Thomas Merton: Discovering Ourselves in Christ

On this glorious spring day, students gathered in the garden at the Bonhoeffer House for the last Vintage of the semester. It’s hard to believe that the year is almost over! We celebrated the end of the year with a picnic outside and feasted on Helen’s homemade pasta salad, fresh fruit, and cookies. Today’s reading and discussion was on the monk and writer, Thomas Merton. Merton was born in France in 1915 to an American mother and an artist father. He lived a sensual life as a teenager and young man, attending Columbia and becoming an intellectual activist. In his 20s, Thomas experienced a profound conversion to Christ and even joined the Roman Catholic church at age 26. He became a monk and moved into a hermitage. He spent his life with a “dual career as a cloistered monk and prolific writer.” While traveling to Bangkok to meet with Eastern religious leaders, he died in a freak accident at age 53.

At Vintage today, we read a passage by Thomas Merton on the idea of finding meaning in life and discovering ourselves. We all live life searching for the meaning of it. According to Merton, finding this meaning and living according to it is our purpose in life. Thomas also speaks on the desire to discover ourselves. Although we often look to ourselves, the only way we can truly discover ourselves is through others and in Christ. For the Bible says, “If any man would save his life, he must lose it.” Merton writes: “this discovery of ourselves is always a losing of ourselves—a death and a resurrection. ‘Your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Our discussion ended with reading various quotes by Thomas Merton. Students chose quotes that spoke to them, and shared their thoughts. One quote seemed especially relevant while we enjoyed the beautiful spring day: “By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.”

-Caroline Parsley, UVa '2014