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Entering the Silence: Becoming a Monk and a Writer

May 15, 2007

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When Thomas Merton retreated from the civilized mainstream to enter the Trappist Monastery at Gethsemani, an unknowing observer might view his spiritual struggle as ending, becoming completely lost in the routine of monastic life, its repetition and overt acceptance of spiritual discipline. The battle against personal desire versus group obedience to higher powers beyond flesh and blood one would assume to have been a forgone conclusion. Merton brilliantly shows us, however, that within the souls of men the battle still rages. And it is how he dealt with that struggle that makes this book so marvelous. His caring and loving approach to life and others is tempered with griping about the choir’s proficiency, the demands of writing within the monastic framework, the lack of understanding by superiors and comrades in spiritual arms concerning his shifting spiritual needs, for solitude, quiet and letting God sort things out for him, vice pushing his own, highly tempered will into the whirling mixture that made up this complex, brilliant man. The writing is first rate, his descriptions of the surrounding countryside are marvelously genuine as is his analyis of himself and his motives. (like to move onto a more strict, Carthusian order to reach the apotheosis of perfect contemplation). This book is a good building block for future reading of this author and I would recommend reading the entire biography/journals before even wandering into the not so clearly written efforts of Merton’s theological books. Many thanks to the publisher for finally making such great writing available!!

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