Thomas Merton was born in 1915 in France, of American parents. His early education was in France (Lycee de Montauban 1927-8) and England (Oakham School, 1929-32; Clare College, Cambridge, 1933-4). He came to America and attended Columbia University, graduated in English in 1938, worked there one year as a teaching assistant, and got his Ma in 1939. In 1939 he joined the Roman Catholic Church, and taught at St Bonaventure for the next two years. In 1941 he entered the Trappist monastery of Gethsemani near Louisville, Kentucky. The Trappists, called more formally Cistercians of the Strict Observance, are (or were before Vatican II) an extremely strict Roman Catholic monastic order, devoted to communal prayer (they spend at least four hours a day in chapel, chanting the praises of God), to private prayer and contemplation, to study, and to manual labor. Except for those whose special duties require otherwise, they are vowed not to speak except in praise of God.

Thomas Merton became one of the most famous American Roman Catholics of the 20th century. Within the monastery he served for years as master of students and novices. Outside it, his writing, which included poetry, meditations, and works of social criticism, brought him prominence in American letters. His autobiography, The Seven Story Mountain (1948), became a bestseller. Merton's social criticisms burned deeply into public awareness of racism, and economic injustice.



Memento Dei Genitrix
Et miserere pauperum;
Largire vitam mortuis,
Ostende nobis Filium.

 Emitte Spaientiam,
 Da nobis Lumen cordium,
 Dilectionis copiam
Et gloriae prmordium.

Gloria tibi Deitas
Qui sempiterne caelitus
Regnas, Pater et Filius
Et utriusque Spiritus.

the seeds of freedom by Thomas Merton

Every moment and every event of every person’s life on earth plants something in the soul.  For just as the wind carries thousands of invisible and visible seeds, so the stream of time brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men and women.  Sadly, most of these innumbered seeds perish and are lost, because we are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these can not spring up anywhere except in the good soil of liberty and desire. 

The mind that is the prisoner of its own pleasure and the will that is the captive of its own desire cannot accept the seeds of a higher pleasure and a supernatural desire. For how can I receive the seeds of freedom if I am in love with slavery and how can I cherish the desire of God if I am filled with another and opposite desire? God cannot plant His liberty in me because I am a prisoner and I do not desire to be free.

- T. Merton

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