A Monastic Introduction to Sacred Scripture: Novitiate Conferences on Scripture and Liturgy 1

By Thomas Merton and Patrick F. O'Connell (editor)

The first of two volumes showcasing Merton’s teaching on scriptural exegesis.

ISBN: 9780718896386


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.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 244

Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Thomas Merton, Roman Catholic convert, Cistercian monk and hermit, poet, contemplative, social critic, and pioneer in interreligious dialogue, was a seminal figure of twentieth-century American Christianity. Among his many books are his best-selling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain and the modern spiritual classic New Seeds of Contemplation.

Patrick F. O’Connell, a founding member and former president of the International Thomas Merton Society, edits the ITMS quarterly publication The Merton Seasonal and is co-author of The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia. He has edited thirteen previous volumes of Thomas Merton’s writings, including Selected Essays, Early Essays, 1947–52, Cistercian Fathers and Forefathers, and most recently A Monastic Introduction to Sacred Scripture, the first of three books in the series Novitiate Conferences on Scripture and Liturgy.


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
Scriptural Index
General Index


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