Merton on Peace - Introduction

One of my classes here at CTU is called "Spirituality, Liturgy and the Quest for Justice."  Essentially we are reading the writings of different folks with a particular lens on how spirituality and/or liturgy converge with the quest for social justice.  Today's session was focused on Thomas Merton.  I had the opportunity to read Thomas Merton on Peace, a collection of his speeches, articles, book chapters, and other various pieces of writing on peace and nonviolence edited by Gordon Zahn.  Not only did I have the opportunity to read the book, I had the honor of synthesizing what I read and give a presentation for my classmates.

This was especially meaningful to me given the charism and spirituality of peace of my own religious community, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, and our Chapter Act to grow in nonviolence.  Part of our Chapter commitment, in fact, is to study the history and people of nonviolence.  Lovely how my coursework and community life is converging!

Given the popularity and resonance people have with Merton, I thought I'd share a few bits of Merton's thoughts on peace and nonviolence over the next few days.

I'd like to start with this quote by Gordon Zahn from the Introduction:

The important point, of course, is not that he was, as we so often like to put it, ‘ahead of his time.’ Rather, it is that he, so much more than others, was so truly in tune with his time, so alert to what was wrong at the precise moment, and what had to be done then to correct that wrong  if we were to escape the price for failing to do so.  Nowhere is this perception of the hour and its urgent needs more impressive than his writings on war and peace.

From the monastery of Gesthamani, Merton had contemplative eyes on the world.  In the words of his acceptance of the Pax Medal in 1963:

A monastery is not a snail’s shell, nor is religious faith a kind of spiritual fallout shelter into which one can plunge to escape the criminal realities of an apocalyptic age.

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