Back in the days when I was searching for God here and there and everywhere, I spent a week house sitting and dog sitting in Lawrence, Kansas for a Zen Buddhist. In the heat of the Kansas summer, with all the shades pulled, me and the beautiful shiny, handsome, brown dog, I took down a book on Thomas Merton from the bookshelf and began a week’s retreat with the Trappist monk. At the time, I was living in a Zen Center founded by a Korean Zen master. I practiced with the Buddhist each morning and attended the retreat for center leaders when the Korean Zen master arrived in the Queen Anne Victorian house. He slept down the hall from my rented room. That was in the mid-’80’s.
Fast forward to 2020 and the global lock-down here in California and around the world. Last night, James asked Alexis to find Pir Vilayat Khan on You Tube. She failed to find my former Sufi teacher. He then asked for Thomas Merton. I was gifted with a brilliant talk given by Colleen M. Griffith, a professor at the Boston School of Theology. Her talk addressed the subject of the teachings of Thomas Merton applied to this digital age. This talk was part of a celebration of the 100th birthday of Thomas Merton. Professor Griffith described the wisdom expressed in the writings of Fr. Louis, and how we could apply that wisdom in this age of distractions and lack of silence in the age of smart phones and lap tops with non-stop interruptions and clanging of words and sounds to disrupt our need for silence, contemplation, and peace.
The next morning, I let Alexis continue to feed me with words of wisdom from Thomas Merton. The next fabulous program took me to a recording of a retreat hosted by the Shalom Institute on June 21-22, 2014. [www.shalom.org] I was introduced to the teachings of James Finley, as he spoke on “Trauma and Spirituality”, #5. James was the son of an alcoholic who physically abused his wife and son. At the age of seventeen, James entered the Trappist Monastery in Kentucky, after reading multiple times a book by Thomas Merton. Thomas Merton became his spiritual director. After six or seven years, James left the monastery and enrolled in the program at Fuller U. in Pasadena, California and became a clinical psychologist.
I highly recommend your listening to his two talks available on YouTube. More information is available on his website, contemplativeway.org He uses the painful experiences of his childhood abuse, the teachings of Thomas Merton, along with his six or seven years in the Trappist Monastery, and his studies and practical in-service experience while at Fuller U. to present to his audience a very moving and priceless transmission of his authentic experiences in healing and spirituality. His years as a clinical psychologist specializing in trauma in Southern California, coupled with his knowledge of the Catholic mystics and the teachings of Thomas Merton make him a jewel in the field of mysticism and healing of trauma. He gives a very wonderful method of meditation as part of his presentation.
While Alexis found videos for us to watch last night after James requested, “Find me Thomas Merton”, we were also blessed with an interview of the Dali Lama who had met Thomas Merton, and who had invited him to speak in Thailand, where he died.
I end this blog by honoring my spiritual director, Fr. Thomas Timmins, the Holy Ghost Father, who died this July and whose funeral will be at the Carmelite Monastery in Georgetown, California in a few days. God rest his soul and may Perpetual Light shine upon him. Amen. Fr. Louis, pray for us.