Louis versus Thomas Part 1

I have always been moved by the writings of Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk whose consecration name was ‘Mary Louis.’  As his autobiography the Seven Story Mountain depicts, he struggled through the death of his parents and grandparents, as well as through years of rebellion and sin before he was called by God to the the Gethsemani Trappist monastery in Kentucky.  There, he wrote many profound books on the spiritual life and found his heart’s true ‘home.’ 

Yet the struggles with desire did not end in the monastery.  At age 51, after being hospitalized with back problems, he met and fell in love with a nurse who he had a several month relationship with–ultimately physically intimate.  Certainly none of this is uncommon or even all that surprising.  Still, though he ended the relationship for the sake of his vows, did it taint his legacy?  Is there something disingenuous about not  persevering through to the end?

Part of me thinks so.  If he was so called to one thing, why did he turn to another so deeply? 

The other part of me wonders what his life and writings would have looked like had he traded the vows to monastic life for the vows of marriage.  Certainly most of us are called to the latter, though I am comforted in knowing that in our time of sexual freedom (more what I would call ‘laxity’), there are men and women out there still called to a life of celibacy.

2 thoughts on “Louis versus Thomas Part 1

  1. …did it taint his legacy? Is there something disingenuous about not persevering through to the end?

    Curious questions. It makes me think of King David. He was not only an adulterer but a murderer as well. Yet even after his death God said of him, “…you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes.” (1Kings 14:8, NIV) Was David’s legacy tainted (in God’s eyes)? I have always been fascinated by the fact that David and Bathsheba were included in the lineage of Jesus according to Matthew’s Gospel.

    As to the second question: disingenuous to who (or would that be to whom)? Louis ended the relationship. Do we know Louis’ heart? No. But God does. 2 Samuel 14:14 says in part, “But God does not take away life; instead [H]e devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from [H]im.” (NIV)

    I guess it begs the question, persevering from which starting point? The end is the end, but from which point is the standard for the start? If it is for me, the point I first came to Jesus – then I am lost for I am a sinner. If it is from the point of grace received for my repentance because His mercies are new every day – then praised be to God for I have salvation.

    Called to one thing but turned to another – the product of a fallen world. Thank you heavenly Father for Jesus and redemption!

    But, of course, you know these things. Thank you for making me think.

  2. We may be disappointed, in that our heroes fall before us, but it strangely gives me hope that even the most holy, and consecrated men of God are “men like us.”

    Not glad that he fell, but glad that God extends His Spirit to human flesh, and will also pick us up, set our feet on a firm road, wash us clean, and then lead us on.

    We walk a glorious path between heaven and hell, with shield on one hand, and sword in the other.

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