Let me begin by thanking Bishop Robert Morneau for his thought-provoking paper on Thomas Merton as cultural critic. His conclusion, that Merton was indeed a cultural critic but that that was not his primary or defining vocation, is one with which I would agree. I also agree that somehow Merton's true vocation had more to do with imagination than with analysis, with writing itself as a creative process and the evocator of creativity than with its use as an informational tool. I think that Bishop Morneau has identified something important about Merton's distinctive mode of cultural criticism in pointing out that it was rooted in a prophetic capacity for imagining an alternative reality that was itself deeply rooted in his contemplative vocation and best expressed in his writing, perhaps at least as effectively in his poetry as in his prose.
My task, to stimulate further discussion, was made a little more challenging by the fact that I did not find myself in sharp disagreement with anything in Bishop Morneau's paper. That being the case, I decided to pursue one point he made but did not develop, which I think bears further reflection and which might find its way into our discussion.
The Merton Annual: Studies in Culture, Spirituality, & Social Concerns
Victor A. Kramer
Schneiders, Sandra Marie “Merton, Friend of God and Prophet: Response to ‘Thomas Merton: Prophetic and Poetic Imagination’ by Robert F. Morneau.” In The Merton Annual: Studies in Culture, Spirituality, & Social Concerns, vol. 7. Edited by Victor A. Kramer, 81-6. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1995.