Thursday, June 23, 2011

Muddling through Merton

I went, with considerable hopes, to a talk and discussion on Thomas Merton at St George's Anglican Church, Parktown.  It was entitled "Meeting Merton: Is a deep & transforming spirituality possible in the city?  Is peace possible in the madness?" and was given by the Rev Dr Jeremy Jacobs of the Centre for Christian Spirituality.

What a disappointment! The questions weren't answered at all, they were merely posed again and I felt that the whole point of Thomas Merton's spirituality did not come across well and was submerged by Jacob's subjective opinions on "the youths'" demands and conceptions of Christianity.

Merton was secure in his Catholic Faith and his vocation as a Trappist as interpreted by his religious superiors.  His prayerful understanding and study of mysticism within the Catholic tradition recaptured something that was no longer much thought of at the time and this led him to an understanding of mysticism in other world religions and dialogue with Buddhist religious leaders.  This was unusual at the time but it stemmed from his own security of belief in the Catholic tradition.  Without that Faith such dialogue, based on mutual respect and experience, would not have been possible.

Fortunately Thomas Merton had the ability to write down his understanding of Spirituality and Faith with great clarity.  In the second decade of the 21st century the similarity of searching for a spiritual home and an emphasis on meditation that was symptomatic of the 1960's has brought Merton and his writings back into fashion.  See also the videos in the sidebar.

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