Merton had a privileged childhood, marred by the death of his parents, and then a superb education, culminating in Columbia. He was a gifted writer. But there was a “god-sized hole” in his heart, and his readings in philosophy and poetry awakened him to the ancient echoes of a truth beyond time.
He sought to find the solution and destination for his restlessness as a Trappist monk in Gethsemani Abbey, Kentucky.
However, his God-given talent enters the monastery with him, and luckily for both Merton’s psychological and spiritual health, and for the reader, an enlightened abbot suggests that he writes the story of his life.
Which he does. He is still a young man, completing it at 31. He movingly writes of the conflict between monk and the writer, the latter always suggesting ideas, projects, essays, poems, autobiographies, novels to the monk, who wants nothing more than to sit still and contemplate God.
He is probably not the first monk or nun who has been wrung by his conflict, but probably the first who has been permitted to have a flourishing literary career, blessing many, even decades after his death, within the confines of one of the strictest Catholic orders.
Spiritually, I have been deeply influenced by “Seeds of Contemplation,” and “More Seeds of Contemplation.” I found the Seven Storey Mountain interesting as a portrait of the man behind the profound thinker–and Christian!