THE SCHOOL OF CHARITY: The Letters of Thomas Merton on Religious Renewal and Spiritual Direction by Thomas Merton

THE SCHOOL OF CHARITY: The Letters of Thomas Merton on Religious Renewal and Spiritual Direction

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The third volume in a projected five-volume series of letters by the late (d. 1968) Roman Catholic monk (The Road to Joy, 1989; The Hidden Ground of Love, 1985). This time around, the editor--a monk at the same Cistercian monastery where Merton spent three decades--has chosen letters focusing on monastic spirituality. While some of the letter recipients are famous (philosopher Etienne Gilson, theologian Hans Urs van Balthazar), most are monks or nuns who wrote to Merton (or to whom he wrote) asking for advice, scholarly or personal. Editor Hart sensibly divides the letters into three chronological sections. ""The Early Monastic Years"" covers 1941 through 1959, and includes a few letters Merton wrote before entering the monastery, as well as countless others that reveal deep anxieties about monastic obedience, church censorship, and unsought fame. ""The Middle Formative Years"" covers 1960 through 1964; here the focus veers toward ecumenical relations with other religions, especially Buddhism. ""The Later Solitary Years,"" stretching from 1965 to 1968, contains letters that display Merton's great joy in his forest hermitage, concluding with the letters he wrote from Asia just before his death. From first to last, the correspondence is brilliant, benign, glittering with wit. One gets the sense of a man of profound integrity --so committed to religious values of poverty, obedience, and humility and so disdainful of wealth and fame that when he hears that ""the New Yorker wants to do a profile of me,"" he tells them ""politely to go to hell."" A double treasure, valuable both for its revelations about an exceptional American intellectual and for its bounty of spiritual wisdom.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux