SIMPLICITY: Thomas Merton by Philip Harnden

Thomas Merton by Philip Harnden

From Journeys of Simplicity

(1915–1968)

French-born American Roman Catholic priest and Trappist monk

Father Louis, as Thomas Merton was known to his fellow monks, lived his last years as a hermit in the woods near his Cistercian abbey.  His hermitage was small and unadorned, a cinder-block building with cement floors.  He cut his own wood for the fireplace, hauled water from the abbey, cooked on a Coleman stove, and read by kerosene lamp.  Eventually, as his health deteriorated, electricity was installed.  Typically, he arose at 3:15 a.m. to begin the prayers of the day.

He was perhaps the first Trappist hermit of the modern era.  He was surely a monk whose living and passing brimmed with irony.  Vowed to silence, he was known around the world for his words.  Cloistered with his brothers in Kentucky for twenty-seven years, he died half a world away in Bangkok, alone.  An eloquent critic of the war in Southeast Asia, his body was flown home in the bay of a U.S. Air Force jet from Vietnam.

AMONG THOMAS MERTON’S PERSONAL EFFECTS

Timex watch

one pair of dark glasses
tortoise frames

two pairs of bifocal eyeglasses
plastic frames

two Cistercian leather-bound breviaries

one rosary
(broken)

one small icon on wood
Virgin and Child

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