As a daughter of St. Bonaventure forever, I have special fondness for Thomas Merton. We didn’t study Merton when I was a student there, but we heard about him. From 1940 to 1941 he taught English at Bonas old St. Bonas while he was deciphering his own vocation. As current students, we knew him as some mystical theological man. The clearing in one of the far hills was named “Merton’s Heart” as local legend had it that Thomas would hike up there to think. Nature, the legend goes, cleared out in a shape of a heart in homage to his wisdom and love.
I didn’t start to read Thomas Merton until after my college graduation. His most well-known work is his autobiography “The Seven Story Mountain” but that, quite frankly, a difficult read. Instead, I prefer some of his journals, collections of his writings and the book “No Man is An Island.” While his is specifically a Roman Catholic viewpoint (he was a Trappist monk) his work is infused with Eastern traditions as well (he died in Bangkok while there for an East-West monastic dialogue in 1968). He was a staunch advocate for peace. He wrote brilliantly about solitude and nature always with a true sense of compassion and wisdom.
His compassion and wisdom encourage us to be ourselves fearlessly, to let our actions be guided by who we are, not what we fear we are lacking.