Thomas Merton, 1915 - 1968
Born: 31 January 1915, Prades, Pyr
Died: 10 December 1968, Bangkok, Thailand
Merton, known in the Catholic church as Father Louis, was a Trappist monk and author of over seventy books, as well as many essays and reviews, mostly on spirituality. His mother died when he was six, and he didn't get along with his father's new partner, author Evelyn Scott. He was happy living with his grandparents while growing up and spent a great deal of time in boarding schools, since his father, a famous sculptor, was often away from home. His father died the day after Thomas' sixteenth birthday, his father's friend and attorney Tom Bennett got custody and let him use a house at London before Thomas enrolled at Clare College, Cambridge in 1933.
In his youth, he was uninterested in religion but did have a few experiences which presaged his involvement in spirituality. After graduation in 1933, he visited Rome, he found himself drawn to churches and monasteries, and even thought that he might like to become a monk. Later that year, he came to the United States to visit his grandparents and attended services of various denominations, but didn't feel at home in any of them, losing the interest in religion that he developed in Rome.
At Cambridge he was adrift, drinking and sleeping around rather than studying, and spending his inheritance freely. Two years later, Bennett tired of bailing him out of trouble and transferred him to Columbia University, where he lived with his grandparents while attending classes. He became politically active, protesting for peace and developing an interest in interfaith dialogue and cooperation. He would maintain this interest throughout his life. After an attempt to enter the Franciscan Order in 1939 didn't work out, he took a position at St. Bonaventure University as a teacher and joined the Cistercian Order in 1942.
His abbot saw the quality of his writing and encouraged him to continue. He wrote extensively and was active in interfaith discussions before accidentally electrocuting himself getting out of the shower in a hotel. His works celebrated the Christian mystical tradition, the best known being The Seven Storey Mountain.
Additional quotes from Wikiquote. Wikiquote entries are often "sourced" and may include items longer than those included here, particularly for poets, lyricists, and dramatists.
Thomas Merton quotes:
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- A bad book about the love of God remains a bad book. permalink
- A daydream is an evasion. permalink
- A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire. permalink
- A man knows when he has found his vocation when he stops thinking about how to live and begins to live. permalink
- A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying. It "consents", so to speak, to creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree. permalink
Thomas Merton - New Seeds of Contemplation (1962)
- Advertising treats all products with the reverence and the seriousness due to sacraments. permalink
- And of course most non-Catholics imagine that the Church is immensely rich, and that all Catholic institutions make money hand over fist, and that all the money is stored away somewhere to buy gold and silver dishes for the Pope and cigars for the College of Cardinals. permalink
Thomas Merton - The Seven Storey Mountain (1948)
- Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity. permalink
- Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. permalink
Thomas Merton - No Man Is an Island (1965)
- Ask me not where I live or what I like to eat.... Ask me what I am living for and what I think is keeping me from living fully that. permalink
Thomas Merton - Thoughts in Solitude (1956)
- Be good, keep your feet dry, your eyes open, your heart at peace and your soul in the joy of Christ. permalink
- But there is greater comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question. permalink
- Contemplation in the age of Auschwitz and Dachau, Solovky and Karaganda is something darker and more fearsome than contemplation in the age of the Church Fathers. For that very reason, the urge to seek a path of spiritual light can be a subtle temptation to sin. It certainly is sin if it means a frank rejection of the burden of our age, an escape into unreality and spiritual illusion, so as not to share the misery of other men. permalink
Thomas Merton - The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation (Posthumous, 2003)
- Despair is the absolute extreme of self-love. It is reached when a person deliberately turns his back on all help from anyone else in order to taste the rotten luxury of knowing himself to be lost. permalink
- Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice "out there" calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice "in here" calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God. permalink
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