I read letters from dead people.

I am a student of Thomas Merton. I’ve been studying his life and writings for about seven years now. In case you didn’t know, Thomas Merton (1915–1968) is widely acclaimed as one of the most influential spiritual masters of the 20th century. A monk, poet, spiritual writer, mystic, and social activist, he is perhaps best known for his spiritual autobiography and New York Times best seller, The Seven Story Mountain. In addition to this, and one of the little-known facts about Merton, was that he was possibly one of the most prolific letter writers of the 20th century. Recently I set a personal goal to complete all five volumes of Merton’s collected letters by the end of the year. I just finished volume one and am now well into volume two. I wanted to share with you four things that have stood out to me so far from Merton’s letters.

1. Merton always communicated humility, love, respect and honor towards those he disagreed with.

2. Merton always tried to see the areas of agreement he had with those he held disagreement with.

3. Merton always welcomed and invited further dialogue and correspondence.

4. Almost all of his letters, even with those he was in disagreement with, ended with a sincere, “You will be in my prayers.”

The internet has brought us to the place today where it is easier than ever before to voice our opinions, disagree, and attack those who don’t think the same way as we. There is nothing wrong with having an opinion, or even having an opinion that we hold strongly. But we must never do so in an argumentative way, speaking contemptuously towards those on the “other side.”

Christians, not to mention pastors, can feel very strongly about certain issues or topics. Merton was no exception, but he learned to do so in a way that still communicated love, honor, and respect. This is what I’m learning from the letter-writing of Thomas Merton.

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