Thomas Merton was one of modern Christianity’s great spiritual teachers. He worked to recover the Christian contemplative tradition and to make it available to ordinary believers. But he also recognized the twentieth-century church’s prophetic vocation, seeing no contradiction between the inward life of the spirit and the outward call to heal society’s soul-sickness, but rather a profound correlation between them. While remaining firmly grounded in his own Roman Catholic faith, he also built relationships with secular activists and with spiritual practitioners in other religions, believing that the risen Christ and divine Wisdom/Sophia were at work in all the world.
I’m a Christian in the Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition, and I’ve been reading Thomas Merton for many years. This is a place where I will explore some aspects of my encounter with his writings, and enter into a kind of dialogue with him. Merton has been a teacher for me, especially regarding contemplative vocation; yet there are places where I find him challenging, or respond critically to him, for instance regarding certain Roman Catholic traditions or Merton’s expectation of finding Christ present even in other religious traditions.
I hope that this cross-fertilization between Thomas Merton and Mennonite Christianity may have some value not only for the Catholic and Anabaptist communions, but for the new forms of Christian faith, life, and worship that are blossoming today. The fingerprints of both Merton and the Anabaptists are on many emergent modes of being church and being disciples. I hope this blog will be a source of stimulation in the midst of this ongoing reformation.