Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1915-01-31
Death 1968-12-10
Americans
Latin, English, German

Biographical notes:

Trappist monk and author.

From the description of Thomas Merton Collection, 1940-1986. (Boston College). WorldCat record id: 32689646

Thomas Merton (Father Louis), M.A. Columbia 1939, was a widely read Catholic author and social critic who lived as a member of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, the Trappists, from 1941 till his death in Bangkok in 1968.

From the description of Thomas Merton papers, 1923-1989. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 298686845

Thomas Merton, a monk and author, was born on January 31, 1915. He was raised primarily in Europe by his parents who were artists. He earned a B.A. degree and a M.A. degree from Columbia University (NY). He converted to Catholicism and taught English at St. Bonaventure College (now St. Bonaventure University) in Western New York from 1940-41. He found himself drawn to the contemplative life of the Trappist monks, whose ranks he joined in December, 1941. Merton served as Master of Scholastics and as Master of Novices at the order's monastery in Kentucky, Our Lady of Gethsemani, before being allowed to live as a hermit in 1965. He left the monastery in 1968 to attend a conference in Bangkok, Thailand, were he died December 10, of accidental electrocution. Merton, prolific writer, won acclaim for his books, poems and articles, beginning with the publication of the autobiographical SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN in 1948. In the 1960s he was known for his concern about peace, civil rights and other social issues. He also promoted ecumenism between Catholics, other Christians and non-Christians.

From the description of Thomas Merton Collection, 1753-present, (bulk 1938-1968) (Saint Bonaventure University). WorldCat record id: 42644647

Trappist monk, writer and philosopher.

From the description of Thomas Merton : miscellaneous papers, 1961-1968. (Filson Historical Society, The). WorldCat record id: 49253538

French-born American author, poet, teacher, and Trappist monk.

From the description of Thomas Merton collection, 1940-1968. (Boston University). WorldCat record id: 70967640

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Thomas Merton (Father Louis), M.A. Columbia 1939, was a widely read Catholic author and social critic who lived as a member of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, the Trappists, from 1941 till his death in Bangkok in 1968.

From the guide to the Thomas Merton Papers, 1923-1989, (Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library, )

Thomas Merton, Trappist monk and author.

Merton, born in Prades, France, studied both in Europe and America and earned an M.A. in journalism from Columbia University (1939). He converted to Catholicism (1938) and entered Gethsemane Abbey (1941). Merton became a prominent author, gaining international renown for his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain (1948). He was a significant voice for the renewal of the contemplative life in Catholic spirituality. Merton died suddenly on December 10, 1968.

James H. Forest, peace activist and author.

Forest, born 1941, left the Navy as a conscientious objector (1961) and became involved with Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker community as managing editor of the Catholic Worker newspaper. During this time, he became acquainted with Thomas Merton; the two corresponded and became friends. In 1969-1970, Forest served a short prison sentence for his involvement in the "Milwaukee Fourteen," Catholic priests and lay people who burned draft cards. Later he worked for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, eventually serving as General Secretary. Forest has written many books, including Living with wisdom: a life of Thomas Merton (1992).

From the description of James Forest - Thomas Merton Collection, 1915-1996, (bulk 1962-1980). (Boston College). WorldCat record id: 31958298

Monk, author.

Thomas Merton was the son of two artists. He attended Columbia University in New York. He converted to Catholicism in 1938 and found himself drawn to the contemplative life of the Trappist monks whose ranks he joined in 1941. Merton served as Master of Scholastics and as Master of Novices at the order's monastery in Kentucky, Our Lady of Gethsemani, before being allowed to live as a hermit in 1965. He left the monastery in 1968 to attend a conference in Bangkok, Thailand, where he died December 10th of an accidental electrocution. Merton won acclaim for his books, poems and articles, beginning with the publication of the autobiographical SEVEN STORY MOUNTAIN in 1948. In the 1960s he was known for his concern about peace, civil rights and other social issues. He also promoted ecumenism between Catholics, other Christians and non-Christians.

A prolific writer, Merton produced 139 books and contributed to 104. He wrote 486 pieces for magazines and newspapers in his relatively brief career.

From the description of Thomas Merton letters to Clifford Shaw, 1959-1964. (University of Kentucky Libraries). WorldCat record id: 16016416

Monk, author.

Merton, the son of two artists, attended Columbia University in New York, obtaining B.A. and M.A. degrees. He converted to Catholicism in 1938 and found himself drawn to the contemplative life of the Trappist monks, whose ranks he joined in December, 1941. Merton served as Master of Scholastics and as Master of Novices at the order's monastery in Kentucky, Our Lady of Gethsemani, before being allowed to live as a hermit in 1965. He left the monastery in 1968 to attend a conference in Bangkok, Thailand, where he died December 10 of accidental electrocution. Merton had won acclaim for his books, poems and articles, beginning with the publication of the autobiographical SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN in 1948. In the 1960's he was known for his concern about peace, civil rights and other social issues. He also promoted ecumenism between Catholics, other Christians and non-Christians.

Merton was a prolific writer, producing 139 books and pamphlets, 104 contributions to books, and 486 pieces for magazines and newspapers in a relatively brief career.

From the description of Thomas Merton collection, 1947-1968. (University of Kentucky Libraries). WorldCat record id: 13765805

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was born in Prades, Pyrennes-Orientales in France, the son of artist Owen Heathcote and Ruth Jenkins Merton. He attended schools in France, England, and the United States, receiving his B.A. (1938) and his M.A. (1939) from Columbia University.

After a brief period teaching English at Columbia (1938-1939) and St. Bonaventure (1939-1941), Merton entered the Cistercian Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, where he was ordained as Father M. Louis in 1949. He served as Master of Scholastics (1951-1955) and Master of Novices (1955-1965) at the monastery.

Most of Merton's writing dates from his years at Gethsemani. To one of his correspondents he has suggested that he accomplished very little writing of importance prior to his conversion in 1938. He further stated that his productive years should be divided into three periods: from 1938 to his ordination in 1949, "that is up to Seven Storey Mountain, Waters of Siloe, etc, when I suddenly got to be well known, a best seller, etc,"; a middle period lasting "until somewhere in the early sixties" and ending with Disputed Questions, after which he "began to open up again to the world"; and a third period resulting in works like Seeds of Destruction, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, and Chuang Tzu . With reference to this last period, Merton believed that he was (in 1966) "evolving further with studies on Zen and a new kind of experimental creative drive in prose, poetry, satire, etc."

With respect to his reputation, Merton acknowledged "a lot of critics, particularly among Catholics...Most of them are put of by the fact that I sound at times like a Catholic Norman Mailer. I get on better with non-Catholics, particularly the younger generation, students, hippies, etc." He regretted that many readers knew him only from his earlier "ascetic, conservative, traditional, monastic" publications. In retrospect, he wished that he had never "bother[ed] to write about one third" of the inspirational books.

Thomas Merton wrote several books for New Directions, Harcourt, and Farrar, Strauss, as well as numerous articles for publications such as Commonweal, Blackfriars, Catholic Worker, Collectanea Cisterciensia, Harper's, Sewanee Review, Saturday Review, Jubilee, and other periodicals. Among his poetry titles are Thirty Poems (1944), Figures for an Apocalypse (1948), and Emblems of a Season of Fury (1963). Religion and theology titles include What is Contemplation (1948), Thoughts in Solitude (1958), and Life in Holiness (1963). He also wrote essays, collected in Disputed Questions (1960) and New Seeds of Contemplation (1962), among others. His translations include The Wisdom of the Desert (1960) and Selections from Clement of Alexandria (1963). Other well-known titles include The Seven Storey Mountain (1948), The Sign of Jonas (1953), and Breakthrough to Peace (1962).

Though he tried to shed his reputation as a "spiritual writer," he admitted in 1963 that his work, "both poetry and prose, represents a monastic view of life and implies a rather strong criticism of prevailing trends towards global war, totalism, racism, spiritual inertia, and crass materialism. This criticism is not something I want to repudiate, though I regret an occasional note of acerbity."

In the 1960s Merton was increasingly drawn into a study of the Eastern mystics and domestic issues of war and racism. He died on December 11, 1968 while attending an interfaith conference in southeast Asia.

From the guide to the Thomas Merton Papers, 1960-1968, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

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Subjects:

  • American literature--Catholic authors
  • Christian life--Catholic authors
  • Monks--Correspondence
  • Monasteries--History--Sources
  • Publishers and publishing--Correspondence
  • Monks
  • Spirituality
  • Catholics
  • Literature--American Poetry
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975--Religious aspects
  • Poets, American
  • College yearbooks
  • Authors, American--20th century
  • American literature--20th century
  • War--Religious aspects--Christianity
  • Contemplation
  • Pacifism--Religious aspects--History--Sources
  • Monasticism and religious orders
  • Authors and publishers--History--20th century--Sources
  • Authors, American--20th century--Manuscripts
  • Religion and philosophy
  • Monasticism and religious orders--History--Sources
  • Music--Manuscripts--Facsimiles
  • Monasticism and religious life
  • Poets, American--20th century
  • Authors, American
  • Catholic authors--20th century
  • Peace movements--History--20th century--Sources
  • Spiritual life--Catholic Church
  • American poetry--20th century
  • Church and clergy
  • Religious literature
  • Religious poetry

Occupations:

  • Authors
  • Monks
  • Clergy
  • Poets
  • Authors, American
  • Poets, American

Places:

  • Kentucky--Trappist (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)