Thomas Merton's Anniversary

 Thomas Merton


The world has lost a great man.  Monasticism has lost a great man.  But all of us, and I say this in all simplicity of heart, have gained a saint….

As yet, I have not absorbed completely the news of his birthday in the Lord, but somehow I feel him intensely close to me these last 24 hours.  If there be any communication of this type, closeness of this type, then I have to say that it is one of joy.

[Taken from a letter written by Catherine Doherty of Madonna House to Father Flavian, O.C.S.O., Abbot, Abbey of Gethsemani, on December 12, 1968, two days after Thomas Merton’s death. Catherine had received a telegram from Fr. Flavian on December 11th. Excerpt from: Compassionate Fire. The Letters of Thomas Merton & Catherine de Hueck Doherty, pg. 89, edited by Robert A. Wild, Ave Maria Press]


7 thoughts on “Thomas Merton's Anniversary

  1. Could anyone really think he didn’t go straight to Heaven? Some Catholics are afraid he was too far left.

    Yet even now, he holds our hearts captive. I didn’t even know him until after he was dead.

  2. I’m sure they have, Carol!

    Pia, I know…;)

    Lightborrower, “Some Catholics are afraid he was too far left.” Most of what I’ve read along these lines has been written by people you can tell have just read about him, but not read his works in any depth or at all, and are not contemplatives.

  3. Yes. I have pictured him arriving in Heaven, his own eyebrows really high as he looks around, and Jesus indicates the crowd of holy witnesses and asks Merton, “Has no one condemned thee?” I imagine them both roaring with the most joyful laughter ever.

  4. Lightborrower, I think you’re right. Here’s a passage from a letter Merton wrote to Catherine Doherty Sept. 18, 1958, from the same book:

    “But it certainly is a wonderful thing to wake up suddenly in the solitude of the woods and look up at the sky and see the utter nonsense of everything, including all the solemn stuff given out by professional asses about the spiritual life: and simply to burst out laughing, and laugh and laugh, with the sky and the trees because God is not in words, and not in systems, and not in liturgical movements, and not in “contemplation” with a big C, or in asceticism or in anything like that, not even in the apostolate. Certainly not in books. I can go on writing them, for all that, but one might as well make paper airplanes out of the whole lot.”

    Also reminds me of Thomas Aquinas on his deathbed speaking of his Summa, etc. – “it’s all straw.” 🙂

  5. Paper airplanes, straw, and my own is donkey-braying, never moreso than when compared to one millisecond of real Reality. You know how I feel about the mallards (“up to my neck in green duck-y water”), right? I can’t remember if it was M.S. or one of his blog’s commenters, but someone said, “Ducks rape ducks –that’s reality, but..” Since then, sadly, the phrase comes back and back. Because, no, that is not Reality. Mallards are intricately designed, painted in metallic beauty; each feather is lovingly crafted some for flying, others for floating. Their feet are geared to be underwater, but their heads are for looking around and opening their beaks and quacking me up with their sweet noises. I have no exact idea of what they do for ecology, but He made them to be a crucial part of it. We take them for granted –they are the pigeons of the pond.. yet even pigeons are gorgeous, if you look at them the right way. That right way is how we must see everything of God’s, including man. All the fruit of Love-Alive is supremely beautiful. When we let others regulate our joy, it shall be little.

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