Monday Morning with Merton: Coming Home

Excerpt from The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton, by Michael Mott [pg. 337]:

“A little more than a year later, on December 26, 1960, through a series of circumstances he could not have foreseen, Thomas Merton had his high place at Gethsemani and his hermitage:

Lit candles in the dusk. Haec regina mea in saeculum saeculi [This queen of mine to the end of the ages] – the sense of a journey ended, of wandering at an end. The first time in my life I ever really felt that I had come home and that my roaming and looking were ended.

A burst of sun through the window. Wind in the pines. Fire in the grate. Silence over the whole valley.

He was less than a mile from the monastery, still within the sound of its bells, writing by candlelight and the last sunlight of the short winter’s day in a small building constructed of cement blocks set on the crest of a low knob called Mount Olivet, a view of the valley in front, woods and a spinney at the back.

When he wrote to Catherine de Hueck Doherty, he called it his dacha.” [a Russian country cottage]

Thomas Merton’s Hermitage

With thanks to YouTube Channel: Gethsemani3


16 thoughts on “Monday Morning with Merton: Coming Home

  1. Gabrielle, it isn’t often that my low attention span allows me to sit through a ten minute youtube ideo, but i have to say that it was absolutely a joy to watch. Thanks for sharing this with us. I personally find Merton fascinating and to be able to get a glimpse into where he rested, wrote, prayed etc, is such a thrill for me.

    God bless you

  2. I probably shouldn’t say this aloud, lest anyone wonder too much at such a foible, but I’ve always wanted to see Gethsemani Abbey and its surrounding hills and mountains far more than I’ve wanted to see Rome or even the Holy Land–and only a little less than how much I want to see Galway Bay and some Scottish isles. And it was only yesterday while looking at Louie, Louie (perhaps in anticipation of Merton Monday but also because it’s a magnificent Merton resource and always eases the soul), that I realized the Abbey’s full name…

    I am saving viewing the video for after little S is gone away for another little while. As we say, one lives better with Mondays, now.


  3. The video was wonderful. The concrete partition with the designs reminded me of the one Mary looks through as Jesus is sitting at Synagogue (in “Jesus of Nazareth”).

  4. ukok, I’m happy you enjoyed it. I wonder if you may have been thinking at some point what I was thinking – that the person filming simply did not want to leave – which I understand completely!

    Carol, I’m in accord with everything – wishing to go to the Abbey, loving Beth’s “louie louie”, and oh yes, Our Lady of Gethsemani…

    Of course, the hermitage as it appears in this video is not what it was in the early days for Merton; he had to get water from the Abbey because the stream was contaminated, there was no indoor bathroom, he wasn’t allowed to spend the night there in the first few years so there was no bed, etc. He loved it because it was “poor”.

  5. It’s great to read of how Merton looked upon it as a coming home – a rest until his final rest so to speak, somewhere that put him in touch with his innermost self and his relationship with God.

    I see I’ve got some catching up to do, Gabrielle.

  6. Yes, and I think so many of us can relate to his ever-increasing need for solitude yet at the same time loving to be with people, correspond with them, keep up with what is going on in the world…it seems to me that what Merton really required was his own schedule, which he achieved to a greater degree in the last years.

    Great to have you back, Ann; hope you had a good vacation!

  7. I’m just getting around to watching this video and I’m sorry to say I’m a little disappointed..I guess my idea of a hermitage (and poverty) falls along the lines of Celestino V, who retreated into a cave in the middle of the mountains here in Abruzzo (though I didn’t expect a cave in Merton’s case…and it started off ok, just a little cabin with a fireplace and stove, but I didn’t expect a huge double door fridge, either.)

    One thing I noticed is that women can really be nosey…that lady who was looking under Merton’s sheets seemed just so impertinent!

  8. Pia, I, too, pictured something less– honestly, I am the biggest monk-snob I know– but as Gab mentions above, many of these things weren’t in Merton’s place when he was there.

    I didn’t watch the whole film (trust me, it’s a selfish fault–I like to keep mysteries of love to my own linear understanding) so I didn’t see everyone checking out everything, but got a kick out of the monk who sat at Merton’s table (desk?) who looked up (gazed outside?) and just got lost in thought for a while. Then he noticed the camera on him and smiled, but really did not want to break with that reverie of his –and went right back to it!

    Have any of the rest of us pictured/designed our own prayer hut in our minds? Maybe it’s because I have so little privacy these past 9000 years, and because this world is noisier every minute — without earplugs and rubber walls, there is no way to maintain one’s peace of mind/heart when in an old New England place that swells and shrinks with every bout of weather, doors are violently ripped open and/or slammed shut repeatedly –all of which rattles windows on two floors (not to even mention that every bottle and jar must be violently crashed into the recycling bin unto near-breakage–oh, surely it’s all a great hobby for some with less sensitive ears, which each day and sometimes each hour is quickly enough able to make me want to scream with the greatest frustration…and whenever there’s a lack of that, there are boisterous 20-somethings dashing/crashing about and/or trucks going by with their metal trailers hitting the bump on the little bridge, scaring me with a sudden explosion–wah, wah, wah, hey –it’s Monday, I’ve GOTTA whine!) — but it’s fun to at least mentally build one’s hut-with-God, tho’ few understand such a thing.

  9. Pia, I know what you mean, but it’s really true that it didn’t start out like that. In the beginning Merton had no indoor plumbing, had to bring water down from the abbey to use for cooking/washing, chopped his own firewood, etc. I don’t think it even had electricity until the year he died, 1968. And yes, I thought that woman manhandling the quilt was really out of line.

    Oh, Carol, can I ever relate! The throwing of the breakables into the recycle bin, the bus route right outside our house that even feels like it is shaking the foundation, the lawnmowers, the constant ringing of the telephone because of telemarketers, the news that has to be on loud enough so Mrs. Smith sixteen houses down can be sure to hear it…and not just at home, but coming home from work, sometimes I think I’m going to die with the noise of the cars and buses, the cell phone screamers, etc. I’m writing this comment the same day as I’ve just been adding some comments to the post from Oriah Mountain Dreamer about embracing the “now”. This is part of my problem; how can anyone like us embrace this kind of “now”? How to do it? I just don’t know. My dream hermitage? A little bed, a little bathroom, a small table, a chair, a bookshelf with my “necessary” books, a rosary, a Crucifix, some source of music, and possibly a wee chocolate bar now and then. πŸ™‚

  10. Don’t you just cry sometimes at the level of din? I mean, even an unexpected man-sneeze lately (a 120-decibel shout out of nowhere) can make me furious enough to want to punch something, because that violent startling is so incredibly needless. The mammalian reaction to sudden startlings is designed to be one of either fight or flight, but in day to day life, we are not allowed either one. Unless we ourselves turn violent or thoughtless, we just begin to die and be reabsorbed by the body of the one who can’t live without the world’s trademark: Noise.

    How dramatic, eh? Makes it hard to believe that I am actually easily pleased.. but for sure, there is often no way to gather with a quiet God in the midst of where we’re planted. It’s no wonder to me that we don’t live in the moment, but look toward a quiet spot/time, and hope we’ll get there without breaking.

    Your dream hermitage sounds like mine. πŸ™‚

  11. I admit I’m quite pampered in this sense. I live in a village of about 6000 souls, and some dogs. My dog is a contemplative Akita Inu who is an outdoor type and who is unfazed by his fellow dogs’ din that will occasionally break the silence, and/or most other noises or presences, except fireworks and Africans coming around selling their wares. We have peace (at least noise-wise)s in this town, and the fact that I live on the edge of it, close to the lushly vegetated ravine about 200 yards behind my house, which just happens to face the West and the high mountains that make up the backbone of Italy, make it an idyllic prayer hut for me. The spell-binding beauty of this place makes me want to cry sometimes.

  12. Carol, that’s really interesting what you say about fight or flight, and how we’re not really allowed either one. Hmm. Anyone feel a poem coming on? πŸ™‚

    Pia, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Absorb, absorb, absorb. (That means you have to cover for the three of us). Please. πŸ˜‰

  13. Omg, are you folks gonna make ME say it? Fine.

    Pia! You have a contemplakita? DANG, girl, I am livin’ on the wrong continent!! (What beautiful imagery… and I’m really glad your habitat is so incredibly conducive to peace and prayer and all.)

  14. Ga,b I’ve absorbed so much, I’ve gained 25 lbs! no really, I am about as hyperactive as a sloth, and move just about as fast as one…But I really do love this place. I’ll be taking pictures at the beach today, not to get you guys jealous, but to share… πŸ™‚

  15. Sorry Gab, I hiccupped when I wrote your name up there…

    Carol, yes, a contemplakita! ROFL!! In case you didn’t know it, Akita Inus are Japanese and are very keen to meditation! He even crosses his front legs!

  16. Oh some folks are so blessed–geez, here I am living out of the back of a medicine wagon– and at my feet, a hairy Silly Putty with eyes– 85lbs of moving Huh?

    *sigh.. πŸ™‚ Ah, the beach. Enjoy, enjoy!

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