Catholic troublemakers


How interesting that the Pope in his address to Congress singled out Thomas Merton as one of his “favourite Catholic troublemakers”.

In her impressionable youth Gert was transfixed by Thomas Merton’s autobiography Elected Silence in which he recounts his journey from cool Sartre-inspired youth to a Trappist monastery. Working as a clerk in an insurance company (that’s a long story) where she was singled out by her manager to all visitors with the comment,“You have to have a degree to work here”, Gert filled the long empty hours with visions of herself as a non-speaking nun in a fetching get-up, secretly hoping God wouldn’t finger her as he did Thomas Merton – he didn’t, or presumably Gert wouldn’t be here talking to you today. Or perhaps she would: from his beginnings as a Trappist monk speaking only rarely, and then to members of his community, Merton became a public figure, well known for his anti-war stance during the Vietnam war. He became increasingly interested in eastern religions and died in Bangkok during an interfaith conference between Christian and non-Christian monks.
Elected Silence is also published as The Seven-Storey Mountain. With William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience, it’s essential reading for anyone interested in the magnetic pull of religion as against the cooler workings of the rational mind.

15 thoughts on “Catholic troublemakers

    1. He seems to have had quite a powerful effect on Congress, judging by the PBS commentary we saw. Is it too much to hope it might actually make a difference to the way they do business?

      1. John Boehner resigned as Speaker of the House, and the general sense is that he felt that he had gotten the Pope to speak to Congress, so he could leave satisfied. It seems likely that someone a lot more conservative will take over, and that may mean more fuss in the short term. But in the long term, it might work out well, because they will be so dysfunctional that something new will have to happen.

        1. I was really shocked to hear them say on Lehrer that there is a faction among the Republicans that actually wants the govt to shut down because they don’t believe in government! No wonder Boehner said that herding the Repyblicans was like trying to keep frogs in a wheelbarrow.

          1. Oh, frogs in wheelbarrow — so much more vivid than herding cats! Thank you

            It’s very true that such a faction exists, and has for quite a long time. Part of it is that the dislike Obama so intensely, but partly they do want to wreak havoc, just for the sake of it. They seem few enough that they can’t actually do it, but they keep pulling Congress, and the political process out of track, and little that’s useful actually gets done. The fact that several of the current candidates for President are part of the faction means that the discussion of policy is often skewed in that direction too. Entertaining, at some level, but not useful.

            1. We’re watching your presidential race hardly able to believe our eyes. We thought things were bad here but it’s beyond belief that Trump could be getting any hearing at all. The good news here is that we’ve got rid of the idiotic Tony Abbott and have a new Prime Minister who actually believes in using his brains and encouraging us to use ours.

              1. I looked up your PM. Fascinating that it is not a real position because Elizabeth is still the head of state.

                Mr. Trump seems to be plateauing, leaving more room for other rather improbable candidates. It is endlessly fascinating, but I don’t have a good sense of where we will end up by June. Given that he is actually fairly liberal in some of his positions, he has some advantages over a few other Republicans.

                Glad that we can provide some entertainment (outside of Hollywood) for others.

                1. The Queen’s role is nominal. The PM and his party do actually run things.The new PM Malcolm Turnbull headed up the campaign for us to become a republic back in the 90’s – in spite of the majority of Australians saying they favoured a republic the referendum was lost because the very cunning monarchist PM of the time set up the question in such a way that it was voted down. Practically it makes no difference, but symbolically it’s an anachronism.

    1. She was a bit prissy to appeal to us. We did very much like that neglected classic I Leap Over The Wall, if only because of the dashing (haha) title. That was perhaps the inspiration for Marcus Goddard’s book about the young girl forced to enter a convent to save her family from ruin.

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