THE SPRINGS OF CONTEMPLATION: A Retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani by Thomas Merton

THE SPRINGS OF CONTEMPLATION: A Retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani

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More of Merton's spirituality for the modern age, here in the form of talks given to nuns on retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. In December 1967 and May 1968, a small group of contemplative sisters met with Merton--or Father Louis, as he was known in religious life--to discuss the purpose of their vocations, the state of the world, the future of the Church, and the nature of prayer and contemplation. It was a time of tremendous uncertainty within the Church, when both the incidentals and the foundations of Catholicism had come under close internal scrutiny, and the very existence of religious life itself seemed threatened: Within a few years, thousands of monks and nuns were to repudiate their vows and return to secular life, and many congregations were to vanish entirely. This atmosphere of confusion is a strong presence in the talks and conversations that comprise this work, in which Merton and the sisters keep coming back to the question of ""What would you do if organized religious life were to disappear?"" Most of Merton's contributions, it must be said, sound pretty dated after 25 years--his excitement over Zen, his hopes that ""integration"" will help resolve ""the Negro question,"" his allusions to Marcuse and McLuhan--but he has some good things to say, especially on the organization of modern society (""Contemplative Life as a Prophetic Vocation"") and the processes of prayer (""Asceticism and Results""). HIS pronouncements concerning the nascent influence of feminism upon the Church (""The Feminine Mystique"") are sadly facile, however, and highlight one of Merton's great shortcomings as a thinker: his eagerness to pontificate upon unfamiliar themes. The sisters, oddly enough, seem even less sure of themselves here, and in their questions throughout sound more like Merton's straight-men than his colleagues. Pretty slim pickings: a few nice bits sunk in a sea of platitudes.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"