Monday, August 6, 2018

Musings on Merton: The True Self Encounters New Seeds of Contemplation

            I first heard of Thomas Merton (1911-1968) when I was in seminary. That was over thirty five years ago. I did not hear the name uttered by a seminary professor in a classroom lecture but by a fellow student during a casual conversation. It took me thirty years before I started reading Merton and learned firsthand why Merton’s writings have meant so much to so many.
From new seeds, new gardens grow.
            I was already versed in contemplative prayer and considered myself somewhat of a mystic before I started reading Merton. When I learned that a Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton group was meeting at the nearby St. Joseph Retreat Center, I signed up. I read Merton’s spiritual autobiography, The Seven Story Mountain, to prepare myself for participating in that group. Published in 1948 when Merton was thirty-seven years, The Seven Story Mountain is probably Merton’s best known work and the entry point for many who are drawn to Merton’s writings.
            Little did I know when I signed up to participate in that Bridges that a little over four years later I would be enrolled in Pittsburgh Theological Seminary’s Spiritual Formation Certificate Program and attending an intensive Sunday evening through Wednesday noon  Spiritual Formation Certificate Program course entitled “Thomas Merton and the Journey to True Self.”
            I was thrilled to learn, near the conclusion of the course, that one of the two options for the final assignment was to write a series of four 600-700 word blog posts introducing readers to four themes from Merton’s New Seeds ofContemplation, one of the two books by Merton we were required to read prior to attending the class. The other book we were required to read for class, and spent the most time discussion in class, was Merton’s The New Man.
            This post serves as an introduction to the four posts I wrote for my final assignment. I will post one a day the following four days. I hope you enjoy the four posts that follow and find them spiritually enlightening and meaningful.
               Here are the links to the four posts in the series, in order:
               Musings on Merton: What is Contemplation? 
              Musings on Merton: The True Self and False Self 
              Musings on Merton: Faith and Wisdom
              Musings on Merton: Techniques Associated with Contemplation 

No comments: