This volume in the "Modern Spiritual Masters Series" by Orbis Books is edited by Christine M. Bochen, professor of religious studies at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York. She is familiar with the subject having edited The Courage of Truth, one volume of Merton's collected letters, and Learning to Love, the sixth volume of his journals.
"In each age, there are people to whom we turn for lessons in how to live more truly and more deeply. They are the guides and gurus, the prophets and saints whose spiritual journeys illumine ours," writes Bochen in the preface. Thomas Merton (1915 - 1968), a Trappist monk and author, is "a spiritual master" to millions of people around the world. In this sterling collection of selections from his prose and poetry, letters and journals, books and talks, the editor opens our eyes afresh to the multiple talents of this Christian contemplative monk, social critic, spiritual advisor, passionate peacemaker, and exemplar of the faith.
Bochen divides the paperback into three thematic sections: a call to contemplation, a call to compassion, and a call to unity. Much of what is gathered here has a very contemporary tang to it. Take for instance this observation by Merton: "When I pray for peace, I pray not only that the enemies of my country may cease to want war, but above all that my own country will cease to do the things that make war inevitable." Yes, and how about the following passage on the spiritual practice of unity: "If I affirm myself as Catholic merely by denying all that is Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., in the end I will find that there is not much left for me to affirm as a Catholic and certainly no breath of the Spirit with which to affirm it."
To drink once again from the deep wells of Merton's writings is to be refreshed. I also marvel at the breadth and depth of his observations on the mystical adventure of Christianity.