Saturday, December 10, 2011

On old flame flickering

I used to be a great fan of Thomas Merton, certainly the most famous monk of the 20th century in Catholic circles. Especially in times when community life in my religious order felt chaotic --and for many years after the Council it was-- I would calm my desire for order by reading Merton. In his later years, he paradoxically combined a move to a hermitage on the monastery grounds with an increased public presence. It eventually led to him travelling to a Christian-Buddhist monastic conference in Bangkok, where he stepped on a bad wire in his room and was electrocuted. That was 1968.

In my transmogriphying from being a liberal with classical sympathies to an outright conservative with personal paradoxes, I found a lot of his later writings, especially on race and war, tedious and moralizing. The other day I found a brief memoir by one of his former monk-students, now an Orthodox priest, who combined high praise for Merton with a recognition of his human flaws. He also noted that for a man of intense curiosity, when it came to social issues, he swallowed all the liberal assumptions, without ever seeming to question any of them.

Elsewhere, I found an atheist criticizing the Church of England for breaking from its traditional concern with faith and redemption, substituting another equally non-rational faith in  "collective social responsibility combined with sentimental humanism."

There's a lot of that going around.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...