The Papal Artifacts’ Collection is primarily dedicated to artifacts connected to the papacy. Individual popes, their biographies and multiple items belonging to them, including first and second class relics, make up the majority of this Collection. But that isn’t all it is.
Father Kunst has a deep devotion to the saints as can be readily seen in viewing the Saints & Blesseds section of this site. We invite you to visit Papal History/Saints & Blesseds to view the many canonized and beatified men and women who make up this section of the Collection.
Another category is also included with this Collection: Notable Individuals. These are people significantly associated with the Catholic Church who have not been canonized but contributed in outstanding ways to the church.
Father Thomas Merton is one of them.
An autographed copy of the paperback book Disputed Questions by Thomas Merton, published 1960.
Today is the 71st anniversary of the publication of Father Thomas Merton’s, The Seven Storey Mountain, a monumentally important memoir by one of the greatest monastics of the 20th century. While not a “perfect” work (none are), it obviously directed the vocations of many religious men and women who read it.
Some say it, “denigrates the world,” and idealizes monastic life. It also contains many rude comments about other religious traditions, Christian and otherwise. Many women find it off-putting for many reasons.
But Father Merton himself, towards the end of his life, thought the man who wrote it, “was dead.” He regretted some of what he said as he came to appreciate other religious traditions.
Never the less, his memoir has been read by millions who have found it and him someone who pointed to a way of life in Christ superior to life without him.
We remember in gratitude today Father Thomas Merton.
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 web site of the Thomas Merton Society of Canada for this biographical information.