December 10

Remembrance of Thomas Merton
Reflection

After an undisciplined youth, Thomas Merton converted to Roman Catholicism while attending Columbia University, and on December 10th, 1941 he entered the Abbey of Gethsemane, a community of Trappist monks of an ascetic Roman Catholic order.

The twenty-seven years he spent in Gethsemane brought about profound changes in him. He became contemplative and his ongoing spiritual conversion impelled him into the political arena where he became the conscience of the peace movement of the 1960’s. Merton was a strong supporter of the nonviolent civil rights movement and he called race and peace the two most urgent issues of the time. He received severe criticism for his social activism, from both Catholics and non-Catholics who criticized his political writings as unbecoming a monk. During his last years, he became deeply interested in Asian religions and in promoting East-West dialogue. The Dalai Lama praised him as having a deeper understanding of Buddhism than any other Christian he had known. During a trip to a conference on East-West monastic dialogue, Merton died in a tragic accident on December 10, 1968, the twenty-seventh anniversary of his arrival at Gethsemane.

Thomas Merton’s  autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has sold over one million copies and has been translated into over fifteen languages. He wrote over sixty other books and hundreds of poems and articles on topics ranging from monastic spirituality to civil rights, nonviolence, and the nuclear arms race.

Prayer

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 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 I will 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

Action

Read some of Merton’s writings again. Reflect on their message. Read about his life.

Suggested Reading

Merton remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.
Pope Francis

Thomas Merton pointed to another way of living, a way that embraced the paradoxes of life and pointed to the beauty of mystery, a way that navigated love for his own life, a way that pushed ahead to one’s true-self, a way that embraced the stranger and let them lovingly in as a neighbor, a way that truly welcomed everyone to the table where they belong.
Cassidy Hall

Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.
Thomas Merton

A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.
Thomas Merton

The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.
Thomas Merton

Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it.
Thomas Merton

We have what we seek, it is there all the time, and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us.
Thomas Merton

We do not exist for ourselves alone, and it is only when we are fully convinced of this fact that we begin to love ourselves properly and thus also love others.
Thomas Merton

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.
Thomas Merton

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