Thursday 31 October 2019

Thomas Merton Faithful Visionary - Michael W. Higgins

Thomas Merton: Faithful Visionary
People of God Series
Michael W. Higgins
Liturgical Press
eISBN 9780814637319

This is the second book in the People Of God series that I have read and the tenth book by Michael W. Higgins. Most of those 10 were read between 1998 and 2006. At the time I was a mature student at St. Jerome’s University, at the University of Waterloo. And my first term I had the chance to be in one of Higgin’s last classes before he became president. Higgins has written extensively on Merton and is likely one of the foremost Merton scholars alive today. Having read many of his earlier works on Merton, and listened to many lectures and talk, I approached this book with a little concern that it might not live up to my high expectations. I was wrong, this book was not just a rehash of old material, yes Higgins draws from his earlier scholarship on Merton. But the book is also fresh and new. In many ways reading it was like being introduced to Merton all over again. 

Higgins looks as many different modes of Merton, the man, the monk, and the monastic. Higgins does not wear rose colored glasses. He presents a fairly clear and honest picture of a man who struggled to live up to his own ideas, and to what he felt was his calling. Merton took a while to find his vocation. Higgin’s does also not go into conspiracy theories about Merton’s untimely and unusual death. What is present is a monk unlike any other. A monk who was internationally famous after his book The Seven Story Mountain. A monk who was always looking for something more. And at times in the wrong places, and wrong ways. But also a monk who when push came to shove submitted to the authorities he had taken vows under, to his calling, and to his vocation. At times the book may stir scandal. Provide shock or surprise. There were a few indiscretions in this volume that I had not encountered in any of my earlier reading. 

I once heard Higgin’s state that Merton would never become a recognized saint. And I for the most part would agree with that opinion. But if we could be canonized for effort, for struggling, for striving, then maybe he should. And this book shows that more clearly than any of the other works about Merton I have read to date. 

I know some readers are not fond of this series, but I find these very honest biographies encouraging and personally challenging. There are a few other volumes I would like to check out, I just wish they were all available as eBooks. This particular book is very well written. And if you are open I am sure it will bless you to read it.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Michael W. Higgins:
Genius Born of Anguish: The Life & Legacy of Henri Nouwen
The Unquiet Monk: Thomas Merton's Questing Faith
Heretic Blood: The Spiritual Geography of Thomas Merton
Thomas Merton: Faithful Visionary
Jean Vanier: Logician of the Heart
Faith and Literature Matters
Power And Peril: The Catholic Church At The Crossroads
Stalking the Holy: The Pursuit of Saint Making
My Father's Business: A Biography Of His Eminence G. Emmett Cardinal Carter

Books with Douglas R. Letson:
Soundings: Conversations about Catholicism
The Jesuit Mystique

Contributed to:
Commonweal on Contemporary Theologians
Introducing John Moriarty In His Own Words
Vatican II: A Universal Call to Holiness
Impressively Free: Henri Nouwen as Model for a Reformed Priesthood (with Kevin Burns)
Suffer the Children Unto Me: An Open Inquiry into the Clerical Abuse Scandal (with Peter Kavanagh)


Related Posts:
Waterloo Loses A Good Man
Michael W. Higgins
Faith in the Media Conference 2006

People of God Series:
John XXIII - Massimo Faggioli
Oscar Romero - Kevin Clarke
Thomas Merton - Michael W. Higgins
Megan Rice - Dennis Coday
Francis - Michael Collins
Flannery O’Connor - Angela O’Donnell
Martin Sheen - Rose Pacatte
Jean Vanier - Michael W. Higgins
Dorothy Day - Patrick Jordan
Luis Antonio Tagle - Cindy Wooden
Georges and Pauline Vanier - Mary Francis Coadyn
Joseph Bernardin - Steven P. Millies
Corita Kent - Rose Pacatte
Daniel Rudd - Gary B. Agee
Helen Prejean - Joyce Duriga
Paul VI - Michael Collins
Thea Bowman - J. Nutt


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