January 31 is the centenary of Thomas Merton’s birth … so why is he important? Well he is important to me because he became my spiritual guide at a time when I felt rather lost and reading his journals led in a roundabout way to getting confirmed and becoming a member of the church of England. In other words he was the catalyst for a complete change in my life, my work and my soul. That was about 14 years ago and he has remained a spiritual guide ever since. Rereading some of his books I am often struck by a new insight and of course he wrote so much that there often seems to be plenty of new material anyway. For example I have barely begun to read his poetry in any depth and there are all those essays …250 of them and counting, the over 10,000 letters and so on. However when reading his words it’s often felt as if Merton were speaking to me and answering some concern or opening a door.
In terms of his importance as a spiritual writer and a social activist there are many reasons why Merton still matters. One of these is his encouragement to contemplation, to silence and to solitude. The other is his prophetic writings on war and violence and his concern with the environment; his understanding that we are all interconnected … these insights all emerged from the silence and solitude and the world is greatly the richer for his life and work
Happy birthday my dear friend and thank you for so much.