Trappist monk, writer, social activist—these are just some of the facets of this great teacher and spiritual companion. Thomas Merton’s candid struggles as well as his unbounded joy in his faith, shared so beautifully and directly in his books and journals, are an inspiration to anyone trying to find their way on the spiritual path. Thomas Merton was not always a “saint,” however. In his early life he was very much a man of mischief and worldly pleasures. In his 20s, while a student at Columbia University, he became interested in the Catholic faith and soon sought baptism at the local church—much to the surprise of his somewhat raucous peers! A couple years later, he left a promising literary career and dove headlong into the contemplative life, becoming a Trappist monk. But it’s not as if he was suddenly transformed into a saintly figure of pious religious life. Merton had a fiery temper, strong opinions, and a restless heart that made his spiritual journey a complicated one. Like all of us, he did not always know where he was going (check out his Prayer of Trust and Confidence). But he worked hard to cultivate his relationship with God, to remain open to direction in his life, and to trust that his seeking, no matter how circuitous, was leading him closer to God. Take some time to get to know this man of peace and wisdom—you’ll be glad you did!
For a more complete biography, click here.
The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University serves as the archive for Merton’s papers as well as a very good starting point to learn more about Thomas Merton.
Get acquainted with Merton in this video about Merton from the series “Who Cares About the Saints?” by Fr. Jim Martin, SJ.
You may also want to follow along this pilgrimage with Fr. Martin to two sites in New York City that were important in Merton’s life.
Want to read more? Merton was a gifted and prolific writer. You can find a timeline of his life and publications on the Thomas Merton Center website. Check out Amazon’s Thomas Merton Page if you are ready to start reading. You can also browse a few of his publications on the table under the bulletin board in the Gathering Space.