St. Paradox

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On the 40th anniversary of Thomas Merton’s death, Catholic writer Jim Martin examines the extraordinary appeal of this paradoxical monk. Money quote: “Merton enjoyed paradoxes, and spoke of himself, like Jonah in the whale, as living in the `belly of a paradox.’ The author of `The Seven Storey Mountain,’ an autobiography that became an instant […]

  • michael g.b.

    Thomas Merton (Father Louis), was a monk, in the true sense of monasticism . . . he didn’t flee to the confines of a cloister to avoid the world, but to bring God’s grace to the world. as the moastaic enclosure and contemplation brought about his own spiritual transformation and enlightenment, his writing from that “Poustinia” allowed that same light shine beyond the monastery walls to millions throughout the world . . .

    Merton wrote of matters of spiritual tradition and ascenticism, but not as an escape, but rather more an emersion into the spiritual arena where the hidden ones prayer keeps the world from self-destructing. Merton wrote about hate and love, about respect for God and man, about war and peace; he wrote from and about the spirit and soul.

    reading Thomas Merton’s writings today is not at all like “stepping into a time machine” nor into a journey of nostalgia. his words are as pertinent and relevant and meaningful as when Merton first penned them. he speaks to the human condition and to the human soul which is timeless, even if we ourselves are in a moment of time. (and that’s the advantage Merton had as a monk who prayed and meditated on paper, or at a typewriter: that step back to allow the truly meaningful to emerge rather than the fad of the moment or the spiritual flavor of the month.)

    not everyone is called to become a monk or a hermit, but everyone can share in the spiritual life that is monastic. and reading Merton allows one to enter into that with Thomas Merton, and with every monk, and to allow the seeds of contemplation to take root within their own soul wherever it is they live their life “in the world but not of the world” . . . is Merton really “a paradox”?