To understand the life and thought of Thomas Merton, one must understand him as a monk. After introducing his vocation and entrance into the Trappist order, this book highlights some of his basic spiritual presuppositions. Relying primarily on Merton's writing, Bonnie B. Thurston surveys his thought on fundamental aspects of monastic formation and spirituality, particularly obedience, silence, solitude, and prayer. She also addresses some of the temptations and popular misunderstandings surrounding monastic life. Accessible and conversational in style, the book suggests how monastic spirituality is relevant, not only for all Christians, but also for serious spiritual seekers.
Bonnie B. Thurston, after years as a university and seminary professor, lives quietly in her home state of West Virginia. She is the author of many books on Scripture and theology, including Maverick Mark: The Untamed First Gospel, The Spiritual Landscape of Mark, and Philippians in the Sacra Pagina series, all published by Liturgical Press. Her poetry appears frequently in religious periodicals, and among her published collections is Belonging to Borders: A Sojourn in the Celtic Tradition. She is also a contributor to Give Us This Day (Liturgical Press).
"One of Bonnie Thurston's great gifts to us is her ability to write, when appropriate, about profound topics with a light touch—both accessible and illuminating. That gift is on full display in this wonderful distillation not only of Thomas Merton's core spiritual teachings but of her many years of study, reflection, and prayer on these teachings. She shows clearly and persuasively how Merton's monastic vocation and vision do not separate him from those outside the cloister, but are the ground for his compassionate, insightful identification with the hopes and needs of people in all walks of life, continuing to resonate and inspire in our day as it did in his."
Patrick O'Connell, Former president of the International Thomas Merton Society and editor of The Merton Seasonal
“This book’s specific aim is to remind the reader of the specific circumstances out of which Merton wrote: the monastery of Gethsemani, with all its practices, discipline, solitude, and community. This particular rhythm of life, she argues, grounded his writing in a unique understanding of God’s presence and of discipleship in the world. To understand what life in the monastery meant to him is to better appreciate the books, journals, and correspondence that resulted from his hand. Thurston’s work helps ground Merton in his context, and is an excellent beginner guide to show how this deep and rich spiritual catalog came to be as a result of a life shaped by a unique, Christ-centered vocation.”
Englewood Review of Books
“I most warmly recommend this book to anyone seeking a deepening of their prayer.”
The Julian Meetings Magazine
"The book is accessible and conversational in style, suggesting how monastic spirituality is relevant today, not only for all Christians, but also for all serious spiritual seekers.”
Joyce Rothermel, The New People
"This is not just a book about Thomas Merton. It is an invitation to encounter him and delve deeply into the monastic tradition that transformed his life, informed his spirituality, and opened him to the world. Whether they are meeting Merton for the first time or seeking to deepen their understanding of an already familiar friend, readers will enjoy Bonnie Thurston's conversational style and benefit from her singular insights into Merton and his wisdom. This is a book to savor and ponder!"
Christine M. Bochen, Professor Emerita of Religious Studies, Nazareth College, Rochester, New York, co-author of The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia
"Thurston argues that to understand Thomas Merton one must understand him as a monk. This careful study argues that point with deep insight based on her four decades of reading and writing about the Merton corpus. This book, extremely readable and unfailingly intelligent, is highly recommended."
Lawrence S. Cunningham, The University of Notre Dame
"Thurston suggests that in order to understand the (dis)continuities and contours of Merton's desire for God, we must remind ourselves that he is first and foremost a monk. In these recent times, not least in moments of major world conflict and increasing global dissensus, it's timely and vital that we remind each other of the fruits of prayer, solitude and the disciplines of monastic spirituality."
The Merton Journal
"Easy-to-read, inspiring. Bonnie Thurston presents monastic spirituality as being very relevant for any sincere seeker of God today. Throughout the book she translates Merton’s thought and teaching into practical spiritual teaching for today’s monastic and non-monastic. I warmly recommend this book as one more aid in guiding our spiritual response to the call of evangelization in today’s world.”