book is A Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything) is a meditation based on Thomas Merton's idea of the true self that Martin originally wrote for a lecture at Corpus Christi Church in NY, 2005.
ix: "For me to be a saint means to be myself," wrote Thoms Merton in his book New Seeds of Contemplation. "Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and discovering my true self."
p.49: I don't think th
Oct 09, 2012 Ginny rated it really liked it
Since I find both Merton and Nouwen helpful in my spiritual journey, I thought I would read this brief book by James Martin, S. J. to see how they impacted his spiritual journey. In addition to learning more about both men, I found the conversation about the false self and true self from Merton's perspective to be helpful for me. "The false self is the person that we present to the world, the one we think will be pleading to others: attractive, confident, successful. The true self ... Is the per ...more
Aug 14, 2012 Jeff rated it it was amazing
An amazing book, and very timely for me at the stage of life I am in. Uses the backdrops of the "saints" Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Mother Teresa and others to show how they grew in their understanding of life and become who they were created to be, rather than someone else. The author encourages us to find who God created us to be, rather than try and emulate another's path to holiness. Recognizing that each of us are called to the path of holiness but how that happens is different for each o ...more
Jackie Hilaire
Jan 03, 2016 Jackie Hilaire rated it it was amazing
Seek and you shall find but don't expect the same results or the same crossroads as the author or anyone else for that matter.

This is the audio version of James Martin's book.

If you want to refresh your memory about Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen and other spiritual seekers, this audible by James Martin will take you back and remind us once again that we are all on the spiritual path and we shouldn't compare our spirituality with another.

Everyone of us has to follow their own truth and James Martin
Adam Shields
Jun 18, 2014 Adam Shields rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short Review: A very helpful short book exploring Merton's idea of the True Self and the False self. Martin uses Merton and Nouwen and Jesus (with a few others) to illustrate how others have tried to seek out their true selves. The thesis of the book is that in order to become our best self (the true self) we have to become the particular person that God created us to be. So we need to pay attention to our desires and our particular makeup. We can learn from others but we should not strive to be ...more
Apr 14, 2015 Anthony rated it it was amazing
A Review by Anthony T. Riggio of the book:
Becoming Who You Are: Insights on the True Self from Thomas Merton and Other Saints by James Martin, SJ

My wife gave me a copy of this book that she had previously purchased and asked me to read it. Since we were in the middle of Lent, I agreed. I am glad I did read this book; it is the second book written by Jesuit James Martin. I find his writing style down to earth and not a writer who is trying to impress the reader with his verbosity and intellectual
Sofie Tyger
Feb 28, 2014 Sofie Tyger rated it liked it
I liked this book a lot, less for what it was in and of itself and more for the seeds of ideas it threw at me, some of which stuck. I just requested eight or nine odd books from the library, by and on Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen, plus a couple random ones mentioned or quoted, like Journey of a Soul by Pope John XXIII.

Side note: I was skeptical about the entire chapter spent freely speculating on Jesus' self-knowledge, and journey of self-discovery. That being said, it hasn't been a topic I've
Liza Ann  Acosta
Nov 11, 2015 Liza Ann Acosta rated it it was amazing
I actually heard it on audio and it was fantastic.
Adam Shields
Oct 03, 2015 Adam Shields rated it really liked it
I originally read this just over a year ago. James Martin originally put this together as a lecture to honor Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen.

On the second reading, Martin’s insights are still as hard to internalize, but as still important.

God has created each of us as unique individuals. Working toward becoming the self that God created is a lifetime process. And at least part of that process is rejecting the roles that are placed upon you but not a part of you.

The second reading I was struck by
Apr 15, 2014 Beth rated it it was amazing
So this Lent I made the same commitment that I made last Lent - to only read books on religion and spirituality. I actually re-read this book, which is such a lovely gem. I discovered something new the second time around - and I imagine I will likely re-read it again next Lent ;) This book is great because it says that being a Saint means being yourself. And being yourself means being your best self - the way God wants you to be. The book also references a lot of other books - some of which I've ...more
Heather Tomlinson
Sep 09, 2014 Heather Tomlinson rated it it was ok

This is a very short, simple meditation on the lives of a few saints: Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and Henri Nouwen. It takes a few sentences from their teaching and discusses them, under the loose heading of discovering the true self, that is hidden under sin.

It's a nice book and probably an easy introduction to the people for some. I was put off, though, by some very odd speculations about Jesus, which seemed to be more to do with the author's imagination than any kind of historical record that
Feb 26, 2015 Katy rated it really liked it
I can tell this book is going to take a while to sink in. Fr. Martin gives reflections from Thomas Merton and various saints to help us understand what it means to be holy, and how God calls each of us to our own kind of holiness. Probably only around 90 pages or so, this book is not difficult or long, and best taken in small bits to ponder. "The true the person that we are before God. Sanctity consists in discovering who that person is and striving to become that person." While severe ...more
Jul 25, 2015 K8 rated it liked it
Recommended to K8 by: Aunt Dorothy
It was really encouraging to read a book about sanctity and fulfillment in being one's self. Sometimes in Christianity there is such a focus on "WWJD" and a pressure to be as much like Jesus as possible, when no one is meant to be Jesus other than Jesus. As Oscar Wilde says, "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."

For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and discovering my true self.

Why do
Jan 08, 2014 Laurie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spiritual
Excellent short book on discovering the true self. This is a life-long journey for most of us. One of the key points I got here is that we never ask ourselves who we want to be. We ask of ourselves and others what do we want to do but not who do want to BE. The doing should flow from the being and that river only flows one way. If you find yourself doing something that feels soul-sucking, it is likely because you missed the step when you asked yourself what you want to be and the two are not ali ...more
Marc Washburne
Mar 24, 2016 Marc Washburne rated it it was amazing
Fr Martin's book on Spirituality is a must read. Where else will you find comments on Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen and the 'Invisible Man' in 1 book?

Fr Martin walks us through discussions about the False-True self, of discovering one's purpose in life, and some very good comments on those who are 'hidden contemplatives'.

Be sure to include this book in your library - you will want to re-read from time to time.
Jun 29, 2015 MGMaudlin rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
A wonderful meditation on Merton's observation that to be a saint means to be fully who you are. I found this idea so inviting and mysterious and intriguing that I was hooked right from the beginning. Jim Martin provides wonderful introductions to Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen as well as reflections on his own experience to illuminate this rich theme. I highly recommend it.
Calvin Nixon ii
Nov 28, 2015 Calvin Nixon ii rated it really liked it
A brief yet fascinating and intriguing read on the sacramentality of living our true selves (who we are before God) and the call to holiness we all share in our "everydayness." Deep wisdom is drawn from Merton, Nouwen, the Gospels, and a collection of stories from the lives of the Saints. Deeply Impactful book that was hard to put down, by all means it was!
Jes Pedroza
Jun 18, 2007 Jes Pedroza rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen Fans
If you've read "My Life with the Saints" (also by Martin) before you read this book, then you'll notice a lot of overlap. But the life of Thomas Merton (which is addressed in "My Life with the Saints") is so interesting that I didn't mind at all.
Martin introduces us to Henri Nouwen as well who was also a man with a fascinating life. Both men wanted so badly to be their "true selves"....., men of love, honesty, compassion etc. They worked their whole lives to obtain this and although they lived
Timothy M Dolan
Sep 06, 2015 Timothy M Dolan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful, easy read on finding your true self and the journey to holiness.

I have read a few of his books and have really enjoyed them. James Martin SJ writes in a conversational, easy to understand manner about deep topics. They are fast reads and I find tremendous insights in his books. He is fast becoming one of my favorite authors.
John Prejean
Oct 03, 2015 John Prejean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought Provoking

This was a very thought provoking book and couldn't have came into my hands at a better time. I've often pondered who my real self is and this book has started to make the wheels in my head turn again and start praying for the grace to become the real me, not the person I portray to the world currently.
Apr 25, 2016 Joseph rated it really liked it
The main thesis of the book comes from Thomas Merton that "for me to be a saint means for me to be myself". What follows are suggestions, exercises, and anecdotes related to becoming more spiritually genuine. The manner in which this is presented is wonderfully attuned to the typical busy individual (of which the author was once).
Aug 14, 2015 Donna rated it really liked it
A beautiful little book which is a meditation on Thomas Merton's idea of the true self: "For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in the fact the problem of finding out who I am and discovering my true self." (from New Seeds of Contemplation)
Jun 04, 2016 Jodi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
good start

It's a good start for someone starting on their journey of who you are. But I think was looking for more. Like prayers to say, how to move forward, etc...but maybe that will come with my own reflection. Good book on the brief bio's of the other catholic figures.
Rick Lee James
Sep 30, 2015 Rick Lee James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is awesome

This book is an invitation to holiness. These reflections upon the lives of Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen through the lens of father James Martin's own journey are a call to discover the true self. This book is easy to read and a pretty great introduction to a couple of my favorite spiritual riders in the Catholic Church.
Jana L.
Jun 28, 2015 Jana L. rated it it was ok
Shelves: spiritual
I was hoping for an exploration of what Merton and Nouwen say constitutes the "true self," so I was a little disappointed that the emphasis of the book was biographical and autobiographical. There were some gems of insight and wisdom, I just think it is not the book advertised.
Jul 12, 2014 Jane rated it it was amazing
A short book reviewing the false self and the true self. Introduces Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen. Also speculates on what Jesus Christ may have experienced of his own self in his earthly life. Very readable, interesting and helpful for one's own life. I highly recommend it.
Mar 24, 2012 Jeanette rated it really liked it
I liked this book because the topic is so important. Especially when times are tough, it's easy to start to feel kind of useless in the grand scheme of things. The idea of the true self is that we're meant to be unique, and an important part of life's journey is shedding the false selves we build up to pursue unfulfilling goals and embracing who we're really meant to be.

It's a very quick read so it you don't feel bogged down by any one perspective (he offers his own, plus his reading of Merton,
Jamie Whiteley
Aug 26, 2015 Jamie Whiteley rated it liked it
Only reason I didn't give this a higher rating is because of its brevity. Rev. Martin gets 5 stars for content here. This is a life changing read, but don't just breeze through..Make this one part of your lectio practice for most impact.
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James J. Martin, born 29 December 1960, is a Jesuit priest, writer and Culture Editor of the Jesuit magazine America.

Education and Career

Martin grew up in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, United States, and attended Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business in 1982 and worked in corporate finance at General Electric for six years.
More about James Martin...

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“The beginning of sanctity is loving yourself as a creation of God. And that means all of yourself, even the parts that you wish weren’t there, the parts that you wish God hadn’t made, the parts that you lament. God loves us like a parent loves a child—often more for the parts of the child that are weaker or where the child struggles or falters. More often than not, those very weaknesses are the most important paths to holiness, because they remind you of your reliance on God.” 1 likes
“The multiplicity of desires leads to a multiplicity of paths to God.” 0 likes
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