Thomas Merton


Quotations about Thomas Merton

  • "As anyone will appreciate who has read his autobiographical writing, there were long periods in Merton's life in which laughter must have been rare. Not all his pain had to do with pre-monastic events. Having become the most celebrated monk alive and the most famous Trappist, it was by no means clear to him that he was in the right place." -- Living with Wisdom by Jim Forest

  • "Basically his message was his own life's journey. Merton cannot teach me or anyone how to pray; he can only pray. His value lies in the fact that what he has written is a map of his journey and his thoughts and meditations on that journey. Any explorer knows that the map is not the journey and Merton never expected it to be so. The value of the map lies in enabling me to understand something of the terrain through which I must pass. -- Brian H. Hawker quoted in Thomas Merton: Man of Many Journeys by Sister Marie de Lourdes

    Quotations from Thomas Merton

  • "What am I? I am myself a word spoken by God. Can God speak a word that does not have any meaning?...I cannot discover my "meaning" if I try to evade the dread which comes from first experiencing my meaninglessness!

    ...we should let ourselves be brought naked and defenceless into the center of that dread where we stand alone before God in our nothingness, without explanation, without theories, completely dependent upon his providential care, in dire need of the gift of his grace, his mercy and the light of faith."

    -- Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer, Herder and Herder, New York, 1969, p.84-85

  • " Charity is the perfect argument for the fruitfulness of the Cross. For it is by the love that drove Him to die for us that Christ became able to live in our souls. It is by His death, inspired entirely by charity, that Christ destroys sin. And it is by loving other men, as Christ loved them, with a love as strong as death, that we too can destroy sin in them. " -- Merton, Thomas, The New Man

  •      "The Divine Spirit purifies the image of God in my soul by faith. He cures my spiritual blindness, opens my eyes to the things of God. He takes possession of my will so that I no longer remain captive of my own passions and compulsions, but am able to act in the fruitful tranquility of spiritual freedom. In gradually teaching me charity He perfects the likeness of God in my soul by conforming me to Christ. For my union with Christ is much more than an imitation of his virtues as they are described in the Gospel: it must be a union created in me by the transforming action of His own Spirit. And the Life which the Spirit breathes into my spirit, is Christ Himself, mystically present in my own being and my own person."-- Merton, Thomas, The New Man

  •      "That God should assume Mary into heaven is not just a glorification of a "Mother Goddess." Quite the contrary, it is the expression of the divine love for humanity, and a very special manifestation of God's respect for His creatures, His desire to do honor to the beings He has made in His own image, and most particularly His respect for the body which was destined to be the temple of His glory. If Mary is believed to be assumed into heaven, it is because we too are one day, by the grace of God, to dwell where she is. If human nature is glorified in her, it is because God desires it to be glorified in us too, and it is for this reason that His Son, taking flesh, came into the world. " -- Understanding Catholic Devotion to Mary by Thomas Merton

  •      "The things I thought were so important -- because of the effort I put into them -- have turned out to be of small value. And the things I never thought about, the things I was never able to either to measure or to expect, were the things that mattered." -- Thomas Merton
  • 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 that 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 will I 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." -­ Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

  • "Every moment and every event of every man's life on earth plants something in his soul." -- New Seeds of Contemplation - Thomas Merton

  • We cannot arrive at the perfect possession of God in this life, and that is why we are traveling and in darkness. But we already possess Him by grace, and therefore in that sense we have arrived and are dwelling in the light. But oh! How far have I to go to find You in Whom I have already arrived. -- Thomas Merton - Seven Sorey Mountain - quoted in Thomas Merton: Man of Many Journeys  by Sister Marie de Lourdes

    “The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt”


    "           Thomas Merton was born in 1915 in France, of American parents. His early education was in France (Lycee de Montauban 1927-8) and England (Oakham School, 1929-32; Clare College, Cambridge, 1933-4). He came to America and attended Columbia University, graduated in English in 1938, worked there one year as a teaching assistant, and got his Ma in 1939. In 1939 he joined the Roman Catholic Church, and taught at St Bonaventure for the next two years. In 1941 he entered the Trappist monastery of Gethsemani near Louisville, Kentucky. The Trappists, called more formally Cistercians of the Strict Observance, are (or were before Vatican II) an extremely strict Roman Catholic monastic order, devoted to communal prayer (they spend at least four hours a day in chapel, chanting the praises of God), to private prayer and contemplation, to study, and to manual labor. Except for those whose special duties require otherwise, they are vowed not to speak except in praise of God. Thus, when not singing in chapel, they are silent.

              Toward the end of his life, Merton developed an interest in Buddhist and other Far Eastern approaches to mysticism and contemplation, and their relation to Christian approaches. He was attending an international conference on Christian and Buddhist monasticism in Bangkok, Thailand, when he was accidentally electrocuted on 10 December 1968" -- Thomas Merton, Monk, Poet, Spiritual Writer