Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fourth & Walnut

For those interested in the life and writings of Thomas Merton (1915 - 1968), a Trappist monk who is regarded by many as one of the great spiritual writers of the 20th century, today is an important anniversary.

Today (March 18) is the 50th anniversary of the day Merton experienced what has in turn been called "a sudden insight," "a clarifying moment" and "an emotional and intellectual epiphany" while standing on a corner of the intersection of Fourth and Walnut streets in Louisville, Kentucky.

From Merton's journal:

Yesterday, in Louisville, at the corner of 4th and Walnut, suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were, or, could be totally alien to me. As if waking from a dream—the dream of separateness, of the “special” vocation to be different. My vocation does not really make me different from the rest of men or put me is a special category except artificially, juridically. I am still a member of the human race—and what more glorious destiny is there for man, since the Word was made flesh and became, too, a member of the Human Race!

Thank God! Thank God! I am only another member of the human race, like all the rest of them. I have the immense joy of being a man! As if the sorrows of our condition could really matter, once we begin to realize who and what we are—as if we could ever begin to realize it on earth.

A full description of the event with two versions of Merton's account can be found here.

Fr. Jim Martin, S.J., also has a good post on the anniversary at In All Things.

According to Fr. Jim, the moment at Fourth and Walnut, "... set the agenda for the rest of (Merton's) life. From this inspiration would come much of Merton's writings on war and peace, civil rights, religious freedom and, in general, spirituality for the modern world."

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