The fourth volume of Thomas Merton's complete journals, one of his final literary legacies, springs from three hundred handwritten pages that capture - in candid, lively, deeply revealing passages -- the growing unrest of the 1960s, which Merton witnessed within himself as plainly as in the changing culture around him.
In these decisive years, 1960-1963, Merton, now in his late forties and frequently working in a new hermitage at the Abbey of Gethsemani, finds himself struggling between his longing for a private, spiritual life and the irresistible pull of social concerns. Precisely when he longs for more solitude, and convinces himself he could not cut back on his writing, Merton begins asking complex questions about the contemporary culture ("the 'world' with its funny pants, of which I do not know the name, its sandals and sunglasses"), war, and the churches role in society.
Thus despite his resistance, he is drawn into the world where his celebrity and growing concerns for social issues fuel his writings on civil rights, nonviolence, and pacifism and lead him into conflict with those who urge him to leave the moral issues to bishops and theologians.
This pivotal volume in the Merton journals reveals a man at the height of a brilliant writing career, marking the fourteenth anniversary of his priesthood but yearning still for the key to true happiness and grace. Here, in his most private diaries, Merton is as intellectually curious, critical, and insightful as in his best-known public writings while he documents his movement from the cloister toward the world, from Novice Master to hermit, from ironic critic to joyous witness to the mystery of God's plan.
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a Trappist monk, writer and peace activist. His spiritual classics include New Seeds of Contemplation, The Sign of Jonas, Mystics and Zen Masters and The Seven Story Mountain
This is the fourth of seven planned volumes of Merton's private journal. Merton, who died in 1968, was a Trappist monk, peace activist and well-loved author of spiritual classics such as The Seven Storey Mountain. Neither mundane nor egotistical, these journal entries demonstrate Merton's characteristic humor and warmth. This journal reflects a time in Merton's life when he is trying to balance his popularity as an author and speaker with his vows of silence as a Trappist monk, his pacifism and his political beliefs with his submission to the authority of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Above all, Merton's intellectual curiosity about a number of matters?including international and Vatican politics, architecture and his personal relationships?marks this fascinating journal.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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November 12, 1997
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Excerpt from Turning Toward the World by Thomas Merton
May 25, 1960. Vigil of the Ascension
Said mass this morning for the Louisville Carmel. Wrote to Mons. [Loris]Capovilla to thank him for the book on Italian Church architecture whichhas some very satisfying small churches. Some of the more ambitiousprojects do not impress me, but in general the plans are honest andstraightforward. Some of them can give us some ideas for the MountOlivet hermitage and retreat house. Jack Ford wrote about that today. Imean he wrote on the 18th and I got it today.
Had been waiting for an opportunity to say a Mass for Louis Massignon and for his project, under the patronage of B1. Charles Lwanga for African boys etc. I happened in a curious and almost arbitrary manner to pick on June 3rd and only today did I discover by surprise that this day is the Feast of B1. C.L. and the Uganda martyrs! Louis Massignon wrote that nonviolence is mocked in Paris and opposed by the French hierarchy.
Was annoyed at the force of having to go to vote at the primaries yesterday, without having the slightest knowledge of the candidates. (Except that Johnson came here when he was governor and I remember Dom Frederic's speech.) But the ride turned out to be nice and all the kids were playing outside St. Catherine's school. The big ones at basketball, some younger ones in an arbitrary and rather hectic game of catch, others in quieter games, and behind the gymnasium the girls in blue uniforms, much quieter altogether.
Reading [Joseph Jean] Lanza del Vasto, Le P�lerinage aux Sources [Paris, 1945]. His account of Gandhi and Wardha is impressive. I am still not persuaded that the spinning wheels were so foolish. lt is customary in the West to dismiss all that as absurd, and to assume that technological progress is an unqualified good, as excellent as it is inevitable. But it becomes more and more passive, automatic -- and the effects on "backward" people more and more terrible.
Today they proudly posted on the bulletin board in the small cloister the news about an American intercontinental missile fired from Florida and landing in the Indian Ocean. Something to be proud of! Have we lost all sense of proportion along with our faith?
May 26, 1960. Ascension Day
Remember 11 years ago, to the day, my ordination. Certainly these 11 years have been the best, and also the hardest, of my life. But they are the only years to which I can attach any real importance, years of genuine and full activity and being -- not preparation. Everything else was a more or less appropriate preparation.
Even my sins, for a priest is not without a knowledge of human inferiority and it is good that I have a deep knowledge of it in myself. Otherwise my life and writing might have been even more preparation than they actually are.
May 29, 1960. Sunday after Ascension
[Boris] Pasternak is ill -- perhaps dying -- perhaps dead.
Yesterday, rain -- I finished ms. on Liturgy and Personalism -- in the afternoon, cleaned up the room. This, as [Jacques] Barzun says, is the age of white people.
Fragments of faded, dying paper used as markers in my copy of Denziger. A dim yellow envelope from New Directions, postmarked 1952. Already ancient history, 1952! I threw it away, along with an Italian holy card that got there no one knows how -- (one of the baser variety!).
Eyes still bad.
More and more the average Catholic and priest tends to think of dogma only as what has been dogmatically defined by a universal council or a Papal definition.
We are losing our respect for the ordinary magisterium of the Church, because we no longer fully understand what it is.