Monday, November 15, 2004

HOW I GOT INTERESTED IN THOMAS MERTON

Another Merton Fan

Some 10 years ago I found on an airplane in the seatback a 3X5 paper with verse written by Thomas Merton from a Journal in Solitude.  It spoke to me and I kept it in my wallet until recently.  While browsing the bargain books two weeks ago, I came across the Seven Storey Mountain and purchased the book.  I finished the book yesterday and enjoyed reading it very much. And that's how I became interested in Thomas Merton.(Bill Cords, Mililani, HI)

50 Comments:

At 5:23 PM, Blogger Christy said...

Wow! Another Merton fan! I'm sure Bill found the Seven Storey Mountain very life-altering.

 
At 9:25 PM, Blogger Marion Brown said...

I converted to Roman Catholicism just before Vatican II, in 1960. I left the Church from 1975-95. When I came back, I bought a tiny book by Merton (I'd never heard of him) on solitude, and I was hooked. I then read his Seven Storey Mountain. I have copies of all his journals and have read them. What a gift Thomas Merton was. He is my cherished friend and how I wish I had known him.
Marion Brown

 
At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few years ago I picked up a book by Merton. His words just bounced off me like rain against a locked door. I wasn't ready.
Recently a speaker at a retreat quoted Merton. I decided to give another look. This time the door is opening, I get it.

 
At 8:51 PM, Blogger Andy said...

Ten years ago, a friend of a friend, a retired Methodist minister, pointed me to Thomas Merton. I tried to read a number of Merton's works but I could not understand them. Then, this year, my priest gave a copy of "No Man is an Island" and I have been reading it constantly. This time I am understanding it. Thomas Merton succeeds in putting into words what a lot of like-minded people have not been able to put into words. He is amazing.

 
At 1:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Severak years ago after doing research on Monasteries, I believe I came across Dan Phillips website concerning Thomas Merton. My interest grew to the extent that I purchased the 1948 edition of "Seven Storey Mountain" off of E-bay. Since that time, I have converted to Catholicism offically in 2002 from the Southern Baptist tradition and have amassed quite a collection now on the writings of Thomas Merton. Thank you Dan for giving me the intial insight into a very spiritual writer.....Randy L. Payne from Alexandria,TN. rlpayne@charter.net

 
At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Several years ago the Lexington Herald-Leader (one of the state papers in Kentucky) ran an article listing the 20 most influential Kentuckians. Thomas Merton was one of those mentioned and after reading his short biographical sketch I knew his was a life worth discovering. I immediately went out and bought a copy of The Seven Storey Mountain. I have been hooked ever since.

Father Merton and I even share a birthday - January 31st.

PenguinBoy
http://penguinboy.weblogs.us

 
At 10:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I discovered Merton through research I was doing on Gethsemani. Since then, I have read quite a number of his books and have become a great fan. Merton has touched me deeply and personally and has brought to me a very close and special friend. My friend and I discuss Merton often and we always say that Merton brought us together...I know that my life has truly been deepened spiritually through Merton's writings and also through my friend's love of Merton....SQ

 
At 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the Seven Storey Mountain during my LONG journey to Catholicism (I converted just two years ago, but my wife of 21 years has always been Catholic). Anyway, in many ways, my journey, and Thomas Merton's journey to the church were similar. The book, quite frankly was one of the "Tipping Points" which brought me into the church. My heart was ready for it, my mind was ready for it, and my soul was ready for it.

 
At 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After the South East Asian war I had difficulity adjusting to civilian life. Wondering into a tobaco/book store in early 1971, I found myself leaving with Fr Louie's Seven Story Mountain. This began a strange, but very welcome connection with Thomas Merton. Years later the connection seemed to deepen when I discovered that he had died while we were both in Bangkok Thailand in 1968. And the same month,(December no less!)..He has been like my best older Brother,and without a doubt has helped me return to the Catholic Fatih I long ago enjoyed. To this day I continue to pass along his wisdom in helping my Children with lifes direction. For me, Merton came into my life at a most critical period, and I have welcomed him into my Family, and home ever since.

 
At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OOPS! That was "Storey" with an "e"!
My Favorite Merton books are difficult to choose between. But "The way of Chuang Tzu", "Zen and the Birds of Appetite", "Seven Storey Mountain", "No Man is an Island" to name a few. I was always very curious of what Fr Louis thought of G.K Chesterton's writings. May I humbly add two of his works, "Orthodoxy", and "The Everlasting Man"

 
At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Nelson said...

On March 6 I had a dream where a group of hooded people including myself made our way into a church and through the congregation. I find and lead everyone through a series of doors and steps until we find a hallway to a lounge/meeting room. We are silent the whole time. I noticed at least one of the monks was wearing an all-white hood robe.

I write an email to a friend including the account as a side comment... turns out he was reading "The Seven Story Mountain." I read his surprised reply after reading the Escapes (travel) section of the New York Times that my girlfriend left me when she visited. It features an article on a visit to a Trappist monastry "A Quiet Weekend with the Monks."

I didn't know anything about Trappists. But, with this synchronicity, I am now curious.

 
At 9:48 PM, Anonymous Dan said...

My roommate was really into Thomas Merton (and still is) last year. Then a couple of weeks ago a professor of mine introduced me to Robert Lax's Poetry. I soon made the connection that these men were good friends. I have yet to read anything by Thomas Merton, but I am planning on doing a large Independent Learning Project on men with ties to Columbia University and their writing. I want to study Van Doren, Merton, Lax, Langston Hughes, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and possible a few others. Do any of you have any suggestions as to what Merton Books I should focus on reading? I want to read Seven Story Mountain, the letters between him and Lax, and probably one or two others. If any of Merton's Journals are available I would be interested in reading them too. Thank you for such an awesome site.

Dan

 
At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This weekend I was watching my latest selections from Netflix (my form of crack) - and I had selected a biography of Merton, only vaguely aware of his involvement in sociological concerns. After watching the short film, I was absolutely taken by this man who, as someone described him, "looked like a taxi cab driver," but was the walking embodiment of "emptiness." I mean that in the sense that he had mastered the abilitly to move himself out of his own way so as to receive the purest thoughts from the universe and let them flow through him via his speech and writings, thus offering the gift of transcendant insight reserved only for those who have truly seen God or whatever one wants to call the consciousness we all share. I am so thrilled to have discovered this man.

 
At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am taking a course on Thomas Merton. I had no idea who he was. I thought the course would be just another boring Religion class. All I can say is I have never been so impress with anyone's life as I am with Merton's. Studying him has brought me in touch with my inner self. Just reading a couple of books on him has made me look at
Religion and myself in a different light. I plan to read all of his books and visit Gethsemani in the near future.

 
At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was seeking stories of conversion experience after I found myself in the middle of my own . I was also interested with Dorothy Day and her conversion.Together they pointed the way to a fuller experience in contempory spiritual living.They cannot be duplicated but thet are inspiring.

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger maryann276 said...

I became interested in Thomas Merton about 15 years ago, he was introduced to me by a Lutheran minister (although I'm now Episcopalian). His words just jumped off the page to me. His words and thoughts were so profound. It all stared from New Seeds of Contemplation. I have had to buy a new book, as the old one was becoming frail. I buy a Merton book whenever I'm able to do so. It was like he was speaking directly to me from the grave...he has been my favorite for many years and I think Merton was wonderful. I highly recommend any of his books. He's the best!

 
At 2:45 PM, Blogger + Alan said...

Woohoo! A big Merton party! When I was in college I picked up a cheap paperback book called Thomas Merton On Prayer in the EKU bookstore - that was probably 1984 or 85. I was an active Roman Catholic then. I pecked around in it off and on - then later picked up Thoughts In Solitude, then New Seeds of Contemplation. I was floored as I read many things that I had thought and was trying to work through, already worked out 30 years earlier by this dead monk. I kept happening. Wild thing is, as I read the comments here, Seven Story Mountain was the hardest book of his for me to read - made myself read it. I don't do "novels" well so the thicker mystical theology stuff is good for me. Pax vobiscum!

 
At 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In 1983 I worked as a part-time receptionist at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. St. James is the main cathedral that housed the Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen.

He was known for his activism for anti-nukes and gay catholic masses he was under great pressure from the Vatican and our new Pope Bennedict XVI (Ratzinger) was chosen by Pope John Paul II keep check on our Archbishop.

When I was leaving my position at the Cathedral to move on to new work elsewhere, Archbishop Hunthausen gave me a small plague he had cherished. The saying was from Thomas Merton's "Thoughts in Solitude". The plague now hangs in my office and I read it daily.

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you, does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."

How fitting it was then and how fitting it is to my life's journey.

 
At 7:30 AM, Anonymous Jim H., Pennsylvania said...

Early 2004, due to a very unusual chance encounter (which I now believe to be divinely inspired) I met a 52 year old Catholic priest of the Holy Ghost Fathers. This happened at a time when I felt spirituality was absent from my life. Again, by chance, he introduced me to a 94 (now 95) year old priest who had recently become blind. Father W. loved reading and was now unable to do so. I felt compelled to offer to read to him on a regular basis. Over the last 13 months we have spent one or two afternoons/evenings together reading, praying, talking. He is a fan (and now I am) of Francis Thompson, the poet. I mentioned wanting to read the THE Seven Storey Mountain and he said, "After reading it your life may be changed." I did read it. And he was right.

 
At 6:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read his biography years ago and ever since then I´ve been interested with the Cistercians of the Strict Observance. Just came from a retreat here in Spain with the Cistercians.

 
At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Ani said...

I was bored one day and my little cousin decided to type names of people he knew into google.( it is most exciting, try it sometime), so I eventually joined in and typed in the name of my Professor. Dr. Labrie. To my surprise and delight, he is very famous. He has written many brilliant (i'm sure) books on Merton. THat's how I got interested. If he wrote about him he must be good!

 
At 2:05 AM, Blogger showman60 said...

I read Merton's preface and editing selections of Mahatma Gandhi's writings on Non-Violence, called "Gandhi on Non-Violence". Next thing i was reading from "Living and Loving" and will go to the other books by him soon. He makes peace between Buddhism and Chistianity.

 
At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any info about merton

 
At 6:05 PM, Anonymous Barry Brun said...

I was in a Rare Book store just looking at the religious books with my wife. I picked up Merton's "Seeds of Contemplation" and I could not put it down. It was so full of LIFE! It blew me away. So did the price, $75! It was a first addition. My wife saw how excited I was about the book. When we were leaving she went back in saying she had to use the bathroom and bought that book for me!

 
At 8:08 PM, Anonymous David Carpenter said...

In January, 1987, when I was a junior at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, I was with my girlfriend and a couple other people in a used bookstore downtown, and, although I cannot now really remember what initially drew me to the book, I bought a paperback copy of Seven Storey Mountain. I was not Catholic, although I had had an interest in Christianity for some years. Within three months, I read the autobiography of Dorothy Day. The one-two punch of these two extraordinary autobiographies of 20th century American Catholic converts changed my life forever. I became a Catholic, added a second major in college (Religion), eventually almost became a priest. These books taught me to look beyond the conventional dismissals of the Church which are the norm in our culture, especially among the educated. I am forever indebted to their examples, and hope that in my life i might do even a small fraction of the good that Merton & Day, saints both of them as far as I am concerned, did.

 
At 9:20 PM, Anonymous Charles Costello said...

I was fortunate enough to 'stumble upon' Thomas Merton during my Masters' Studies in Spirituality in the early 1990s. I had heard of him about twenty years earlier in the spiritual direction classes of a wonderful Aussie priest who is now Archbishop of Brisbane.

In August 1995 I was fortunate to spend six days at Gethsemane. There were numerous highlights including the wonderful chanting, the beautiful silence of the chapel itself, the two hours I spent at the hermitage and the spiritual direction of men like the enigmatic Matthew Kelty. There was also that wonderful walk to the Statues.

After my brief stay at Gethsemane I spent a week at the TM Centre at Bellarmine, hosted by Robert Daggy (R.I.P.)

I have just recently resumed my journey with Merton It is my dream to return to Gethsemane in the not too distant future.

Charles Costello
Brisbane, Australia

 
At 2:41 PM, Anonymous edinjock said...

I live in Edinburgh and I review books for an internet book site. I have just received Merton's "Contemplative Prayer" and even after the first ten pages I have been impressed by the simplicity and depth of his appeal to prayer. I have been comletely won over and shall now read everything I can find that he has written.

 
At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I first read some of Thomas Merton's works while attending Eden Seminary in St. Louis MO.

No Man is an Island had a profound impact on my spiritual journey. I became much more at ease with myself, my church, and my God after reading this particular book. I guess you could say I found myself by losing myself.

 
At 12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a dream one night that my cell phone was ringing. In the dream I answered; "Hello?", A male voice snwered back "Hello?" "Who is it?" I said, wondering who was calling me so late at night. The man said, "Thomas Merton" Not recognizing the name, I said, "Yes?" (as in what do you want) and he answered rather impatiently, "You called ME". I woke up then and felt compelled to write down the name. The next day I saw it, remembered the dream and looked up the name on the internet - had no idea who it was. Have read several of his books (some in entirety others in part), find him compelling and useful in my own search but still trying to understand why I dreamed of him in particular.

 
At 3:26 PM, Anonymous dennis sullivan said...

in 1969, about 4 months after his death,thru his intercession the lord escaped me from ft. ord's prison much like peter in acts. he had been an inspiration to refuse the draft- a decision finalized upon reading of his death in the paper dec. 11th, '68.

 
At 4:07 AM, Blogger h|r|f|r said...

I have been interested in the meditative traditions of the world for many years. My original interest was in Zen Buddhism, but I have had an interest in Taoism and Christian mysticism. Thomas Merton seems to bring so many elements of religion together that he creates something that is wonderful. As a mystic he is one of the greatest-his vision and wisdom touched me deeply and his legacy lives in those who value spiritual experience or the tyranny of Dogma.

 
At 5:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a Thomas Merton study room at my college. I was just searching to find out who he is/was.

 
At 10:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was in a very depressed state, and my frined gave me a prayer written by Thomas Merton. I found that it helped me greatly. One of the things he said in it really hit me hard and helped me. It was the last line of the prayer, which said: I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. And then, just now, I was reading a quote the same friend gave me, and I really liked it, so I decided to do some research on Thomas Merton. So here I am.

 
At 12:17 PM, Blogger Andy said...

I have been interested in Christian mysticism since I visited Bede Griffiths' ashram in India last year. I first read Merton' Seven Storey Mountain about five months ago after a long spell away from God. Merton's writing instantly wrenched me back out of normal, apathetic living. On retreat this summer, a Presbyterian priest recommended I read 'The Intimate Merton', which is his journals. I'm sure I will always carry this one with me.

I enjoyed reading all your stories. May God bless you all on your individual journeys.

Yours in Christ,
Andy

 
At 6:40 PM, Blogger mrrj said...

I was given the Seven Story Mountain as a gift from my son one Christmas. I decided to read it almost a month ago,and found some unbelivable insite into myself and others. Mertons writtings are for thinkers, and one who is willing to challenge themselfs on the lifes they are leading today.

 
At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Edgar Sanchez said...

I learned about Thomas Merton making a retreat with the Jesuits. I found myself in solitute and sometimes with nothing else to do but pray in my silent retreat in Berkley Michiga. One day, I asked God to show me a different way to discern my vocation and then I found myself searching for books to read. I read The Seven Storey Mountains and I just finished it. Now my soul is thirsty to know more of how is like to be home alone with God or like the Rick's story preparing himself to die reflecting on Thomas Merton prayer.
It's challenging to find ourselves and get to know our inner most thoughts.

Edgar S.

 
At 12:25 PM, Anonymous bernadette said...

i bought a little book of prayers a long time ago, and there is one by thomas merton, that i love, and read every day..it talks to god about not knowing where you are going, or if you are on the right path, but you hope that you are doing god's will...well, i find it just the perfect quiet reflection for me. every day i say i must go on line and learn about thomas merton...what a person...ijust feel like he wrote everything for me.

 
At 3:29 PM, Blogger Connie Lard said...

A friend recommended I read "The Seven Storey Mountain" and that began my love of Thomas Merton. After I read that book, I read everything else I could find that was written by him. I even dragged my husband across the country last summer to visit the Abbey at Gethsemane, so that I could see the place where he spend so much of his time. While there, in the Visitors' Center, I met one of the monks who actually knew Thomas Merton and enjoyed talking to him very much. I would love to go on retreat there, and understand that this might be possible, but I haven't been able to get anyone to answer when I call to request a reservation. I found the quiet solitude of the spot very beautiful.

 
At 9:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Over 30 year ago I was snooping around in my sisters collection of old paperbacks and found The New Man. I read something that I did not understand but I knew that in time I would like to know what this man was trying to tell me, I was about 14 year old.

Still Searching

 
At 6:23 PM, Blogger attycortes said...

I discovered Merton around 25 years ago when I was in 1st year college. It was a book about love (can't remember the exact title). A couple of things he wrote in there really struck me and has stuck with me all my life since. Can't remember the exact words, buth one went something like this: "All my life I have tried to avoid success and I have succeeded in avoiding it." Combine that with Thoreau's "Why are we in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises?" and you have the theme of my life. I'm an evangelical protestant but I love Merton. He is a lifeline to sanity.

Two other books by him have also impacted me: "Conjectures of A Guilty Bystander" and "Contemplation in a World of Action". His idea in the latter book that uselessness can be a form of Christian witness to God's grace and against the madness of this world's values fascinates me, especially since I think we evangelical Christians are too obsessessed with activity and usefulness.

 
At 8:56 AM, Anonymous S.R. NAIR said...

Merton is an enigma to me. I read many of his books and admire him for his intellect, scholarship, prayerful attitude, erudition and brilliant exposition. He was able to assimilate different strands of meditational postulates, like Zen, sufism and oriental mysticism.

However let me honestly say that I do not admire him as a man for I was shocked when I learnt that he had fathered a child through a woman in England,when a student and had abandoned them both. Eventually the mother and the child perished in the war. This upset me for I cannot understand how a man of his sensitivity could do a such a thing with almost no degree of remorse. Later as a monk he was not given to discipline that trappists strictly adhere to. He was quite bohemian and also had a laison with a pretty nurse in a hospital. He was also given to carousing with singers like Joan Baez and many other secular friends.

My feeling about Merton is that he wanted to be considered a spiritual monk without submitting to the rigors of the calling. He was more in love with the idea of being a monk than being an ideal monk himself. However as a man of spiritual ideas, he is tops! Hence his being an enigma to me.

 
At 1:56 AM, Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

I first heard of Thomas Merton, not through any book of his, but through a comedy album! Toward the end of his career, Lenny Bruce used to close his act by reciting Merton's poem about Adolf Eichmann. One night I palyed the recording for my father who informed me that I was named after Thomas Merton. Dad had attended retreats at Our Lady of Gethsemani while a student at Notre Dame in the late forties.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
www.tomdegan.blogspot.com/

 
At 8:16 AM, Blogger Phil said...

My mother grew up in Vine Grove, Kentucky, not far from the Abbey. I have fond memories of Christmas wherever we lived, of the special treat of the smoked cheese from the Abbey. Fast forward some 45 years and my mother's memories, trips to, and fondness for the Abbey. It got me to thinking and reading Merton, that was all it took. Then 4 years ago, mom died and I went home to do her memorial service and visited the Abbey. My only description then and now, is a place of thunderous peace.

I purchased and teach the spiritual development program and possess a large collection of Mertons works. The love and friendship of bro luke has also been special these last few years via email. He has prayed for me at my mother's death, father's death and brother's death. The surprise in all of this? Why the fact that in 1972 I was licensed as a Southern Baptist minister! Thank you Fr. Louis and Bro. Luke.

Phil Farmer, Texas

 
At 3:03 PM, Blogger melissa said...

I found a Merton biography which I believe was by Mark Van Doren, and it included photographs, pre-monastic sketchbook drawings,and details of his wilder youth. I was fifteen or so, the book was at a local Christian thrift shop which had a very hip second-hand library. This pointed me the way to Merton's works and the realization that there's somebody other than rock stars and actors to look up to. Cheers!

 
At 10:23 AM, Anonymous D. Kev said...

I discovered TM during my formation period for the diaconate. I spent the summer between year two and year three reading as much of his work as I could get a hold of. I have never stopped.

 
At 1:55 AM, Anonymous pete said...

in a dream

 
At 1:49 AM, Blogger Dov said...

I live in Israel now, I have a Master's degree in Rabbinical Theology and I beleive that Jesus is the messiah. All of that said I really enjoy Merton's work which I came across foot noted in some book long forgotten.I have a nice collection of his works albeit not complete and I anxiously await the third installment of his journals via a friend in the US.

 
At 12:27 AM, Blogger Jim White said...

I was browsing my local library on the southside of Chicago in April of 1976 and signed out the Merton Reader. I had never heard of him. I was amazed! I read all of his books...I am not exagerating. Three years later in 1979 I enterd Catholic Theological Union as an M.A lay student majoring in spirituality and Merton of course.
The reason I remeber the date of my first encounter...I still have the library book and I am looking at it right now. I just can't bring myself to return it!
Jim White

 
At 6:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chuang Tzu introduced us - that is I read the 'Flight of Lin Hui' and I thought 'What a masterful poem', and 'Who is this translater Thomas Merton?'
I'm so glad I found my way to Merton.

 
At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Bruce said...

I found Thomas Merton when reading "Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home" by Richard Foster. He kept quoting and refering to Merton so often that I had to find out who this person was! Been reading Merton and books about him ever since. Bruce, Florida)

 

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