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Thomas Merton cover
December 2003
Thomas Merton: Essential Writings
edited by Christine M. Bochen

As a young man, Thomas Merton aspired to be a writer. A child of two artists, he grew up all over the world, dabbled in communism, and identified with the Beat poets. But at 23, he converted to Catholicism and decided to pursue a life of contemplation as a monk. In 1941, he was accepted by the Trappists and entered the Abbey of Gethsemani in Nelson County, Kentucky.

It soon became clear that writing would still be a vital part of his vocation. Starting with his 1947 autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, Merton wrote a series of best-selling books on spirituality and world issues. He also kept detailed journals and was an enthusiastic and prolific correspondent with people around the world right up until his death in 1968.

Essential Writings is an introduction to this vast body of work—a sampler of essays, letters, and poetry selected by a lifelong scholar of Merton’s work and arranged in three thematic sections: a call to contemplation, commentary on world politics and wars, and an exploration of unity among the world’s religions. Containing material previously unknown even to Merton students, it is also an accessible entryway for those new to the work of this 20th-century spiritual guide.


Watch the program [requires RealPlayer®].

Card catalog entry from the Library of Congress

Blurbs from the book cover

Amazon.com information page

Barnes and Noble information page



Christine M. Bochen

Christine Bochen is a professor of religious studies at Nazareth College in Rochester, NY. Holder of a master’s and a doctorate from the Catholic University of America, she studies and teaches Roman Catholic theology, feminist theology, American religions, and spirituality—particularly the works of Thomas Merton. She is a founding member and past president of the International Thomas Merton Society. In addition to Essential Writings, Bochen has edited several other volumes of Merton’s writings and co-edited The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia, published by Orbis Books in 2002.

Thomas Merton links


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