Former President Clinton, in his eulogy for John Lewis at the funeral yesterday, mentioned that Lewis had Merton's autobiography (The Seven Storey Mountain) with him, but apparently it was another Merton book, New Seeds of Contemplation.
Spring 2020 newsletter of the International Thomas Merton Society
Merton at the Selma March
March 7, 2020 marks the fifty-fifth anniversary of the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, a key turning point in the struggle for civil rights for African Americans. A little-known detail about that event was that Thomas Merton was present both in spirit and in word. Leading the march was 25-year-old John Lewis, chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), who was expecting to be arrested for participating in this “illegal” demonstration and came prepared for jail, with a backpack containing a toothbrush and toothpaste, an apple and an orange, and two books to read while incarcerated, one of which was Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation. ...
At the October 2019 wake at the U.S. Capitol for another African American congressman and civil rights icon, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley encountered Rep. Lewis. Recalling having been told by Lewis on a previous occasion about New Seeds in his backpack, and “Remembering our affinity for Merton, I ask the congressman, ‘What do you think Thomas Merton would say to us as Americans today if he were alive?’ After only a brief moment of reflection, he looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘“Be faithful.” He would say, “Be faithful.”’ And so it is,” O’Malley concludes: “the clock ticks on, and the reputations of some men soar even as their abilities vanish before our eyes. But some things never die. Some ideas refuse to be buried. Justice. Dignity. Generational progress. The truth that we are all in this together” – ideals shared by the civil rights leader and the monk whose printed words accompanied him on that historic day fifty-five years ago, and whose spirit, Lewis believes, continues to summon Americans to be faithful to their truest principles and their best selves.
HT: Jim Forest & Patrick O'Connell