Happy 100th Birthday to Thomas Merton

MEME_04“On the last day of January 1915, under the sign of the Water Bearer, in a year of a great war, and down in the shadow of some French mountains on the borders of Spain, I came into the world.” This is how Thomas Merton begins his now-classic spiritual autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain. Today would have marked his 100th birthday. All around the United States and in places across the globe, women and men who have been inspired by and are enthusiastic for the work of Merton will celebrate his life and legacy. There are a number of ways to commemorate his enduring legacy and relevance. One way I suggest is to pick up one of his many books, perhaps a favorite of yours or one that you have been meaning to read, and spend some time with his writing. Selecting a passage from one of the seven volumes of his published journals or reading some of his letters may offer a glimpse into the timelessness of his keen sense of the Spirit’s presence in the world and God’s call for all people to move beyond their own experience of relationship with the Creator to serve God in serving others, working for justice, and helping to make peace.

At the very least, I would encourage you to take at least one minute at some point today to join me in praying Merton’s most famous prayer, which comes to us from his short book Thoughts in SolitudeMany of you will know it, others will likely find a resonance with your own experience. It is a prayer that speaks to the heart and bears the fragility of human uncertainty and experience alongside the assurance of God’s grace and presence.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that
I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am
actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for You are ever with me,
and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.

May you have a joyful weekend and, in particular, a wonderful experience celebrating the centenary of Thomas Merton’s birth!

6 Responses to “Happy 100th Birthday to Thomas Merton”

  1. Linda English Says:

    So grateful to read your post this morning. I was hoping to see more written or spoken about from others who are familiar with Merton. I have been a follower of Thomas Merton since my early days attending St Bonaventure University in the ’60’s. Fr Irenaeus brought the incoming Freshmen on a tour of the rare book room in the library during orientation and spoke so reverently of Merton’s works that were kept there. I graduated in ’68 a few short months before Merton’s death in Asia. It was like losing a friend. I often listen to his last lecture prior to his untimely death. Many thanks for keeping his legacy alive.

  2. I am thankful for his life and his writing!

  3. My first encounter with Fr. Merton’s writings, I think, was reading “The Sign of Jonas,” a very long time ago, when I was in seminary, followed by the “Waters of Siloe.” I eventually got to his other works. It was through him that I became acquainted with the practice of contemplative prayer, which lead me to reading and practicing centering prayer (more or less). He opened for me a new world of spiritual life. Right now, I am reading your book, and I am finding it very enriching.

    I have prayed Merton’s prayer many times in the past. It has become more significant for me now, as I was laid off from my job earlier this month, and the road ahead is definitely uncertain. The prayer is helping me through this. Many thanks, Father Louis Merton!

  4. […] another by Margery Eagan, On Spirituality columnist for Crux, and finally a very moving post by Father Dan Horan, OFM on his […]

  5. Bill Taylor Says:

    Dan, Thanks for all you have done to focus my attention on the life and works of Thomas Merton and his connection with HNP. I still remember the first time I saw “Merton’s Heart” during my first summer at SBU.

  6. I read the Seven Storey Mountain after my own conversion experience, and I’ve read a few others over the years, with many more of his books yet to be read. I have that prayer in my iPhone notes so that I can easily refer to it at any time, love it!

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