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 Thomas “Father Louis” Merton

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Thomas “Father Louis” Merton

  • Birth 31 Jan 1915 Prades, Departement des Pyrénées-Orientales, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
  • Death 10 Dec 1968 Bangkok (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon), Bangkok (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon), Thailand
  • Burial Gethsemane, Nelson County, Kentucky, USA
  • Memorial ID 709

Author. Known in religion as Father Louis, was a writer and Trappist monk at Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey, near Bardstown, Kentucky. He is considered one of the most influential American Catholic authors of the 20th Century. Merton was born in Prades, France on January 31, 1915. His New Zealand-born father, Owen Merton, and his American-born mother were both artists. Merton became a U.S. citizen in 1949. After a rambunctious youth and adolescence, Merton converted to Roman Catholicism and on December 10, 1941 he entered the Abbey of Gethsemani, the most ascetic Roman Catholic monastic order. In 1948 Merton's best-selling autobiographical account of his conversion to Catholicism and entrance into a Trappist monastery, "The Seven Storey Mountain", was published to critical acclaim. It has become a classic, having sold over one million copies and being translated into over fifteen languages. Merton was the author of more than seventy books, including poetry, personal journals, and collections of letters. The topics range from monastic spirituality to social criticism on topics such as civil rights, nonviolence, and the nuclear arms race. During his years at the Cistercian Abbey of Gethsemani, Merton's writings changed from a passionately inward-looking young monk to a more contemplative writer and poet. The ideas he promoted in his writings were contemplative life, spirituality, ecumenism, East-West relations, personal and corporate inner work, peace, and social justice. Merton became well known for his dialogues with other faiths and his non-violent stand during the race riots and Vietnam War of the 1960s. During this time, he became deeply interested in Asian religions, particularly Zen Buddhism. It was during a trip to a conference on East-West monastic dialogue that Merton died in Bangkok, Thailand on December 10, 1968, the victim of an accidental electrocution, having touched a poorly grounded electric fan while stepping out of his bath. The date marked the twenty-seventh anniversary of his entrance to Gethsemani. His body was flown back to Gethsemani where he is buried. After his death, Bellarmine College in Louisville, Kentucky became the repository of his manuscripts, letters, journals, tapes, drawings, photographs, and memorabilia.

Bio by: William Seitz

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 709
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Thomas “Father Louis” Merton (31 Jan 1915–10 Dec 1968), Find A Grave Memorial no. 709, citing Abbey of Gethsemani Trappist Cemetery, Gethsemane, Nelson County, Kentucky, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .