“[Thomas] Merton’s writings are having an impact in a variety of locations and among diverse populations. There are currently 43 local chapters of the Merton Society and more continue to spring up, especially in Europe. But perhaps the most unexpected chapter is the one in the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Shirley, Mass. Founded in 2013 by the retired educator and Merton enthusiast John Collins, the chapter is an outgrowth of a talk he gave about Merton at the inmates’ request. In an interview with The National Catholic Reporter, several of the incarcerated men—some who have been in prison for decades—spoke about the significance of reading Merton. Joseph Labriola recalled being in solitary confinement, discovering a copy of Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation in his cell and reading out his cell’s window to other convicts. One prisoner, Timothy Muise, said that the Merton group ‘affords men the opportunity to change, to re-evaluate their life in God’s light.’”— Daniel P. Horan, “Merton (Still) Matters: How the Trappist Monk and Author Speaks to Millennials,” America, Jan. 19-26, 2015
Thomas Merton, author of one of the great spiritual memoirs, The Seven-Storey Mountain, would have been 100 today. I have written several prior posts on him, including on his vivid memories of his (and my) alma mater, Columbia University; his relationship to the series Mad Men, and the controversial nature of his death in 1968.