Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Encounters with Merton (reviewed November 2007)
Henri J.M. Nouwen, Encounters with Merton (1972)[*****]. About seven years ago, I gobbled up a lot of Thomas Merton’s memoirs and diaries during a particularly difficult time in my life. Merton was a convert to Catholicism; a Trappist monk at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky; a contemplative mystic; a prolific writer; an insightful social critic, especially of war and racism; and was, at the end of his life, fascinated with Zen Buddhism. I think of him a little as my patron saint, my intercessor, someone I feel weirdly close to (weirdly, given that I have really only scratched the surface of his writing, and I was three years old when he died). I have not read Nouwen, a Dutch Catholic priest, but have thought I would like to (I am Dutch; and while I am a member of a Protestant church, that’s a little bit by accident, and more and more I think of myself as a Protestant who practices Catholicism, something which no doubt is heresy to both traditions, but there you have it). So when I saw this little book about Merton by Nouwen, I thought it was just the thing, and it was. I’m inspired to re-read Merton, and to read more of Nouwen. If you love Merton as I do, and want a little refresher, this is a great book. If you don’t know Merton, but would like an introduction, this is a great place to start.