Thomas Merton: Peacemaker
I think that Thomas Merton could easily be called the greatest spiritual writer and spiritual master of the twentieth century in English speaking America. There is no other person who has such a profound influence on those writing on spiritual topics, not only on Catholics but non-Catholics, as Merton has.
Lawrence Cunningham, Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton p.183
With Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton (1915-1968) personified the potential of the Catholic peace tradition in America. Merton stands out as one of the most brilliant peacemakers in the entire Catholic tradition.
Ronald Musto, The Catholic Peace Tradition p. 249
Merton never fully embraced pacifism. Like Thomas More and Erasmus, he believed in the theoretical applicability of the just war. Yet, like the Renaissance Humanists, he looked at the horrors of contemporary warfare and concluded that the just war theory was irrelevant in practice. He was, in fact, one of the first “nuclear pacifists”.
Ronald Musto, The Catholic Peace Tradition p. 250
I Merton: War and Peace
On the last day of January 1915, under the sign of the Water Bearer, in a year of great war, and down in the shadow of some mountains on the border of Spain, I came into the world.
Merton, indeed, came into the world ‘in a year of great war’. WW I dominated Europe when Merton was born, he lived through the carnage of WW II, the Korean War, McCarthy-Cold War years and the emergence and devastating nature of the Vietnam War. Merton’s social conscience became more public with the civil rights movement in the late 1950s, the nuclear threat, the rise of ecological consciousness and much American domestic violence in the 1950s-1960s. In short, Merton lived through a period in 20th century history in which war and violence were the order of the day, and he sought, through a variety of means, to be a moderate and peacemaking voice and presence. How did Merton become the significant peacemaker that he did, and what was Merton’s understanding of peacemaking? This short paper will, in a suggestive and historic way, answer these questions.