Yesterday, we remembered the death of Thomas Merton fifty years ago, 10 December 1968. Now for me, it was important. I am profoundly impressed by how the legacy of Thomas Merton continues to grow.
My first encounter with who the man was, what his writings were all about, and the life he led goes back to 1967. A time when I had no idea who he was, much less cared. Off to college, and it was there I was introduced to him and his works by our philosophy professor, Dan Walsh. 1967 was also the year Dan Walsh was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Louisville by Archbishop John Floersh.
Thomas Merton who was known by his fellow monks as Fr. Louis was an important literary figure in the modern world; a spiritual theologian; a social critic; a catalyst for peace and inter-religious dialogue, and his works continue to be vital for so many to this day. People of all walks of life, religions, and non-believers acknowledge Merton as one of the great writers of his time. His autobiography, Seven Storey Mountain, first published in 1948, is still in print today. Merton’s writing on peace and war are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them. The Seven Storey Mountain, No Man is an Island, The Waters of Siloe, and New Seeds of Contemplation were all writings and experiences that open the path for me to meet the Living God.
Merton taught us all that the mystical life, is not a life for just the monks, but the mystical experience is the essence of the average life of a human being who believes in the Significant Other we as Christians call God.
For me, I think of the past experience in 1967 and 1968 as pure Synchronicity. I am ever grateful for the profound way this man touched my life, at a time when I had no idea what life was all about.
In conclusion, the words of Merton ring true for me today and hopefully for you.
“For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is, in fact, the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self.” Thomas Merton