Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Mary Luke Tobin connection

Loretto Sr. Mary Luke Tobin (1908-2006) - affectionately known as "Luke" - was Merton's friend and neighbor.

They first met in October of 1960 when Merton brought Dan Walsh to the Loretto Motherhouse (12 miles from Gethsemane) to arrange a series of classes by Dan for the sisters.  Luke and Merton took to each other right away.   Merton described Sr. Luke as "energetic, bright, capable, warm, a wonderful person".  Luke's response to Merton was equally positive: "delightfully simple, very human and very affable".

Merton and Luke were similar in their simple and direct approach to people and their intent pursuit of their vocation.  Luke was almost 7 years older than Merton.  They were intellectually equal and spiritually in sympathy with each other.   Both were profoundly interested and involved in peace, justice and racism and stimulated each other in their efforts.

From 1960 until Merton's death in 1968, Merton and Luke met several times, with Merton visiting Loretto to give talks and conferences for the sisters and Sr. Luke taking part in conferences at Gethsemane.  They also met for many private discussions.

Sr. Luke was one of only 15 women invited to the 2nd Vatican Council, and one of only three women - representing half the Catholic world's faithful - allowed on the planning commissions for documents on the church in the modern world and on the laity.

Luke was not a "follower" of Merton, but a contemporary and friend.  Luke and Merton shared with each other thoughts on prayer and religious life, and they exchanged ideas and advice.   After Merton died in 1969, Sr. Luke drew upon Merton's writings and her recollections of her personal contacts with him for the material for her frequent lectures and retreats.

"Hidden in the Same Mystery - Thomas Merton and Loretto" contains the transcription of a few of these talks.  The talks are sometimes rambling and disorganized, but contain gems of insight about prayer that I find unique.  I would like to explore some of these insights here on louie in the days ahead.

Sr. Luke links:
America Magazine - "Women in the Church since Vatican II", by Mary Luke Tobin, November 1, 1986
NCR Obituary, Sr. Mary Luke Tobin, August 25, 2006
Colorado Women's Hall of Fame
"Opening Church Door" - Obituary in America magazine, September 2006

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