Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Martin On Margie And Merton

In a new Thomas Merton biography, “Beneath the Mask of Holiness,” author Mark Shaw paints a portrait of the monk as a tormented,
“imposter of sorts,” who reluctantly played the part of the happy, contemplative guru. In reality, Shaw argues, Merton was haunted by his youthful indiscretions with women—including reportedly, the fathering of a child out of wedlock—and the chasm between his private past and public persona.
If Merton was truly unhappy with being a “poster-boy” for Catholic contemplative life, as Shaw asserts, he could have left Gethsemani at any time, said the Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit weekly magazine America who has written several essays on Merton.......

“Clearly, if he was so miserable, he would have left the monastery and taken up with Margie,” Martin said. Merton’s decision to remain a monk puts the lie to Shaw’s theory, according to Martin and others.

For sure, Merton was not the typical monk. He butted heads with superiors, received a steady stream of visitors, made a deep study of Zen Buddhism, and occasionally left the abbey to down a few bourbons. Still, Merton’s evident humanity does not make him any less holy, said Martin.

“Especially with Merton, one sees both the sins and the sanctity,” Martin said. “And I wonder if this isn’t something like the way God sees us.”

Link (here) to the full piece on Thomas Merton


Maria said...

I think the case can be made that Merton was a figment of his own imagination. He was unstable.

Gunter Weltschmerz said...

Finally, a Merton biography that takes a more critical approach to a man, who was like all of us a product of his time and psychological history. I have immense respect for Merton as a writer, one of the best that has ever been labeled with the Catholic stigma, (the “Mountain” has achieved the ranks of “classic” with major publishers), and he was instrumental in my own conversion. Still I find the adulation often accorded to him trying, for example, when I made a retreat at the Abbey of Genesse, I found their literally larger than life painting of Merton in the dining area, déclassé – exactly the kind of thing Merton himself I hazard to say, would have detested. Regarding his leaving Gesthemane, and I wonder if any writer dares touch on this: there are apocryphal stories among the Trappists that his death was not accidental. One of my sources for this was the former director of The Institute for Formative Spirituality at Duquesne University, a former Trappist, who also told me that a plethora of drugs were found in his possession at the time of his death(so the story circulated among the monks.

Anonymous said...

This post doesn't make any sense. Plus, what does Merton have to do with Liberation Theology? Plus, the title of your blog is outrageously offensive. Who made you judge of people's goodness?

Maria said...

The Holy Mother Church has provide us with an objective criteria of goodness and evil.