Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Thomas Merton: Prophet of Renewal

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Thomas Merton: Prophet of Renewal

Article excerpt

Thomas Merton: Prophet of Renewal. By John Eudes Bamberger, OCSO. (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications. 2005. Pp. xii, 132.)

A wise person once said: "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." A basic theme of Merton: Prophet of Renewal is the timeliness of Merlon's appearance on the monastic and ecclesial scene in the mid-twentieth century. It was a providential moment in the history of the Church and of the Cistercian Order, marking the end of a four-hundred-year era dominated by the spirit and theology of the Council of Trent with its tendency toward rigidity, legalism, clericalism, and defensiveness. It ushered in a new era: that of the second Vatican Council. The Council witnessed a development in the life of the Church unparaEeled in modern history. It was a pastoral Council seeking to update the Church and make the Gospel of Jesus Christ once again an influential force in a world that seemed to be leaving it behind. Thomas Merton embraced the Council wholeheartedly and, in his concern to see its directives implemented, placed at the service of his monastic Order and the Church his considerable gifts as a writer and a spiritual guide. His wisdom and insights helped many people (maybe more lay people than monks?) to grasp the crucial importance of the renovation envisioned by the Council: new ways of thinking and speaking about Christian Faith and the way we live it.

The eight chapters of this book represent the published version of eight conferences that Dom John Eudes gave to a Cistercian monastery in France in the late summer of 2000. The book leaves no doubt of the strong conviction Merton had that he was caEed by God to the prophetic role. His mission was to open up "new horizons for an old journey," as he expressed it in No Man Is An Island. It was an "old journey," for it respected the past, but it also searched for new horizons that would make that past grow and mature through living dialogue with the issues and concerns of contemporary life.

While written for monks, this is a book that reaches far beyond a monastic audience. Dom John Eudes makes clear that Merlon's reflection on renewal of monaslic life spills over into an understanding of lhe renewal lhal is needed in lhe Church. …

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