Trappists, Working by Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton 1915-1968

Thomas Merton was born in Prades, France and grew up in Europe. He attended Columbia University where he wrote his graduate thesis on William Blake. Influenced by the biography of the priest/poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, Merton turned to the Roman Catholic Church. In 1941 he joined the Trappist community in Kentucky. There he spent the rest of his life, publishing books at a rate of more than one per year. An explorer in the life of the spirit and a guide to many, Merton wrote about Buddhism and Taoism and Native American spirituality. He encouraged Christians to learn from other faiths and from the world around them, even from hours of outdoor work. He influenced young people as they protested the war in Viet Nam.  In 1966 Merton underwent back surgery. As he recovered in a Louisville hospital he fell in love with Margie Smith, a student nurse. Merton died in a hotel room in Thailand–electrocuted in the bathtub by a cord from a fan–where he was attending a conference of Christian and non-Christian contemplatives.

Trappists, Working

Now all our saws sing holy sonnets in this world of timber
Where oaks go off like guns, and fall like cataracts,
Pouring their roar into the wood’s green well.

Walk to us, Jesus, through the walls of the trees,
And find us still adorers in these airy churches,
Singing our other Office with our saws and axes.
Still teach Your children in the busy forest,
And let some little sunlight reach us, in our mental shades and leafy studies.

When time has turned the country white with grain
And filled our regions with the thrashing sun,
Walk to us, Jesus, through the walls of wheat
When our two tractors come to cut them down:
Sow some light winds upon the acres of our spirit,
And cool the regions where our prayers are reapers,
And slake us, Heaven, with your living rivers.

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