Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O. was born 100 years ago, on January 31, 1915 and died on this day, December 10, 1968. He was an American Catholic writer and mystic. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, a poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion, he was an atheist during his teenage years but searched far and wide for a true religion, which he discovered while studying at Columbia University in New York. He was baptized into the Catholic church in 1938, and on December 10, 1941, Thomas Merton arrived at the Abbey of Gethsemani and spent three days at the monastery guest house, waiting for acceptance into the Order. He was eventually accepted as a novice in March 1942, and started his studies for the priesthood. In 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name Father Louis, and lived most of his later life as a hermit.
Merton wrote more than 70 books, mostly on spirituality, social justice and a quiet pacifism, as well as scores of essays and reviews. Among Merton's most enduring works is his bestselling autobiography “The Seven Storey Mountain” (1948), which sent scores of World War II veterans, students, and even teenagers flocking to monasteries across the US, and was also featured in National Review's list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the century. Merton was a keen proponent of interfaith understanding. He pioneered dialogue with prominent Asian spiritual figures, including the Dalai Lama, and authored books on Zen Buddhism and Taoism. He died in an unfortunate accident when he was electrocuted from a fan after taking a bath in Thailand while visiting there for a conference. In the years since his death, Merton has been the subject of several other biographies.

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