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Thomas Merton: Master of Attention

Author: Robert Waldron
Published By: Darton, Longman and Todd (London)
Pages: 112
Price: £9.95
ISBN: 978 0 232 52714

Reviewed by Luke Penkett.

It is entirely appropriate that, on this fortieth anniversary of Thomas Merton’s death, Robert Waldron, who has already written three books besides numerous articles on his subject, should present us with this one. And this, I think, is probably the finest of them all. Drawing on Merton’s own writings, it is the first study of his way of praying and it is full of fascinating insights. It is essential reading, not only for all contemplatives and Merton readers, but also for anyone seeking to deepen their prayer life, Christian or not.

Waldron, himself an experienced retreat leader and lecturer, looks at Merton’s life and, with beautiful clarity, explores how his fascination with painting and poetry, his passion for calligraphy and photography, and his oneness with Zen, and his love for his nurse whom he refers to as M, all influenced his spiritual life. For those who know Merton, one of the most popular and successful spiritual writers of the twentieth century, by reputation alone, there is a brief biography. And there are fresh and absorbing parallels, too, between Merton and another mystic, Simone Weil, most especially with regard to the importance of attention for developing the life of prayer.

Luke Penkett

Monk and Priest working with L'Arche Community

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You are reading Issue 42 of Ministry Today, published in March 2008.

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