Thomas Merton, O. C. S. O. was an American Catholic writer, theologian and mystic. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, he was a poet, social activist, in 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name Father Louis. Merton wrote more than 70 books, mostly on spirituality, social justice, Merton was a keen proponent of interfaith understanding. In the years since his death, Merton has been the subject of several biographies and he was baptized in the Church of England, in accordance with his fathers wishes. Mertons father was absent during his sons upbringing. During World War I, in August 1915, the Merton family left France for the United States and they settled first with Ruths parents on Long Island, New York, and then near them in Douglaston, New York. In 1917, the moved into an old house in Flushing, New York. The family was considering returning to France when Ruth was diagnosed with cancer, from which she died on October 21,1921. In 1922, Owen Merton and Thomas traveled briefly to Bermuda, where Owen fell in love with the American novelist Evelyn Scott, still grieving for his mother, Thomas never quite warmed to Scott. Happy to get away from Scott, Thomas returned to Douglaston in 1923 to live with his mothers family, Owen Merton, Scott, and her husband sailed to Europe and traveled through France, Italy, England and Algeria. During the winter of 1924, while in Algeria, Owen Merton became ill and was thought to be near death, the news of his fathers illness weighed heavily on Thomas Merton. The prospect of losing his sole surviving parent filled him with anxiety, by March 1925, Owen Merton was well enough to organize a show of his paintings at the Leicester Galleries in London. He then returned to New York and took Thomas to live with him in Saint-Antonin, Thomas returned to France with mixed feelings, as he had lived with his grandparents for the last two years and had become attached to them. During their travels, Mertons father and Scott had discussed marriage on occasion, after the trip to New York, Owen Merton realized that Thomas would not be reconciled to Scott and broke off his relationship with her. In 1926, when Merton was eleven, his father enrolled him in a boarding school in Montauban. The stay brought up feelings of loneliness and depression for Merton, during his initial months of schooling, Merton begged his father to remove him. As time passed, however, he became more comfortable with his surroundings there. He made friends with a circle of young and aspiring writers at the Lycée, Sundays at the Lycée offered a nearby Catholic Mass, but Merton never attended, instead often taking an early train home
Image: T Merton Study
Thomas Merton's hermitage at The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani
The grave of Thomas Merton, His grave marker reads "Fr. Louis Merton, Died Dec. 10, 1968."
Marker commemorating Thomas Merton in Louisville, Kentucky