Correspondence is that wonderful literary space where the particularity of a cherished audience often brings about our best and fullest thinking. It is also where we are able to let many of our public roles slip off and compose with humor, vulnerability, experimentation and fierce honesty. In this collection of letters, two of twentieth-century Catholicism's premier defenders and proponents of monastic calling engage the topics they so fervently shared and uniquely embodied. American Trappist, man of letters, and seeker of solitude, Thomas Merton and French Benedictine scholar, translator and world-traveler Jean Leclercq discuss the importance and struggles of translating essential historical monastic writings, the tensions of community life, the need for authentic solitude and prayer, and the continual challenge of monasticism's relationship with culture and the world. Historically significant, spiritually exercising, intellectually expansive and culturally incisive, these letters provide rich fodder to all struggling to maintain Christian authenticity and prophetic integrity in their lives.
An Eighth Day View:
The twenty-year correspondence between Jean Leclercq, a French Benedictine monk and scholar, and Thomas Merton, an American Cistercian monk, provides a fascinating record of their common yearnings. "What is a monk?" is the question at the center of their exchange, and they answer it with great aplomb, touching on the role of ancient texts and modern conveniences, the advantage of hermit life and community life, the fierce Catholicism of the monastic past and a new openness to the approaches of other traditions. These letters--full of learning, human insight, and self-deprecating humor--capture the excitement of the Catholic Church in the era of the Second Vatican Council.