Monday, May 08, 2006

Meet my new friend: Thomas Merton...

I am not going to write as one driven by compulsions but freely, because I am a writer, because for me to write is to think and to live and also in some degree even to pray.
This week I had the phenomenal privilege of spending the week at Westminster Abbey in Mission studying the Twentieth Century Poet, Thomas Merton, who became a monk in his twenties.

Now, I already know what you are thinking- a monk? How could that possibly be interesting? Well thank you for asking. This man started his life in Europe with no religious background. Before becoming a monk, he was an alcoholic, liscentious, communist, unhappy artist who could not find his way in the world. We read his autobiography and I was blown away. The story is written with such eloquence that you can literally see God's light invading this man's soul.

There were 17 students at the Abbey, and we became a sort of community. We ate our meals together, did kitchen clean up, went to Mass, walked in the fields. It was basically an English major's paradise. We read poetry, performed plays, and learned about the material. Our professor was Lynn Szabo, who actually wrote our text and has been a Merton scholar for many years now. To learn from a scholar was mind numbing. She would be explaining his early education and say things like "when I was at his elementary school...". It all seemed so hard to believe.

(Left - Abbey grounds, so beautiful, I think one of my new favourite Lower Mainland spots)
(Right - Inside the Church - no it was not Europe, but the stain glass sure was beautiful)
Some highlights of the week:
- Father Basil (a monk who came to speak to us) saying "damn"....twice.
- Being sung to in Latin by a choir from Redeemer University in Ontario (the crazy part being, they were Reformed, in a Catholic Church)
- Learning to love the "inter-religious" dialouge, between Catholics and Protestants
- Laying on the "lawn-bed" contemplating life
- Sitting in Starbucks the night before our Friday final, for over 5 and a half hours.

The truth is quoted by my fellow class member, I never knew that a Cistercian monk from Kentucky could become so incredibly intriguing and like a close friend in the course of five days. So, if you are at all interested, I recommend you start reading his material. It is honestly some of the most beautiful writing I have read in a long time. Thank you for enduring this ridiculously long post


the tapered pant said...

Thomas Merton. Indeed a hero. Dialogues with Silence, changed my life. Sharelle. you have NO idea how much i miss you. take care.

the tapered pant said...

sharelle. I had this great idea. Matt might not be so into it. It involes you and I and a convent in winnipeg...

Christie said...

Ridiculously long my EYE! I assume that you read my post, and (not to brag) but my ridiculousness clearly exceeds yours. :P And yes, you're correct... I just made up a word in the style of Lynn Szabo. Take that Microsoft Word.

FYI: Merton convert count = one. In a bookstore today, my mother came up to me holding a Merton reader. :) YES.

Lana Jones said...

Hey Sharelle,

Where is this Abbey and can anyone go visit it?


Margaret said...

Who told you you'd LOVE Lynn Szabo? All I have to say is I told you so. Don't mind me if I rub it in a bit. :) She's definitely one of my Trinity favorites.

Kiki said...

can i just say- i heart you so much for adding in, as if an afterthought that you like a good sweater in your self-description. just read that today... oh chuckles...