Thomas Merton 96th Birthday 2011, 31st January

From my inbox today from "Dating God:":
This is the beginning of the entry in Merton's journal from January 31, 1968, the last birthday he would celebrate on this earth.
"Clear, thin new moon appearing and disappearing between slow slate blue clouds – and the living black skeletons of the trees against the evening sky. More artillery than usual whumping at [Fort] Knox. It is my fifty-third birthday."
He spent the day, admittedly not working, but enjoying the unusual springlike afternoon around the monastery and near the pond. 

Today, the last day of January, has also been an unusually beautiful spring like day here in Cornwall UK and my energy levels and spirit were raised up from their wintry lethargy. I am happy knowing that Spring is on it's way, even if it is tucked away for a few more weeks  and although it may have to spurt and start to compete with the winter for it's place in the seasonal  charts come it will !! 
Merton for me as for so many others has been a lifelong companion right through my rebellious adolescence through to my fifties where I never fail to find something new and fresh in his writings.
In his writings he did not shirk from telling the vagaries that surround  faith and he was honest about unsanitised doubt and the difficulty of living a contemplative life in the world and that has taught me such a valuable lesson: to feel it is always safe to approach God fully, to present myself as I am, warts and all .
"Man is neither a devil or an angel. He is not pure spirit, but a being of flesh and spirit, subject to error and malice, but basically inclined to seek truth and goodness. He is, indeed, a sinner: but his heart responds to love and grace. It also responds to the goodness and to the need of his fellow man."
Thomas Merton, Life and Holiness 
My previous posts on Merton can be found here and here 
Also if you want some wonderful free poster quotes from Merton the link is here 
and one of my favourite quotes is below :

There is also an excellent 2009 video tribute showing the lives of the Trappist monks at the Abbey of Gethsemane Monastery where Merton spent most of his life and many other resources on Merton  from the PBS website. 
Click here .
The link for The Merton Institute for Contemplative Living is here with a wealth of resources: This is their  definition of Contemplative Living: "Living in relationship with oneself, God, others, and nature free of the illusion of separateness. Their Mission and Purpose is: To awaken interest in contemplative living through the works of Thomas Merton and others."

One of the excellent resources for reflection on the site above can be accessed here and is a set of individual reflections entitled "The Spirit of Merton's Voice " that match selected Merton quotes which were sent in during 2010.

Click here for a tribute to Thomas Merton by one of his close friends Jim Knight from which this unusual portrait of Merton below is taken and the reason for it :

 "When he painted the portrait of his friend Merton standing near the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, Ed Rice deliberately blanked out Tom's face. He confessed to being confused. Over the years, the scholars, the followers, publishers, the church itself, had drawn a portrait that was unrecognizable, that of a plastic saint, a monk interested mainly in pulling nonbelievers, and believers in other faiths, into the one true religion. This was not the Merton that his friends from younger days and later days, Jim Knight and Ed Rice, knew. Merton was eminently human. He honored, and reached out to other faiths. He loved, he laughed. In essence he was a poet, who used words to help us understand the thousands of things we need to understand. This is his portrait, as recalled by his very close friend."

 Click here for another intimate account of Merton

"Contemplation is the highest expression of man's intellectual and spiritual life. 
It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. 
It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. 
It is gratitude for life, for awareness, and for being. 
It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source. 
Contemplation is, above all, an awareness of the reality of that Source."
Thomas Merton
New Seeds of Contemplation


Jan said...

What richness! Thank you. I am linking this on FB and sending it to friends who are not on FB.

Philomena Ewing said...

That's really kind of you Jan. You are a star.! I appreciate it and am very glad to have you visit and it is also good to know that the post is worthwhile and being spread to others.