Thomas Merton was a monk, a poet, a contemplative, a peace activist, a nurturer of interreligious dialogue—and much more. Countless books have been written exploring most of these facets of Merton's life and work in the years since his tragic death in 1968.
Dramatic conversion stories are the exception, not the rule,
in the life of faith. Coming to faith usually involves a gradual adjustment of
one's vision and habits, rather than the kind of dramatic turnaround described
in those oft-sung words of "Amazing Grace": "I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind but now I see." Life is rarely so black and white.
The dream of a ladder linking earth to heaven is surely
among the most familiar images of biblical literature. From "We are Climbing
Jacob's Ladder" to "Stairway to Heaven," the idea has been deeply embedded in
our collective consciousness.
In this wonderfully titled memoir, Mark Vonnegut writes of his college years in the late 1960s: "At Swarthmore I majored in religion with the idea of going to divinity school and then maybe the Unitarian ministry, where I would be a comforter of the sick and disadvantaged but mostly a really good professional arguer who argued against the war and materialism."
Feidin Santana feared for his life when he made a video recording of a policeman shooting Walter Scott in the back in North Charleston, South Carolina. After Santana took the video with his phone, he considered deleting the evidence and fleeing town. But because he turned the video over to the police, the officer, Michael Slager, was held accountable for the shooting. Scott, an unarmed black man, was shot after being stopped for a broken taillight. Santana encourages others to record bad things happening, even though he says he had doubts about what he was doing at the time (Washington Post, April 9).