As Sydney Griffith, a professor at the Catholic University of America, notes in his preface, one of Thomas Merton's most enduring gifts sprang from his ability to read deeply the Church's vast and often difficult literature and render the wisdom he found there in perceptive, modern American English. This is no small task, considering most translations of the French, Italian, and Spanish texts available during Merton's time were stodgy and impenetrable, hardly in keeping with the illuminating spirit of the authors. Pre-Benedictine Monasticism
is supplement and sequel to Cassian and the Fathers
-both volumes being transcribed and edited copies of Merton's conferences for novices at the Abbey of Gethsemini. Following a copious introduction by Patrick O'Connell, Pre-Benedictine Monasticism
canvasses the writings of early monastics in three basic categories: 'fathers' of monasticism Anthony the Great, Pachomius, Basil the Great, and John Cassian; oft-overlooked figures such as Martin of Tours, Shenoute of Atripe, Melania the Younger, and the pilgrim nun Egeria; and the relatively unknown Syriac monastics Ephraem the Syrian, Aphrahat, and Philoxenus of Mabbug. Appendices include textual notes distinguishing between the preliminary draft of Merton's notes and the additions he made before delivering the conferences, a table correlating the written text and taped lectures, and an extensive list of suggestions for further reading. A thorough index rounds out this excellent survey of monastic history and spirituality. 391 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
Charged with training young monks at Gethsemani Abbey, Thomas Merton combined his literary genius...