"On the last day of January, under the sign of the Water Bearer, in the year of the great war, and down the shadow of some French mountains on the border of Spain, I came into the world."
Today is the birthday of contemplative writer and Trappist Monk, Thomas Merton (31 Jan 1915 to 10 Dec 1968). He stands out as among the most influential spiritual writers of the 20th century, being read and respected by Catholics, Protestants and members of other faith communities.
Thomas Merton ~ ConversionHe was raised by parents who were artists and experimental intellectually, and thus came of age under the influence of avant-garde intellectualism, sympathizing with heady notions such as Communism. After a wild and tumultuous youth that included fathering a child out of wedlock, Merton converted to Catholicism while attending Columbia University. In December of 1941 he entered the Abbey of Gethsemani, near Bardstown, Kentucky -- a community of monks belonging to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists) taking the name Frater Louis. Thereafter he spent the rest of days writing what have now been deemed spiritual classics on topics such as solitude, contemplative prayer and spiritual direction.
Thomas Merton ~ Ongoing AppealMerton's works reflect his personal struggles as well as the struggles of the age in which he lived, both spiritual and cultural. Yet, book sales and the ongoing popularity of his writing suggest his sensibilities transcend culture and situation. They have resonated, and continue to resonate, with thinkers and spiritual seekers of all backgrounds and situations, and he remains one of the most widely read and written about spiritual figures of the modern times.
Thomas Merton ~ QuotesSome quotes from Thoughts in Solitude:
"If you want to have a spiritual life you must unify your life . . . . Your life is shaped by the end you live for."
"What is the use of praying if at the very moment of prayer, we have so little confidence in God that we are busy planning our own kind of answer to prayer?"
"Before we can surrender ourselves we must become ourselves."
"This then is our desert: to live facing despair, but not to consent. To trample it down under the hope of the Cross. To wage war against despair unceasingly. That war is our wilderness. If we wage it courageously, we will find Christ on our side."
Other writings include The Seven Storey Mountain, Contemplative Prayer, Life of Holiness
He is the author of more than seventy books that include poetry, personal journals, collections of letters, social criticism, and writings on peace, justice, and ecumenism.
Thomas Merton ~ A PrayerA Prayer of Thomas Merton, from Thoughts in Solitude:
"I have found and have known, by Your great mercy, that the love of a man's heart that is abandoned and broken and poor is most pleasing to You and attracts the gaze of Your pity, and that it is Your desire and Your consolation, O my Lord, to be very close to those love You and call upon You as their Father. That You may have no greater 'consolation' than to console Your afflicted children and those who come to You poor and empty-handed with nothing but their humanness and their limitation and great trust in your mercy. Amen."