Orville Jenkins's Reviews > Survival Or Prophecy?: The Letters Of Thomas Merton And Jean Leclercq

Survival Or Prophecy? by Thomas Merton
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This series of letters covering the 18 years from 1950 to 1968, these letters portray the collaboration and thought, as well as struggles with their Catholic orders, of these two internationally loved and read writers. Merton, an American Trappist monk with a deep desire for the solitude of hermitage and solitary devotion, wrote on topics of theology and personal prayer and devotion.

A mystic like his friend, he exchanged ideas, personal struggles and topics he was writing or planning with his dear friend Jean LeClercq, a Benedictine of the Clervaux monastery in Luxembourg. They both struggled with the entrenched hierarchy of their orders and longed and worked for revival in their respective orders and the church and Christian faith at large.

Both traveled and spoke, teaching courses or conducting seminars for monasteries of several orders as well as international conventions on various topics. Merton chafed under the excessive restrictions of his Trappist authorities, who kept him from traveling and spreading his ideas as much as LeClercq. The authorities of LeClercq’s order were more cooperative with permissions to travel, write or speak than the Trappists were with Merton.

The persistence of Merton and LeClercq in following their calling and fulfilling their personal commitment to Christ and their devotion to God and their calling is admirable and easily discerned in their voluble correspondence here. It is no wonder Merton’s writings were so well-received by Protestant and Catholic alike over the period of his productive life.

I was less familiar with LeClercq’s life and works and this was a satisfying and challenging life to read in this format. In their struggles against the entrenched bureaucracy of their orders they spoke of the aspect of prophecy in the calling of a monk.

They spoke at times of the church censors that would read and edit their books, pamphlets, journal articles, etc, before they were published. Sometimes their works were eviscerated by the censors, especially the Trappists. They had to get permission for each speaking engagement and publication.

For some of us this impediment to fulfilling our calling to teach and write would be forbiddingly torturous. Speaking to the church as a prophet was an important component of their sense of calling; to cast vision and remind the church of its role and calling from God.

Thus the title, Survival (in the morass and frustration fo the monastic and church permission hierarchy for what they can do) or Prophecy (their sense of call to continue the work they feel called to do in and for the church for the sake of God’s work).

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Reading Progress

October 11, 2019 – Started Reading
October 12, 2019 – Finished Reading
October 17, 2019 – Shelved

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