“[Merton] had died sometime before 3 p.m. Bangkok time. A telegram was sent that night to [the Abbey of] Gethsemani. Crossing the International Date Line, it arrived some fourteen hours after his death, at 10 a.m. on December 10, at the monastery. The tenth of December, 1968, was, to the day, the twenty-seventh anniversary of Thomas Merton’s arrival at the Monastery of Our Lady of Gethsemani” – Michael Mott, The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton.
On the morning of the day that Thomas Merton died in Bangkok, Merton delivered the talk “Marxism and Monastic Perspectives.” The last thing he said publicly that day was in conclusion: “I will conclude on that note. I believe the plan is to have all the questions for this morning’s lectures this evening at the panel. So I will disappear.” And disappear he did. We never know when such throw-away phrases will come to bear a retrospectively clairvoyant status.
We remember a Trappist monk, an amazing writer, a dedicated proponent of peace and nonviolence, a leader in interreligious dialogue, a committed fighter for social justice, a prophet, a brother, a friend, a companion, and someone who continues to influence the world for better. While not yet canonized, he is — as are all the baptized — a member of the communion of saints. May he intercede for us as his work and life continue to inspire others for years to come.
Thomas Merton, ora pro nobis!