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While we generally try to keep any Celebrity Blogger bias out of the contests, it should be noted that Laurie Brock hails from Kentucky and Robert Hendrickson is, well, an Anglophile. In yesterday’s Lent Madness action, Thomas Gallaudet trounced Louis of France 78% to 22%. If you’re still looking for some ways to use Lent Madness as a series for adults, the Rev. Outside Bardstown, Kentucky, on acres of land, sits the Trappist Monastery that would likely be obscure except for one man. Thomas Merton entered the monastic life there in 1941, after a long, wandering, and sometimes turbulent life. Born in France, Merton experienced frequent moves, the death of his mother, and the absence of his father. After his father died in 1930, Merton rejected the nominal Anglicanism into which he’d been baptized and became an agnostic. Merton’s writings and correspondence with global figures show a man whose spirituality became connected to issues of social justice, nonviolence, racial equality, and a deep life of contemplation.
Merton’s vision of the unity of all continues in his writings, treasured by people of many faiths, and even people of no professed faith, across the world, bound together by these mystical experiences of Brother Louis.
After about a decade working in the court, Aelred left for England and a monastery at Rievaulx. Lent Madness 2014 rival saint Thomas Merton wrote of the order, “The Cistercians of Saint Bernard’s generation had become one of the most important influences in the active life of the Church and even in European politics of their time. . Aelred was elected as abbot and his true legacy is in creating a community famed for its welcome of all. Aelred, in honor of my friend’s child Aelred, who was called to Heaven before his earthly life began.
Was ready to vote for Thomas Merton until I read the material about Aelred “It is the singular and supreme glory of the house of Rievaulx that above all else it teaches tolerance of the infirm and compassion for others in their necessities.” May that be said of all houses. Admirable and influential as Brother Louis was, I doubt he will be singing anything like St. On an entirely unrelated subject, I would be remiss in my nagging if I didn’t point out that on this date in 1928, the Rev. This was such a difficult decision, as an Anglophile and one who loves the dark hills of Kentucky where my family is.
Some years ago, I had the privilege of visiting Rievaulx and found the ruins of the monastery even after eight centuries to still have the fragrance of holiness. It occurs to me, as one who often rises late and gets to this site much later in the day, that perhaps the mystics among us seem to rise and express themselves early! Aelred not only taught me to pray, but to understand friendship as a way experiencing the Presence of God. Had to vote for Thomas because entering the monastic life as the son, grandson, and great-grandson of priests must have been an easier decision for Aelred than entering the monastic life of Thomas in Kentucky at the Trappist Monastery in 1941.
Thomas Merton recognized his love for all people in the midst of what now is a shopping area. Nothing against Aelred, but Merton’s Seven Story Mountain was a huge influence in my spiritual formation, and I continue to go back to his writing 30+ years later. Merton’s impact on the revival of the contemplative tradition, as well as how his writings have touched me personally, win my vote.
I started to meet weekly with a kindhearted Bible teacher who looked through my cynicism and saw a desire for a deeper spiritual life.

Pakistan, Iran, charity, Charities, Red Cross, Christian Children's Fund, United Way, Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Orthodox Russian Greek, Catholic Charities, Catholicism, Baptist, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, Naturalist, Atheist, Agnostic, Agnosticism, Mormon, Mormons, Temple, Church, Cathedral, Bible, Koran, Shinto, Islam, Good Samaritan, Children's Hospital, St. His spiritual autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain was published in 1948 and immediately became a spiritual classic.
As his fame grew, he moved into a hermitage on the grounds of Gethsemani, which is still available for monastic solitude. He was born in 1110 and was the son, grandson, and great-grandson of priests (born in Scotland, which had resisted papal insistence on celibacy for clerics). There are competing historical narratives about Aelred’s decision to join the Cistercians monks. One historian wrote, “It is the singular and supreme glory of the house of Rievaulx that above all else it teaches tolerance of the infirm and compassion for others in their necessities.” Upon his death, Aelred was buried in a shrine, which became a renowned pilgrimage site.
I cast my vote for Merton because he taught me how to pray, and I wish to see him make it beyond the first round. It was, in many ways, a more holy place than any of the cathedrals or other abbeys I visited.
It seems to me that voters way too often privilege the newer members of the Church Triumphant, finding their causes, concerns and emphases more to their own contemporary taste. So long a companion on my journey that though moved by Aelred’s heart I must vote for the one who has made a difference in my life and my journey.
I’m grateful for those conversations—especially the day he told me about a book written by Merton called No Man Is An Island.
This initiative is based on the reality that "One Can Make a Difference." That means you and me!
A year later, Merton joined the Roman Catholic church; two years later, he began the process to become a Franciscan monk.
A prolific writer, Merton became increasingly well-known outside the walls of the monastery, which created some tension within his monastic community. Merton died on December 10, 1968 by accidental electrocution in Thailand while on pilgrimage in the Far East.
Aelred served the court of King David I of Scotland and developed a close bond with the king.
In some narratives, the decision was literally overnight, and in other accounts, he spent long years yearning for a monastic life. Anyone who had any talent or, worse still, any powerful connections, was likely to find himself in danger of leading an increasingly active life.” With Aelred’s gift for languages and knowledge of courtly diplomacy, he became integral to the order’s influence in both the Church and the Kingdom.
He wrote extensively and learnedly but also with directness and simplicity on matters historical, ascetical, and spiritual. The shrine survived until the violence of the dissolution of the monasteries under Protestant rule. In the end I had to go with Aelred as the love for the ancient ways and wish that his shrine still existed so I might simply see it.
As I started reading it, I was excited to find a monastic writer with piercing insights into my own inner life and a Christian mystical tradition markedly different from the subculture around me.
In any case, his connections and friendships enabled him to become not only a gifted monk and abbot but also an influential advocate for the monasteries and the faith. It was providential timing: I was slipping into depression that would last for years, and Merton quickly became a friend and guide through a spiritual wilderness. After a retreat at the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, Merton found his spiritual home—and became known as Brother Louis.

Aelred’s writings convey the depth of his friendships as well as his longing for closer and richer community. So today, in honor of his birthday and his lasting impact on the wayfarers and mystics among us, here are seven reasons why evangelicals should read Thomas Merton:(1) Merton can introduce you to the larger Body of Christ. Or to say it another way, if you skip over two thousand years and use Acts as a blueprint to recreate a pure church, your cloud of witnesses will be on the small side. Reading Merton introduced me to saints and philosophers, medieval mystics, the desert fathers, and many other men and women who are now a sustaining spiritual heritage.(2) His writing integrates spirituality with psychological wisdom. As a teenager in high school, I remember reading “I must decrease; he must increase” as a life motto. Misunderstanding this text contributed to a distorted sense of self-worth; this wasn’t a time for somber self-denial—it was a time to learn what it means to relate, to have adventures, to grow into my own beating heart.
As a contemplative, Merton knows the inner life, and he writes about spiritual transformation in a way that can keep us from pursuing the right thing in the wrong way.(3) He doesn’t sacrifice beautiful language to write faithfully. Much contemporary evangelical writing (and blogging) relies too heavily on “Christianese” and vague truisms.
His writing is engaging and precise, and he uses imagery and artful language that people from any background can appreciate.(4) He makes room for darkness and doubt. At the end of my first quarter at Fuller I was in a tumultuous crisis of faith; depression and theology mixed in unhealthy ways. Many of Merton’s prayers became my own during this time, and I could hold onto to God’s hand even as I doubted its reality.(5) His writing is intelligent, but he puts rationality in its place. Merton interacts deftly with both theology and philosophy, but his ultimate goal is to always push his readers towards prayer and sustainable spiritual practices.(6) His interest in Buddhism shows us effective interfaith dialogue.
Towards the end of his life, Merton was noticing strong parallels between his own Catholic spiritual practices and Zen. Rather than run from them, he entered more deeply into conversation, attending conferences, befriending Zen monks, and writing on the topic.
This is not a hazy pluralism—he maintains the particularities of his Christian faith even as he explores the similar monastic practices of the Other.(7) He makes contemplative life seem not only possible but necessary.
More than anything, Merton shows us that being a contemplative is not an escape from the world—it is a choice to enter one’s heart and life deeply, to engage culture even while resisting it with an active practice of prayer.In this whirling modern world, I’m grateful for Merton’s words.
Whether you read him or not, know that the life of prayer he wrote about is available to us at all times—whether God feels close or decidedly absent.
And on a day like today, let us pray for that Trappist monk, and all who pray with him:“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Why Does It Matter?Recent Posts 11 Sayings of Bono on the Psalms Integration: What With What and With Whom?

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