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Thomas Merton

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Thomas Merton

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.

~Source: Thomas Merton Society of Canada

Click Here to Watch a Short Documentary about Thomas Merton

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Written by MattAndJojang

November 29, 2013 at 10:23 am

4 Responses

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  1. Somehow, I’ve missed knowing about the thesis on Blake. It’s one of the fascinating things about Merton. No matter how often or how deeply I read, there’s always something more to learn.

    shoreacres

    November 29, 2013 at 11:54 pm

  2. I know everyone knows this prayer of Merton, but if you haven’t……

    “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.”

    (A Closing prayer from his – ‘A Book of Hours’)

    Simply simple !

    Senan

    Senan

    November 30, 2013 at 5:10 am

  3. Yes, Linda. Merton did an MA thesis on Blake at Columbia University. Blake’s poems had philosophical and mystical undercurrents, and I’m not surprised at all that Merton was attracted to him. I also love Blake, and my favorite poem of his is “Auguries of Innocence,” especially the opening lines of the poem:

    To see a World in a Grain of Sand
    And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
    Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
    And Eternity in an hour.

    Merton indeed is a fascinating man. I started reading his books almost 40 years ago. Almost 40 years later I’m still reading and rereading his books! I have to admit that that he still exerts a great influence in my life, and continues to inspire me…

    ~Matt

    MattAndJojang

    November 30, 2013 at 12:46 pm

  4. Senan, this is my favorite Merton prayer! I remember praying this prayer almost daily three years ago. I was then about to make a major decision in my life.

    Yes, such a simple yet beautiful and powerful prayer!

    Thank you for sharing.

    ~Matt

    MattAndJojang

    November 30, 2013 at 12:51 pm


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