What Thomas Merton Says to Young People

by Sister Julie Ann on April 13, 2010

“There is no saint in the Church whom I admire more than St. Francis.” Thomas Merton, considering himself  in some heart fashion a son of St. Francis, writes this sentiment to special friend, Anthony L. Bannon in The Road to Joy, a collection of letters to new and old friends edited by Robert E. Daggy.

Catholic Monk Thomas Merton

Catholic Monk Thomas Merton

Catholic Monk Thomas Merton also wrote letters to young people. 

In fact, this  extraordinary manuscript includes a whole chapter on the Catholic monk’s correspondence with friends younger than himself. Here is profoundly sensitive sharing.

Thomas Merton writes to inquisitive Mario Falsina:

“My idea of the world: first of all the world as God’s good creation. I have the good fortune to live in close contact with nature, how should I not love this world, and love it with passion? I understand the joy of St. Francis and the creatures!”

When Mario further asked questions, Merton responds that he will send mimeographed notes that will be useful in writing a thesis and responds:

“Besides Dante, what other Italian writers have influenced or impressed me? Well, among the poets one of the first that springs to my mind is Jacopone da Todi and of course St. Francis was one of the greatest Italian poets.”

To Susan interested in Thomas’ life as a hermit:

“I suggest that you sometimes be quiet and think how good a thing it is that you are loved by God who is infinite and who wants you to be supremely happy and who in fact is going to make you supremely happy. Isn’t that something? It is, my dear, and let us keep praying that it will work out like that for everybody.”

When asked for advice from John, a young aspiring writer, this hermit at the heart of things wrote:

  1. “Never write down to anyone.
  2. Never write simply what you think they want.
  3. Write rather what is deepest in your own heart and what you know-as a writer has an instinct by which to know this-is also deep in theirs. In other words, write to elucidate problems that are common and urgent.
  4. Write only after you have thoroughly learned what you want to say-but this has to be qualified. By all means practice…”

3 thoughts on “What Thomas Merton Says to Young People”

  1. I so appreciate Merton's advice about writing what is “deepest in your own heart and not simply what you think they want…”
    I have discovered in writing on this blog, how important it is to be ready to share what is true and good and holy, no matter how others may or may not interpret it. Our world needs to experience the goodness of God in the words we speak and write, in the people we meet, in the way we live. This was the constant goal of St. Francis. This is one of the main purposes of this blog! My hope is that others will feel free to also share in this conversation!

  2. sisterannemarielom says:

    “…you are loved by God who is infinite and who wants you to be supremely happy.” I love this line. My clients in spiritual direction are often surprised that God deeply desires our happiness. Once we have the image of a loving God who deeply cares for us, our prayer changes, our life changes, our relationships change and we are a “new creature”!

  3. Merton can be very entertaining, as well as wise in his advice. I like his response to a Tony who asked him about Kentucky music: “You are the first person who ever picked me out as an authority on music. I cannot even play a mouth organ properly, though I can play bongo drums, I admit that. All I know is that I like Country Music when I hear it, which is rarely.”

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