“Cistercian architecture explains many things about our rule and our life. A church [in this tradition] is born of prayer and is a prayer.  Its simplicity and its energy tell us what our prayer should be. It simply says what Saint Benedict already told us: that we must pray to God ‘with all humility and purity of devotion…not in many words but in purity of heart and in the compunction of tears.’ The churches of our Fathers express their humility… Read more

One of my favorite things about being a writer is getting the chance to ask questions of people who know a great deal about things I’m interested in.  So I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit with Paul M. Pearson, director of the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University in Louisville, which is the repository for Merton’s literary works and memorabilia. In many ways it’s easier to get a sense for Thomas Merton the man and writer at… Read more

So what is contemplation?  It’s a word that Thomas Merton used again and again in his writings and a theme that he spent much of his life exploring. In New Seeds of Contemplation, he writes this:  “Contemplation is the highest expression of man’s intellectual and spiritual life.  It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive.  It is spiritual wonder.  It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being.  It is a… Read more

One has to have some sympathy for the abbots who directed the Abbey of Gethsemani during Thomas Merton’s time there, for Father Louis—as he was known within the monastery walls—must have tried their patience at times. He was a most unusual monk, a fact that became steadily clearer over time. That said, Merton greatly improved the fortunes of his new home.  When he came to Gethsemani in 1941, the abbey was struggling financially.  Within a few years, that situation steadily… Read more

For today, some biographical information on our friend Thomas Merton, to set the stage for what comes next (this is a little dry, but it’s helpful background, I hope). Merton was born in 1915 in Prades in the south of France.  His father was a native of New Zealand and his mother an American.  When Merton was six his mother died, and he was sent to live with his grandparents in the United States while his father pursed a career… Read more

In the middle of downtown Louisville, Kentucky, there stands a very unusual bronze plaque.   Most such markers commemorate a battle, political figure, or some natural or historical feature.  The one on the street corner in Louisville marks a mystical experience—one that happened to the monk Thomas Merton on March 18, 1958: “In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people,… Read more

Today I want to tell you about a new venture of mine, a just-launched website that is a companion to this blog.  While The Holy Rover is somewhat like a newspaper, with a new entry sent out six days a week, my new website is more like an ever-expanding, web-based guidebook to spiritual sites.  Hence the name:  Spiritual Travels. Websites like this one are part of a new wave in publishing, one that offers complete creative and financial control to writers. … Read more

  I’ve been traveling again—this time to Louisville, Kentucky, where I spent several days following in the footsteps of Thomas Merton.  More on that next week.  But I also spent a day touring some horse-related sites (for if you’re in Kentucky, horses loom large).  So a few thoughts on those horses today. First, I think I may be nearly the last person in America to catch Zenyatta fever.  If you’re one of the clueless as well, let me give you… Read more

Today being Veterans Day, I want to tell you a little bit about the veteran I am remembering today—someone I never met, but a man who has been an invisible presence for me ever since I visited the National World War I Museum in Kansas City last March. Ben Hill was a farmer’s son from northeast Iowa who died on a French battlefield during World War I.  If he would have come home from the war, he would have become… Read more

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