Daniel RoberSeptember 26, 2011 - 12:07pm0 comments
The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton
Liturgical Press, $29.95, 331 pp.
Forty-three years after his untimely death, Thomas Merton remains one of the most compelling American Catholics of the past century. Most of his important books are in print, and he continues to attract new readers who identify with his journey to faith and to the monastic life. In the taxonomy of publishers and booksellers, however, his classification as a “spiritual writer” has tended to suggest that, while his writings might bring spiritual insight, they do not constitute heavy theological lifting. As a result, since his death numerous theologians have taken up the challenge of demonstrating the substance and merit of Merton’s work.
Christopher Pramuk’s Sophia: The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton is the latest important contribution to this field. It began as a doctoral dissertation at the University of Notre Dame under the tutelage of Lawrence S. Cunningham, a longtime Commonweal contributor and the author of several books on Merton, including Thomas Merton and the Monastic Vision, perhaps the best theological introduction to Merton’s life and writings. Pramuk describes his project as one that “looks to Thomas Merton as a classic theologian of the mystical tradition from East to West, and offers a retrieval and interpretation of his mature Christology.” He frames Merton’s distinctive Christology (the monk of Gethsemani was by no means a systematic theologian) as “a unifying thread to be discerned in the larger tapestry of his life.”...