Thomas Merton was not perfect, and he might not have been a saint. But he was indeed a master of the spiritual life, and his life and work had a profound effect on me and an army of others around the world. Bishop Barron offers a tribute to him on the 100th anniversary of Merton’s birth. Find more videos at http://WordOnFire.org.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
Thomas Merton entered the monastery in Kentucky on this day when he was 27 years old. He was accidentally electrocuted in Bangkok 27 years later on December 10, 1968 at the age of 54.
Merton reacquainted Christianity with its contemplative roots. His writings inspired many to return to le point vierge, the virgin point of pure poverty and nothingness in God’s presence.
Today we remember Thomas Merton. The item featured here is an autographed copy of the paperback, Disputed Questions, published in 1960.
On Papal History/Notable Individuals, biographical information about Thomas Merton is featured.
Notable Individuals contains information and artifacts connected to several people whose lives helped to make up the Church.
Thomas Merton was born in Prades, France, to artists Ruth and Owen Merton. His early years were spent in the south of France; later, he went to private school in England and then to Cambridge. Both of his parents were deceased by the time Merton was a young teen and he eventually moved to his grandparents’ home in the United States to finish his education at Columbia University in New York City. While a student there, he completed a thesis on William Blake who was to remain a lifelong influence on Merton’s thought and writings.
But Merton’s active social and political conscience was also informed by his conversion to Christianity and Catholicism in his early twenties. He worked for a time at Friendship House under the mentorship of Catherine Doherty and then began to sense a vocation in the priesthood. In December 1941, he resigned his teaching post at Bonaventure College, Olean, NY, and journeyed to the Abbey of Gethsemani, near Louisville, Kentucky. There, Merton undertook the life of a scholar and man of letters, in addition to his formation as a Cistercian monk.
The thoroughly secular man was about to undertake a lifelong spiritual journey into monasticism and the pursuit of his own spirituality. The more than 50 books, 2000 poems, and numerous essays, reviews, and lectures that have been recorded and published, now form the canon of Merton’s writings. His importance as a writer in the American literary tradition is becoming clear. His influence as a religious thinker and social critic is taking its place alongside such luminaries as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Flannery O’Connor, and Martin Luther King. His explorations of the religions of the east initiated Merton’s entrance into inter-religious dialogue that puts him in the pioneering forefront of worldwide ecumenical movements. Merton died suddenly, electrocuted by a malfunctioning fan, while he was attending his first international monastic conference near Bangkok, Thailand, in 1968.
Papal Artifacts gratefully thanks the website of the Thomas Merton Society of Canada for this biographical information.