Thomas Merton gave numerous conferences during his decade (1955-1965) as novice master at the Cistercian Abbey of Gethsemani. In A Monastic Introduction to Sacred Scripture, Patrick F. O’Connell presents one of these, a wide-ranging introduction to biblical studies. Drawing on church tradition, teaching of recent papal documents, and scholarly resources of the time, Merton reveals the central importance of the Scriptures for the spiritual growth of his listeners.
For Merton, at the heart of any meaningful reading of the Scriptures, not only for monks but for all Christians, is the invitation to respond not just intellectually but with the whole self, to recognize the gospel as ‘good news’, as a saving, liberating, consoling, challenging word, reflecting his fundamental belief that ‘the Holy Spirit enlightens us, in our reading, to see how our own lives are part of these great mysteries – how we are one with Jesus in them’. O’Connell’s extensive introduction situates this reflection in the context of Merton’s evolving engagement with the Bible from his own days as a student monk through the mature reflections from his final years on the biblical renewal in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.
Foreword by Bonnie Bowman Thurston
Part I: Biblical Inspiration
Part II: The Canon of Sacred Scripture
Part III: Texts and Versions of the Scriptures
Part IV: The Interpretation of Sacred Scripture—Hermeneutics
Appendix: For Further Reading
Endorsements and Reviews
As a monk, Thomas Merton was totally immersed in sacred Scripture and, in this book, we encounter some of the earliest fruits of Merton’s own prayer, lectio, and study as he began teaching Scripture in the years immediately after his ordination. A Monastic Introduction to Sacred Scripture is a foretaste of the rich banquet that would flow from Merton’s pen in the ensuing years.
Paul M. Pearson, Thomas Merton Center
This book brilliantly elucidates the centrality of sacred Scripture in Merton’s monastic life and reveals his successful efforts to integrate modern exegetical methods with the ancient tradition of monastic biblical hermeneutics. O’Connell’s profoundly learned introduction and illuminating editorial notations situate Merton’s lectures within the broader frame of theological renewal unfolding before and throughout the Second Vatican Council. This work is an indispensable contribution to the field of Merton studies.
Joseph Q. Raab, Siena Heights University, co-editor of The Merton Annual
The history of monastic biblical interpretation ‘must not be studied from the outside,’ insists Thomas Merton, but demands ‘a deepened and experiential study, from within’. This critical volume demonstrates Merton’s encounter with the Bible ‘from within’ prior to Vatican II, while underscoring just how transformed his reading of the Scriptures would be by his engagement with Jewish and Protestant voices during the 1960s. Editor Patrick O’Connell tracks that dramatic evolution to the great benefit of readers.
Christopher Pramuk, Regis University
Merton readers owe renowned Merton scholar Patrick F. O’Connell a debt of gratitude for making available these conferences which Merton gave to his students in the 1950s. O’Connell’s skillful editing and meticulous annotation make this volume an invaluable resource. His substantive and insightful introduction to the volume is a must-read—at once shedding light on how Merton’s approach to Scripture study evolved and illuminating Merton’s own ever deepening experience of the centrality of God’s word in his own life.
Christine M. Bochen, Nazareth College, co-author of The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia