Precious Thoughts: Daily Readings from Thomas Merton
By Fiona Gardner (Darton, Longman &Todd, €13.19 / £10.99 pb)
Thomas Merton died in 1968 at the age of 53. He is perhaps more popular and relevant today than ever. He was not alone one of the great spiritual guides and mentors of the 20th Century but also an amazing letter writer, a true art form in itself.
His letters, those written by him and to him, archived at the Thomas Merton Studies Centre in Kentucky, number more than 10,000.
Merton wrote letters to Pope John XXIII, Coretta Scott King (after the murder of her husband) to James Baldwin, Boris Pasternak, Jacqueline Kennedy (after President Kennedy’s assassination) Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker and, indeed, to many people who wrote to him whom he didn’t know.
There is something truly modern and contemporary about Thomas Merton and he comes across in his letters as very human and in touch with people and their problems.
Fiona Gardner is a psychotherapist and spiritual director. She was chair of the Thomas Merton Society of GB and Ireland (2004-2008) she is co-editor of the Merton Journal. In this excellent, thought-provoking book she’s chosen letters which represent a full year’s contemplative wisdom and some prayerful gems.
We are treated to short letters, or passages of letters, starting from January 1 till December 31. In all of them, Merton’s love of contemplation and deep awareness of the ineffable mystery of God is very clear.
For example, in one letter for September 1 he writes: ”I know that God loves me much, and that He has been very patient with me. My life becomes more and more a question of graces and a confession of my wretchedness. I know that I am not a saint, but I am happy because God loves me and draws me towards Him always.”
In another letter he writes: ”Realise, then, that you are loved. And open your heart to that love, and even if the world collapses around you, do not let anything turn you aside from loving and praising God.
”We have been saved and redeemed by the Precious Blood of Jesus and there is no room for sadness or doubt in our lives, no room for preoccupation with our faults and miseries.
”We must not only trust, but we must go forward and make our lives fruitful with the offering of our love: our giving of ourselves in a positive creation, a living of a new life in a new world, in a new dimension.”
There is so much that is truly inspirational in Merton’s writing. It is full of humanity. This little book is a joy to read.