The following is from Jonathan Montaldo, promoter of the Merton legacy and teacher of the monastic contemplative tradition. See MONKSWORK.
Paul Evdokimov, the eastern orthodox theologian, has written that “A saint is striking because of a countenance unique in the world, because of a light that is always ultimately personal. He or She has never been seen before.” 1
Thomas Merton’s countenance, too, has never been seen before and the light from his spiritual legacy for us is ultimately personal. He will have no successors.
He wrote in his journal after a formal “Day of Recollection” on the Feast of the Guardian Angels, October 2, 1958:
“My vocation and task in this world is to keep alive all that is usefully individual and personal to me, to be a ‘contemplative’ in the full sense and to share it with others, to remain as a witness to the nobility of the private person and [the private person’s] primacy over the group.” 2
Thomas Merton’s literary vocation to love the world by speaking out to it courageously, his monastic vocation to listen intently as the world spoke back, and his whole life’s urgency to live in and for Truth, is his enduring legacy. Those who read his words with respect will honor him, now in their own time, by enacting their own vocations to “fearless speech” and by living out their own “courage for truth”. Continuing our own inner journeys toward spiritual liberty is more important than any bows we make to the dead spiritual master. 3
Honoring Thomas Merton’s compassionate transparency demands that we, who claim to hear his voice, should stand on our own feet, find the pitch of our true voices, open our lips, and sing. 4
[JM, England, 2012]]
1. Paul Evdokimov Woman and the Salvation of the World. Anthony P. Gytheiel, translator (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1994: 47-48.
2. A Search for Solitude: 221.
3. Paraphrasing a remark of Robert Cole’s in reflecting on his mentor Eric Erickson.
4. "The sense of the sacred, of the 'numinous' without which there can hardly be any real or living religion, depends entirely on our ability to transcend our own human signs, to penetrate them and pass beyond their manifest intelligibility into the darkness of mystery, to grasp the reality they can suggest but never fully contain. The mere repetition of consecrated formulas is not, therefore, holiness itself. But words are the only normal keys by which we can unlock, for one another, the doors of the sanctuary and direct one another into the Holy of Holies where each of us must enter the sacred darkness in love and in fear, to find the Lord alone.” Thomas Merton The New Man: 88