31 January 2015

Centenary of Merton's Birthday

I have certainly written here before that Thomas Merton played a big role in my becoming a hermit. It was his work Contemplation in a World of Action that first convinced me eremitical life was a living (vital) form of life and his essay, “Notes for a Philosophy of Solitude” in Disputed Questions convinced me how truly contemporary this life is. It is probably Merton’s own interest in the Camaldolese that put them on my radar screen at all; I hadn't thought much about that connection before. (It was ironic though that when my diocese's Vicar for Religious wanted to understand what was necessary for an individual to live a healthy eremitical life she and another Sister travelled hours to New Camaldoli to speak with the Prior there. I only learned of that years later --- and after I had made my oblature with the Camaldolese.)

Throughout my own life as a Catholic (I was baptized the Summer after High School graduation) I have returned again and again to Merton's writings always finding greater depth and wisdom. As a former Franciscan I am now (far too slowly!!) reading Daniel Horan's, The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton and once again Merton's life is a gift to me as it allows me to explore and to some extent reclaim my own Franciscanism within the Camaldolese charism which defines my life and diocesan eremitism in so many ways.

I am always surprised at those who say Merton was not the real deal! Was he flawed? Of course (and in ways which led to one pretty serious misstep which could be said to have harmed another)! But Thomas Merton's life is the gift that keeps on giving! Several friends in monastic and eremitical life say very similar things about his influence in their lives and vocations. I am so very glad to celebrate this anniversary of his birth. My only regret is that I was never able to meet him face to face. Happy Birthday Tom --- you are certainly celebrating the gift of life as fully as possible!