Monday Morning with Merton: Master of Novices

Thomas Merton was ordained to the priesthood on May 26, 1949, which was the Feast of the Ascension.  In 1951 Father Louis became Master of Scholastics at the Abbey of Gethsemane.  Later, from 1955 to 1965, he held the position of Master of Novices.

In, “Merton.  A Biography”, author Monica Furlong writes of this period: 

The feeling of mutual love between master and pupils comes out very strongly in the many tapes of Merton giving “Conferences” or lectures to the novitiate.  The audience are appreciative, laughing warmly at his jokes, rising quickly to allusions, occasionally interrupting intelligently.  He has a racy and informal style, often using slang, yet revealing deep academic knowledge of his subjects, knowing how to manipulate local jokes or events to make an idea stick, using secular experiences to drive home spiritual truths.

Threaded through these subjects, each with its enormous background of reading, was an incidental wisdom that was there for the novice to accept or ignore as he wished.

Merton’s manner was deceptively light and easy to listen to; and only toward the end of each lecture did he gather up the diverse threads, and his audience discover, to their pleasure and surprise, that they actually knew something about Origen, or Evagrius, or the Cistercian Fathers.

Now, you may be wondering why I’m telling you all this. Well, I have to take a break from the Haven for a while in order to get some other work accomplished, and also to whittle away at my to-do list at home. I anticipate being back here posting some time in February. But I wanted to leave you in good hands while I’m gone. Good hands! The best, actually! I hope you’ll be pleased, and find more than enough teaching here to satisfy your contemplative needs for a few weeks. 🙂

Thomas Merton on “The Jesus Prayer” (Part I of III)

Thomas Merton on “The Jesus Prayer” (Part II of III)

Thomas Merton on “The Jesus Prayer” (Part III of III)

Thomas Merton on “Prayer and the Active Life”

Direct to YouTube for these videos:
The Jesus Prayer (Part I of III)
The Jesus Prayer (Part II of III)
The Jesus Prayer (Part III of III)
Prayer and the Active Life

Many thanks to Journeys2008 for providing these marvelous Merton audio/videos for all of us to enjoy and profit from.


25 thoughts on “Monday Morning with Merton: Master of Novices

  1. Oh, no!! February??

    You know, those few moments when I had a chance to write something pondered in my blog, wordpress was (and still is) shutting me out for some reason. I’ve been away a long, long time, so I guess it’s only fair that you take a break, too.

    Where does the time go? Things pile up like a New Hampshire or Ottawa blizzard, and then you have to shovel yourself out of it…

    Anyway, I’ll watch the videos as soon as I get out of my piles of laundry and other work. (Guess what, I’ve made a milestone! I finally, after 25 years of marriage, got a clothes dryer! They were not available here for the longest time, and then, prices were astronomical. Now they are reasonable, so here I am, drying away! I can’t believe I was so excited about it. I guess it just attests to the exciting life I live… hmmmm.)

  2. Gabrielle, Thanks for considering us while you’ll be ‘away’. Merton sounds like the perfect novice master. I’m looking forward to watching the videos. I hope you gets all the things on the to-do list sorted!
    Pia, we got a tumble dryer just last year – marvellous inventions – and yes, I have to confess I stood and watched mine working for about 10 minutes!

  3. Hi Pia and Ann. I stayed home today because I wasn’t feeling very well, so am catching up on some comments and emails today too. I’ll be online the next couple of weeks to visit though, and work on my Mary blog. I just need some concentrated-effort time to get some things done. I don’t know how it is for all of you, but I find that everything that I think will take about twenty minutes turns into three hours!

    Hope it’s just a little glitch and you can get into your blog soon, Pia. Just leave messages here if you can’t, so everyone will know what’s going on. I’m thrilled for you and Ann that you now each have a dryer – no more rough towels…

    Merton really does speak quickly – I’ll certainly be listening to these more than once! I just love hearing his voice. Pace yourselves now; only one or two a week! (yeah, right).

  4. weeks? did you say a few !!!! WEEKS !!!! ???
    Boy are we going to miss you and your posts, Gab! thanks for the videos.

  5. *gasp.. I read this hours ago, but STILL haven’t clicked on any? (What the hell’s the matter with me??) His voice doesn’t sound exactly as he looks, well, not that one time I listened to it.. ohhhh… I look so forward to these. We thank you so much, G. And we’ll try to behave, but I’m already in trouble. Husband brought home our bank’s poinsettias–I’ve been tempted ever since to go “decorate” the frozen river..

    Enjoy(?) your catching up, G. Don’t overdo! Don’t any of ya’s overdo– not even those who now have tumble dryers!! But if you must overdo, make sure to also lean back against His breast occasionally, for at least the length of 3 full respirations.

    God bless.

  6. Now that’s wise advice if I ever heard it…I’ve actually been tempted to give my sweaters a run in the dryer, just to freshen them up…now that’s overdoing it! I think I’ll watch part 2 now… 🙂

  7. I will have to use this as a resource for a couple of weeks then…That’s good because it is certainly too much to take in in one visit!!! Will miss you for that SHORT time. God Be With You!!!

    If you have a short minute…Drop by the blog. I have something to share with you! BYE for now.

  8. teresa, if my organizational skills kick in, it’ll be less than that. But I’m not going anywhere (alas, no trip to the south of France for me in sight…) I’ll be around!

    JustMe, don’t go decorating the river! Maybe some of your neighbours would give those poinsettias a loving home!

    Pia, no wool sweaters in the dryer, or they’ll come out just the right size to fit your future first grandbaby…

    Cathy, yes, that was my plan! Pace yourselves! Heading over to your blog now.

  9. Oh, I’m mostly woof, little bite, tho’ I do own a shillelagh, but by my rising, found only one of the ginormous poinsettia plants remained. It is sitting on Ma’s Singer sewing machine before the dining room windows, ringed around by a little boy’s collection of teensy pine cones from a park I grew up in. (I lived in the largest maple there, right beside the pine.)

    I have now listened to parts 1 and 2, and am re-impressed to have heard once again the importance of Jesus’ name, the power in it, and how praying it can become part of us. Further, I have noted one thing and been blown away by another.

    I noted that Fr. Louis pronounces his “r”s — “heart” sounds like “hart” rather than “haht” i.e., “He is an ahsonist of tha haht”.

    What blew me away was hearing clearly explained something that I’ve wondered about for nearly all of my three and half decades. Or so. He said that when we pray, we enter into union with the Holy Spirit who is always praying in us. I have no recall of ever hearing it put that way. I understood immediately. I can’t tell you what it is to know that I won’t ever again feel alone in praying! How wonderful! I’ll be joining in on His prayer. We join in on the Paraclete’s own praying in us..

    Funny, yesterday I was thinking I’d like to tell someone how greatly it still works whenever I pray the Jesus Prayer in the midst of some upset. I had inadvertently been making it be about me, tho’, and more negative than positive as in, “Have mercy on them, Lord, for I’m the greater sinner here.” Oh, how sweet to know it’s, rather, an all-positive thing: the very power of His name at work.

  10. Gabrielle,

    Thanks for leaving nourishment for the pets while you’re away. Now we won’t starve. But I assure you, we will have worked up quite an appetite by the time you return. At least this hound dog will.

  11. Terry, I may have a few “kibbles ‘n bits” up my sleeve, for snacktime. 🙂

    JustMe, which is to say, Merton’s pronunciation is correct, non?  😉

    I’m making a note of things people might want to discuss in posts later, re content of the videos.  Re the Holy Spirit praying within us, I was certain we talked about that last year, but maybe not; without categories last year on blogger, I’d have to search through my archives.  Yuk. 

  12. hey, gabrielle 🙂 i just wanted to stop because i love thomas merton and wanted you to pass along to JustMe (and i see she has visited already….) that i received a wonderful Christmas card in the mail today from somebody near and dear to her. it seems i mailed him a note several months ago and he wanted to return the favor at Christmas.

    how dear 🙂

    anyway, have a peace-filled time off, and i’ll be reading through bloglines when you return…

  13. 🙂 Hi M2. I’m glad. Actually, numerous folks jumped to mind when you said “near and dear”.. but you mean our little boy, yes? He said he was both overwhelmed and humbled by the cards he got from everyone, and said he wrote back to everyone. Thank you so much.

    Terry, I’d never thought of it that way, but you’re right.. G, we’re runnin’ out of Meow Mix, here.. but I still have two Merton video-audios left to occupy me a little.

    Speaking of which, indeed, we spoke of much last year, and certainly of the Holy Spirit praying within us, and isn’t that in the Catechism, too?, but it didn’t click (for me) until this set of videos. Both the delay and the click have to do with a dying woman I was caring for a few months ago, a moment so holily unknown, it scared me.. we really do bear Him within us, and all I will say of it now or ever is that we are considered by Him to be sacred ground indeed, but anyway, it really sunk in this time.

  14. Thoughts from the third video/audio: “Personally centered — God in you, you in God” – there’s a mutuality there about which I hadn’t thought deeply enough, of realities of choice — not just ours, but God’s! And I thought “A new heaven of the heart” would make a great book title, but I thought rather of how renewable and flowerable (like Spring) is that new heaven of the heart. Spring always brings joy, and new Spring brings a new joy each year simply because it defied other nature and came and rescued us–and we, being older in the world, need Spring more and more greatly than do the bees and the children. Spring is a greater and greater miracle, but the inner Springtime is so much greater, and the Springtime to come — our full entrance into Spring — will be as His. As Merton says, we live in heaven now, if we choose, not yet fully, but real-ly nonetheless.

  15. About the 4th and last video/audio: I was reminded of one trouble in our church, which is a clinging to pomp, of which I am sick. The Lord chose to be born of a real flesh-and-blood woman, not only incense; and He unfastened our everpresent want (just as was the Jews’) of an earthly royalty, He particularly disbursed all possible pomp of an us-demanded King David, when He chose an earthy, tanned, salty, sweaty fisherman for His own vicar on earth until He comes again in glory.

    Also, as he said, there is not perfect life in a monastery, it’s only more removed from out in the world, but the world is still there and they must deal with it. He spoke of some sophisticates out in the world who decry the negative, but underlined that they too often leave out the positive: That God can truly heal it.

    As I listened, something came to mind which seems unrelated, but perhaps isn’t. It is that we may form a million shoulds, and even export them, rather than seeing and embracing what truly Is.

  16. That was not supposed to be a winking emoticon in my post above — it was a possessive apostrophe after the word Jews’, but when that is followed by the closing of parentheses, here, it becomes that emoticon– which I always forget!

    Also to be clarified, perhaps: I don’t mean all the church when I speak of wrongly retaining pomp; reverence is one thing, pomp is another. So, I refer to ultratraditionalists and sedevacantists and any other proud cult or isolationists, who overshoot their initial goal of great reverence and end up at the very bowl of heresy they accuse others (for their own good) of having returned to, by their far more ragged and stumbling fierce denouncing of Jews as enemies, and even anathematizing others (from which they do not exempt even Popes). Such a lack of obedience and trust in God and the Holy Spirit, had it been displayed in Gethsemane, would’ve meant finding Christ’s body one day and not in Arimathea’s tomb, the Door of God still being closed to us, and the Paraclete still waiting to come; one might never guess from such as these, that the Catholic church is the holy agent of, and gracious inviter into the Kingdom. As Jesus told Pilate, His Kingdom is not of this world, hence we were confirmed as spiritual soldiers of Christ. Just as none of Christ’s kin who were to come before us should ever forget the evils of the Holocaust, we latter of Christ’s kin should never forget the danger of the Crusades.

  17. My sweet mother-in-law (in France) passed away this morning. She went very peacefully, right after Thursday-morning Mass at the retirement home. My husband is leaving for France tomorrow; we can’t all go, because of $ and exam-time. If I may ask for a prayer for her.

  18. Absolutely.

    Please pass along my condolences to your husband and his family, and here’s a
    for you and the kids, too.

  19. wonderful audios, Gabrielle. I have heard most of these before, but it has been awhile. And the photos to go with them help. I may have to link to this post from the louie site! 🙂

  20. Ann, Pia, Carol, thank you so much for your condolences and prayers. Hubby and our oldest arrived safely in France and are making the arrangements. There will be a funeral Mass in her little village church tomorrow, and a small reception afterwards.

    Carol, I’m making some notes re your comments, and I think there are some good points to post about in February. Thanks for your input!

    Beth, thank you. I love hearing him. But the real thanks go to the YouTuber who put them together, at Journeys2008!

  21. In the second video I heard the church bells. I am scheduled to visit Gethsemani this spring. When I hear the bells in person I will now have a better sense of Merton’s legacy now that I have heard him speak with the actual bells in the background.
    Thank you so much for this great site!
    Between you and Beth at louie louie, I need not look any farther into the blogosphere to find inspiration


  22. Sean, thank you so much for such a lovely comment! You must be very excited about your upcoming visit to the Abbey! Makes my heart yearn (and most of my readers’ hearts as well, I imagine). I hope you will drop in again whenever you want, and for sure come back and tell us a little bit about your retreat later in the spring. Just leave a comment about it on any current post at the time. We’d love to hear a little bit about what it’s like.

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