Remembering Thomas Merton
December 10th marked the anniversary of the untimely death of Thomas Merton — Trappist monk, contemplative, mystic, writer, poet. I have already paid my own tribute of sorts here at The American Catholic — here are a few others from around the web:
- Remembering Barth and Merton, by Robert P. Imbelli. Commonweal
- The Belly of a Paradox. James Martin, SJ. (BustedHalo.com) ponders Merton’s controversial legacy among Catholics, some fourty years after his death.
- Thomas Merton’s critique of “progressed” Catholics Teófilo (Vivicat) continues to challenge the predominant portrait of Merton with another humorous citation culled from his diaries.
- Remembering Merton The Anchoress
- Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Discussion @ Amy Welborn’s) – I’m sympathetic to Fr. Steve’s appraisal:
Thomas Merton very well embodies the Catholic culture and spirituality of his time and place– with all its wonders and ambiguities. His emphasis on his own self and experiences cannot simply be attributed to egoism, but it is a representation of the cultural discourse of the era. Some folks will recognize in his writings their own movement through the pre-concliar and post-conciliar period, with all its attendant dialectices and dissonance. I think that it is the current discomfort with the post-conciliar legacy that makes some in the current Catholic ethos uncomfortable with his continued influence and contribution. However, others see in him, their own struggle for attentiveness, receptivity and the death to self that is required for all those who risk the depths of authentic prayer. He may never prove to be worthy of canonization, but many will likely continue to find in his writings a fellow sojourner and spiritual friend, who like themselves, is simultaneously gifted by divine grace, and yet still a sinner in need of mercy.
Finally, to close with an excerpt from Merton’s note, “Concerning the Collection in the Bellarmine Library” (November 10, 1963):
“Whatever I may have written, I think it all can be reduced in the end to this one root truth: that God calls human persons to union with Himself and with one another in Christ, in the Church which is His Mystical Body. It is also a witness to the fact that there is and must be, in the church, a contemplative life which has no other function than to realize these mysterious things, and return to God all the thanks and praise that human hearts can give Him.It is certainly true that I have written about more than just the contemplative life. I have articulately resisted attempts to have myself classified as an “inspirational writer.” But if I have written about interracial justice, or thermonuclear weapons, it is because these issues are terribly relevant to one great truth: that man is called to live as a child of God. Man must respond to this call to live in peace with all his brothers and sisters in the One Christ.”