Psalm 62
Isaiah 57:14-19
Colossians 2:2-10
John 12:27-36

Preface of a Saint (2)

[Common of a Monastic or Professed Religious]
[Of the Incarnation]
[For the Ministry III]


PRAYER (traditional language)
Gracious God, who didst call thy monk Thomas Merton to proclaim thy justice out of silence, and moved him in his contemplative writings to perceive and value Christ at work in the faiths of others: Keep us, like him, steadfast in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

PRAYER (contemporary language)
Gracious God, you called your monk Thomas Merton to proclaim your justice out of silence, and moved him in his contemplative writings to perceive and value Christ at work in the faiths of others: Keep us, like him, steadfast in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This commemoration appears in A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Return to Lectionary Home Page

Webmaster: Charles Wohlers

Last updated: 13 October 2018



Thomas MertonThomas Merton was born in 1915 in France, of American parents. His early education was in France (Lycee de Montauban 1927-8) and England (Oakham School, 1929-32; Clare College, Cambridge, 1933-4). He came to America and attended Columbia University, graduated in English in 1938, worked there one year as a teaching assistant, and got his M.A. in 1939. In 1939 he joined the Roman Catholic Church, and taught at St Bonaventure for the next two years. In 1941 he entered the Trappist monastery of Gethsemani near Louisville, Kentucky. The Trappists, called more formally Cistercians of the Strict Observance, are (or were before Vatican II) an extremely strict Roman Catholic monastic order, devoted to communal prayer (they spend at least four hours a day in chapel, chanting the praises of God), to private prayer and contemplation, to study, and to manual labor. Except for those whose special duties require otherwise, they are vowed not to speak except in praise of God. Thus, when not singing in chapel, they are silent.

Toward the end of his life, Merton developed an interest in Buddhist and other Far Eastern approaches to mysticism and contemplation, and their relation to Christian approaches. He was attending an international conference on Christian and Buddhist monasticism in Bangkok, Thailand, when he was accidentally electrocuted on 10 December 1968.

His published books include the following. I have starred those that one biographer of his considers his best work. After some titles, I have inserted quotations from the work (from a selection made by another reader).

1944 Thirty Poems.
1946 a Man in the Divided Sea.
1947 Figures For an Apocalypse, a book of poems.
* 1948 Seven Storey Mountain,
a spiritual autobiography. This is the book that made him famous.
1949 Exile Ends in Glory.
* 1949 Seeds of Contemplation,
about prayer.
* 1949 Waters of Siloe, a history of the Trappist order. "Siloe," More commonly spelled "Siloam," is a pool in Jerusalem. Jesus healed A blind man by daubing clay on his eyes and sending him to wash it off in the pool of Siloam.
1949 Tears of the Blind Lions.
1950 What Are These Wounds?
1951 the Ascent To Truth
* 1953 Sign of Jonas

1953 Bread in the Wilderness
1954 Last of the Fathers
* 1955 No Man Is an Island

"Music and art and poetry attune the soul to God because they induce a kind of contact with the Creator and Ruler of the Universe."

1956 the Living Bread, about the Lord's Supper.
1957 the Silent Life
1957 the Strange Islands
1958 Thoughts in Solitude
1959 the Secular Journal of Thomas Merton
1959 Selected Poems of Thomas Merton
1960 Disputed Questions
1960 Spiritual Direction and Meditation
1961 Behavior of Titans
1961 Wisdom of the Desert
1962 a Thomas Merton Reader
1962 New Seeds of Contemplation
1962 Original Child Bomb
1963 Life and Holiness
1963 Emblems of a Season of Fury
1964 Seeds of Destruction
1965 Seasons of Celebration
1965 the Way of Chuang Tzu
1966 Raids On the Unspeakable
* 1966 Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

"Businesses, are, in reality, quasi-religious sects. When you go to work in one, you embrace A New Faith. And if they are really big businesses, you progress from faith to a kind of mystique. Belief in the product, preaching the product, in the end the product becomes the focus of a transcendental experience. Through 'the product' one communes with the vast forces of life, nature, and history that are expressed in business."

"Advertising treats all products with the reverence and the seriousness due to sacraments."

"Technology is not in itself opposed to spirituality and to religion. But it presents a great temptation."

1967 Mystics and Zen Masters
1968 Cables To the Ace
1968 Faith and Violence
1968 Zen and the Birds of Appetite

(His death occurs here. Later works were presumably edited by others after his death, and are either previously unpublished material or anthologies of work already published.)

1969 My Argument With the Gestapo
1969 the Geography of Lograire
1969 the Climate of Monastic Prayer
1969 Contemplative Prayer
1970 the True Solitude: Selections From the Writings of Thomas Merton.
* 1971 Contemplation in a World of Action, a series of essays.
1971 Thomas Merton On Peace
1971 Opening the Bible
1973 the Asian Journals of Thomas Merton, a collection of his writings about Oriental philosophy and mysticism.
1980 Love and Living, a collection from his writings.

"A superficial freedom to wander aimlessly here or there, to taste this or that, to make a choice of distractions (in Pascal's sense) is simply a sham. It claims to be a freedom of 'choice' when it has evaded the basic task of discovering who it is that chooses."

"The danger of education, I have found, is that it so easily confuses means with ends. Worse than that, it quite easily forgets both and devotes itself merely to the mass production of uneducated gradtuates--people literally unfit for anything except to take part in an elaborate and completely artificial charade which they and their contemporaries have conspired to call 'life'."

"The least of the work of learning is done in classrooms."

"Anyone who regards love as a deal made on the basis of 'needs' is in danger of falling into a purely quantitative ethic. If love is a deal, then who is to say that you should not make as many deals as possible?"

"[A publisher asked me to write something on 'The Secret of Success,' and I refused.] If I had a message to my contemporaries, I said, it was surely this: Be anything you like, be madmen, drunks, and bastards of every shape and form, but at all costs avoid one thing: success. ... If you have learned only how to be a success, your life has probably been wasted. If a university concentrates on producing successful people, it is lamentably failing in its obligation to society and to the students themselves."

"War represents a vice that mankind would like to get rid of but which it cannot do without. Man is like an alcoholic who knows that drink will destroy him but who always has a reason for drinking. So with war."

by James Kiefer