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Merton In California

Merton In California

May 24, 2024

In May and October of 1968, Thomas Merton gave two extended conferences at our monastery.  It was literally taped on a reel to reel tape recorder.  The sisters had kept these tapes in our archives.  David Ordorisio, PhD, of Pacifica Graduate Institute, with much scholarship and patience, faithfully transcribed the over  twenty-six hours of previously unpublished material.   These are Thomas Merton’s actual words and exchanges with the participants of the conferences covering a variety of topics including ecology and consciousness, yoga and Hinduism, Native American ritual and rites of passage, Sufi spirituality, and inter-religious dialogue.  There are also extended discussions on prayer and the contemplative life. 

David is currently traveling the country speaking about Thomas Merton in California and inspiring new interest in one of the greatest spiritual thinkers and writers of the twentieth century, Thomas Merton.

The material presented in these talks reveals Merton’s wide-ranging intellectual and spiritual pursuits in the final year of his life, and fills a long-standing lacuna around Merton’s visits to Redwoods Monastery, forming a necessary bridge to the Asian journey that was to come. Practical and applicable, as well as searching and inspired, Thomas Merton in California is essential for Merton readers and scholars, and all those interested in deepening their spiritual lives.

~Liturgical Press Website

Merton in California gives readers the privilege to sense for themselves the formidable creative charge of those encounters as if they were there. What higher praise could there be for this book?”  

~ Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB, monk, author

 “Obviously, Merton scholars will be very interested in this material since it was so close to Merton’s death. However, I would encourage those readers who are not scholars to imagine themselves as part of these retreat gatherings, anxious to hear what Merton has to say about contemplative prayer, about how God is manifested in our humanity. The following excerpt from the beginning of his conferences in May surely draws the reader into this interactive gathering of monastic and spiritual seekers. It speaks of the human person’s capacity for God (capax Dei), the capacity to embody the life of Christ, the gospel horizon where God’s love is the force of healing, transformation, and forgiveness. This stunning statement puts in bas-relief the immediate and end goal of the spiritual life:

The fundamental, deepest thing that man has found is himself, his true self. Which is in God. Because in finding his true self, he finds God. He finds the root; he finds the ground. And that is because man is a very peculiar kind of being. Man is the being in whose consciousness God manifests Himself. In a certain sense, man is delegated by God to be God's consciousness of Himself in a creature.Man has the vocation to be conscious as creature of his Ground in God, and in such an intimate way that when man confesses and witnesses to his rootedness in God, it is God Himself who is confessing and witnessing this.'

The historical period in which Merton offered these words is not so different from the times in which we find ourselves today. May these conferences as a whole offer a hopeful reminder of our common vocation and of the ultimate rootedness of our “Ground in God.”

~Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess, OCSO, Our Lady of the Redwoods Abbey, Whitethorn, California

Quoted from the Forward, Thomas Merton in California


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