Wednesday, July 7, 2010

At Thomas Merton's Hermitage

 photo by Thomas Merton

This is too good not to share.

Brian has sent a link to an article in Image Magazine, "At Thomas Merton's Hermitage".  Franciscan priest, Fr. Murray Bodo, spends 6 days in the spring of 1995 at Merton's hermitage at Gethsemani.  The recounting of his contemplative explorations in Merton's space is profoundly insightful for those who seek a more silent and solitary balance to contemporary living and who like Merton lore. 

For example, I found it intriguing to see what Merton had on his bookshelf as he left for Asia:

On the table rest a few books I’ve pulled off the shelf from the original collection Merton had here when he left for the Far East in 1968: The Portable Thoreau, The Mirror of Simple Souls by an unknown French mystic of the thirteenth century, Early Fathers from the Philokalia, Western Mysticism, The Mediaeval Mystics of England, The Flight from God by Max Picard, The Ancrene Riwle, The Book of the Poor in Spirit by a Friend of God (fourteenth century), A Guide to Rhineland Mysticism, A Treasury of Russian Spirituality, The Teaching of SS. Augustine, Gregory, and Bernard.
Or, the way the way that time alone awakens one to the simple clarity of just being alive:

"... I putter about the hermitage, make the bed, wash the breakfast dishes, sweep the porch; and something begins to order itself inside me as I order my external world. The ordering and puttering become a kind of prayer, a way of attending to the human which is a way of attending to the divine, charged as we are and the world is with the presence of God.

Domestic chores also become simply something to do. One cannot pray and meditate unendingly. There is a rhythm to life lived anywhere that calms the heart if we surrender to the necessities of the world around us and the world within."

It's just an excellent article and I'm honored to add it to this eclectic collection of contemplative writing.  This is a really good find.  Thanks, Brian!


  1. I take heart at what Fr. Bodo writes abuot puttering about. It describes my days, but I don't feel empty. It gives me some hope in the ways of God. I will read the entire article. Thanks for sharing this bit.

    I like Merton's interest in the early mystics -- Marguerite Porete (that unknown French one) and the Medieval and the Rheinland mystics.

  2. I'm slightly disappointed he didn't have any of his own books on hand, or maybe he did and they didn't get pulled down. Still I experienced a bit of a thrill knowing what he was reading at the time.

    There's something about Augustine, Granddaddy of the Church, who finds his way to the most unlikely of terminal bookshelves. So out of fashion these days- yet so relevant, as the best always are.

  3. it occurs to me: fr. bodo (a pleasant name) is too hard on himself, chiding himself for bringing his Rilke for his stay. On one of the Creedence Cassettes/CDs Merton lectures on Rilke and mysticism. As I remember it, he was trying to impress on the novices Rilke's grasp of the concrete, here and now, depth of the experience of an object. Also, he queried them about why Rilke's angels/beauty are terrifying. Not so far off the mark from Merton's bookshelf.

  4. I gotta read that Bodo article again before I comment ...


From Dorothy Day’s editorial in the Catholic Worker on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.