Appleton, WI

Dec 18: Day by Day with Father Bill


One of the great mystics and prophets of our own time was Father Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk of Gethsemane Abbey, Kentucky, who died tragically in Thailand on December 10, 1968. I have a fondness for Father Thomas as he died on December 10, which is my birthday. The years are different though; 1954 and 1968.

I share this reflection from another modern-day mystic and prophet, Sister Joan Chittister, OSB:

In an age when all of religious life itself was bursting at the seams, shedding one period of history, trying to become leaven in another, Thomas Merton began to live into the new model right before our eyes. Merton knew that the role of religious life in the modern world was to develop people of substance who were immersed in questions of social significance. Merton knew that religious life was not the fine art of maintaining monastic museums. On the morning of his death, Merton delivered his last public paper Marxism and Monastic Perspectives, to the Bangkok conference of Benedictines and Cistercians. The monastic, he said, is essentially someone who takes up a critical attitude toward the world and its structures … (saying) that the claims of the world are fraudulent. Merton the man taught the world that the spiritual life is not the elimination of struggle; it is the sanctification of struggle. It is struggle transformed to wisdom. Merton the monk taught the world that withdrawal is not of the essence of a holy life. The essence of a holy life is immersion in the spiritual and commitment to the significant. Merton the contemplative taught the world that we know that we will have come to see God when we have come to see people as sacred.

Father Bill +