Home  >  Thomas Merton and the Monastic Vision
Share |
Thomas Merton and the Monastic Vision
POD; Published: 10/11/1999
ISBN: 978-0-8028-0222-4
Price: $ 23.50
240 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
Add To Cart
Though the outlines of Thomas Merton's life are generally known to his many readers, the details of his spiritual development are less familiar. Taking up where Merton's own Seven Storey Mountain ends, this penetrating biography by Lawrence Cunningham explores Merton's monastic life and his subsequent growth into a modern-day spiritual master.

Cunningham shows that Merton's prolific writings and his continuing influence can only be understood against the background of his contemplative experience as a Trappist monk. "If one does not understand Merton as a monk," writes Cunningham, "one does not understand Merton at all."

Following the trajectory of Merton's life, starting from his entrance into the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, in 1941, Cunningham highlights the development of Merton's monastic life against the cultural background of the American experience and the vast upheavals in the Roman Catholic Church. This unique approach clearly reveals the paradox of Merton's life. Here was a person deeply involved in the cultural struggles of his day despite having made a conscious decision to draw away from the world in silence and solitude. With both pen and voice, Merton construed to face the most seething issues of the century, including the antiwar and civil-rights movements. Equally intriguing was Merton's dialogue with Zen Buddhism, a figurative and literal journey to the East that ended with his death in Bangkok in 1968.

Adding to the interest of this balanced and reliable biography is a foreword by Father Timothy Kelly, the current abbot of the Abbey of Gethsemani, who was himself a novice under Merton.
Choice Outstanding Academic Titles (2000)
American Benedictine Review
"While there is a plethora of books and articles about Merton, I would recommend this one as an excellent companion piece to help one gain a better understanding of the complexities and circumstances of Merton's own works. . . I highly recommend this book to readers new to Merton. . . But old fans, too, will gain some fresh insights into the monk author, who was definitely a man who encapsulated the chaos, grandeur, and God-quest of his times."
Theological Studies
"In this well written study, Cunningham begins with a recap of Thomas Merton's famous autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain (1948). He manages to hold the attention of the proficient Merton scholar, as well as those who have read only one or two of Merton's published works. . . The author's assessment of Merton's individual works is enlightening as well as refreshing. . . A solid, well researched study of the many-faceted Cistercian monk."
"Of the many people who have written studies of Merton, few have understood Merton so well or been better able to describe his work with such economy and insight. For those who have begun reading Merton and who know the outlines of his life story, Monastic Vision takes the reader to a deeper level of understanding and appreciation. I found it hard to put down."
The Mennonite
"One of the better recent books on Merton is Thomas Merton & the Monastic Vision by Lawrence S. Cunningham. While many try to make Merton in their own image or focus on him as a writer, poet, prophet or scholar, Cunningham writes that 'one simply cannot understand Thomas Merton if one does not understand him as a monk.' . . . Cunningham writes in a clear style and gets to the heart of what Merton sought as a monk, a deeper relationship with God."
"The most famous monk of the 20th century spawned an industry of biographical works: several, good; some, whimsical; others, dreadful. Cunningham's is among the best. One understands Merton as a monk or not at all, and that is how Cunningham frames the book. Merton kept careful journals, carried on extensive correspondence (with everyone) and published widely. Cunningham is thoroughly conversant with the entire written record and makes good use of it throughout, without becoming pedantic. . . This book is a readable, reliable start to the reading of Merton himself. Recommended for general readers and for all academic levels."
The Tablet (U.K.)
"Professor Cunningham's new biography is a comprehensive and masterly study of Merton's writings and the development of his thought. It stands as the most rounded and sophisticated intellectual biography of Merton now available. On every page, it invites the reader to engage seriously with the burning intensity of Merton's restless search for truth. His presentation of the influences on Merton's mind is one of the most striking and valuable features of this book. . . The 15-page bibliography is itself a brilliant and invaluable analytical essay on both Merton's own work and the books about him."
Catholic Historical Review
"Cunningham writes with an ease of style that draws readers into his reflections. There is a crisp conciseness to his writing: words used with care and never on overload. Thomas Merton and the Monastic Vision is a book I can recommend unhesitatingly and enthusiastically. Of the many Merton books appearing so frequently these days, this must surely be rated among the best."