Tag Archives: Thomas Merton

Christian meditation is the gift of the whole person to God

In meditative prayer, one thinks and speaks not only with his mind and lips, but in a certain sense with his whole being. Prayer is then not just a formula of words, or a series of desires springing up in the heart – it is the orientation of our whole body, mind, and spirit to God in silence, attention, and adoration. All good meditative prayer is a conversion of our entire self to God.

One cannot then enter into mediation, in this sense, without a kind of inner upheaval. By upheaval I do not mean a disturbance, but a breaking out of routine, a liberation of the heart from the cares and preoccupations of one’s daily business.

Thomas Merton

Thoughts in Solitude

Thomas Merton, a light still shining

Fr Louis Thomas MertonHear with favor our prayers, which we humbly offer, O Lord, for the salvation of the soul of Father Louis (Thomas Merton), your servant and Priest, that he, who devoted a faithful ministry to your name, may rejoice in the perpetual company of your Saints.

The famous Trappist monk, Thomas Merton (b. 1915) died on this date in 1968.

In very many ways Merton was a consummate human being: loved pleasure and engaged his freedom only to transform pleasure and his version of freedom with his embrace a life of prayer and silence as a  Strict Observance Cistercian (a Trappist monk) in a Kentucky abbey.  In the monastery Thomas Merton was known as Father M. Louis, a name I still prefer to use because of his commitment to the monastic life. At the command of his abbot, Merton wrote of his conversion in his 1949 best seller, The Seven Storey Mountain, introducing millions of people to the monastic life. No other book since this one has had such a critical impact on Catholics. His conversion story was only one of many books and essays published by Merton and even in death Merton continues to publish due to the finding of new materials or the repackaging of thought into new books. The irony of Merton’s life as a monk is that he died in Asia conferencing with an international and interfaith group of monks and nuns. His body was brought home in a steel casket on a military transport.

In his lifetime Merton was a voice of reason, a voice of sanity, a voice speaking the Word of God. As typical of public thinkers he became a voice and an influence for a variety of types of people, from artists, intellectuals, religious types, peace and nonviolence promoters and the like.

Key for me and dare I say for Benedictines of all stripes, Merton argued for a contemplative life which engages the reality of the world so that the monk, nun, oblate could intercede on behalf of the world for others (read The Sign of Jonas).  Father Louis helps me to understand the Benedictine charism better when he says,

The Benedictine life is simply living the Gospel without fanfare…. The mainspring of everything in Saint Benedict is the love of Christ in Himself, in the poor, in the monastic community, in the individual brethren…. This is the key to the monastic life and spirit.

A life totally cut of is good for a few, like the Carthusians, but for Benedictines and the Cistercians (a reformed group of Benedictines) who form a school of prayer and love in Christ, nothing is out-of-bounds. Merton, indeed, opened the doors to a new manner of living the vitally important monastic life today.

He sought to be a saint, that is, be yourself, is the vocation that all of us ought to consider doing with seriousness. The Pope echoes this notion, so does Communion and Liberation. Great minds think alike.

Watch Father Jim Martin’s video presentation on Thomas Merton.

Thomas Merton’s work continues with the initiative of The Merton Institute for Contemplative Living.

Paul Quenon: man, Trappist, semi-hermit, poet

Br Paul Quenon.jpgBrother Paul Quenon, OCSO, has been a monk for 52 years. That is, he’s been trying to live in God and by learning to deepen one’s capacity to love in community; that’s how he describes life as a Trappist monk. A one-time spiritual son of Father Louis (Thomas Merton), Brother Paul lives a contemplative life –that is, on the margins of society but at the center of the Church. His witness is a life of proclaiming the beauty of Christ from an abbey of the Strict Observance of Cistercians. Religion and Ethics Newsweekly‘s Judy Valente interviewed Brother Paul recently at his home, the Abbey of Gethsemani.

The interview can be viewed here.
Brother Paul continues his conversation with some extra questions and answers noted here. Here he talks about Father M. Louis — Thomas Merton: his personality and life, his call, the spirituality he lived and taught, and the mystery of what he sought.

Thomas Merton: 40 years after he died

Fr M Louis.jpgToday is the 40th anniversary of the death of Father Mary Louis, a monk and priest of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance (aka the Trappists). In history he was known as Thomas Merton.

When I was in high school (more than 20 years ago now) I discovered Thomas Merton but I don’t remember who put his writings into my hands. I read his significant works; I marveled at him, with him, in him. Merton made it possible for me to understand God and being a Christian better. His writings gave voice to the interior life for which I am grateful. Now we are remembering him 40 years after his died. My how time flies.


O God, Thou did raise Thy servant, Father Mary Louis, to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ, according to the Order of Melchisedech as a son of Saint Benedict, giving him the sublime power to offer the Eternal Sacrifice, to bring the Body and Blood of Thy Son Jesus Christ down upon the altar, and to absolve the sins of men in Thine own Holy Name. We beseech Thee to reward his faithfulness and to forget his faults, admitting him speedily into Thy Holy Presence, there to enjoy forever the recompense of his labors. This we ask through Jesus Christ Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

An appreciative report on Merton was done by Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.

If you are interested in reading some recent essays on Thomas Merton, order Cistercian Studies Quarterly 43.4

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
coat of arms



Humanities Blog Directory