Posted by: Rob

I wrote this piece a couple of years back while I was "blogging" on Merton's pilgrimage to Asia.

Why Merton?

Some folks may wonder... "Why the interest in Thomas Merton?" What relevance can the musings of a medieval monk living in monastic solitude in the middle of the 20th century possibly have for the post-modern church and world today?

These are some of the areas where I find that Merton intersects most closely with my life and passions.

Dialogue and Action

Merton shows us a way of living and loving in a pluralistic world. His approach to interfaith relations is founded on a deep sense of compassion and an honest love of neighbor, which translates into an ethic of sensitivity and respect in relation to others. He also shares with us a conviction of the importance of collaborative work towards engaging and resisting "the powers".

Merton writes:

"It is my belief that all those in the world who have kept a vestige of sanity and spirituality should unite in firm resistance to the movements of power politicians and the monster nations, resist the whole movement of war and aggression, resist the diplomatic overtures of power..." – to Abdul Aziz September 21, 1961 TMLL

Non-violence and Peace

Merton offers a way of seeking justice and making peace from a place of deep non- violence.

Merton writes:

"I am against war, against violence, against violent revolution, for peaceful settlement of differences, for nonviolent but nevertheless radical changes. Change is needed, and violence will not really change anything: at most it will only transfer power from one set of bullheaded authorities to another." – Midsummer Letter, 1968

The Ecological Consciousness

Merton opens us to a depth of ecological consciousness that is rooted and grounded in both an intimate love of nature and a critical awareness of our brokenness in relation to the natural world.

Merton writes that the "wrongs" we inflict on the world can be prevented by:

"a deepening of the ecological sense and by a corresponding restraint and wisdom in the way we treat the earth we live on and the other members of the ecological community with which we live." – to Barbara Hubbard February 16, 1968 TMLL.

The Prophetic Voice

Merton speaks from a place of freedom, humility, and grace, naming difficult truthes which are as relevant today as they were yesterday and as they probably will be tomorrow. He is the voice of one who stands in the midst of our cultural community and tells it like it is.

Merton writes:

"I have sought only to speak the truth as I see it, and to bear witness to what I have discovered by living in the world of the twentieth century, both without the light of Christ and with it. There is a difference, and I have experienced the difference, and I have endeavored to say so. That is all." – CWA

Contemplation and Spirituality

Merton reveals to us the fruits of a contemplative life lived in simplicity, restraint, and faithfulness. He is a foundational figure in the reclamation of an engaged and meaningful Christian spirituality and the renewal of the church in this day.

Merton writes...

"When I speak of the contemplative life I do not mean the institutional cloistered life, the organized life of prayer... I am talking about a special dimension of inner discipline and experience, a certain integrity and fullness of personal development, which are not compatible with a purely external, alienated, busy-busy existence. This does not mean that they are incompatible with action, with creative work, with dedicated love. On the contrary, these all go together. A certain depth of disciplined experience is a necessary ground for fruitful action." – CWA


  1. Post from "Merton in Asia"
  2. TMLL- Thomas Merton" A Life in Letters
  3. CWA - Contemplation in a World of Action

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