Date of Award
Santa Clara : Santa Clara University, 2018.
Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD)
Dr. Bruce H. Lescher, Ph.D.
Consecrated life in the Catholic Church is a vital and healing presence in Indian society. Religious men and women make an integral contribution to the society through their institutions in the fields of education, spirituality, medical care, social services, and other charitable activities. In the present context of India, however, consecrated men and women can experience challenges of relevance and identity in their vocations. These concerns have their basis in the fundamental need for a renewal of religious life itself in India, one which is imbued with a Christ-centered spirituality and reflects the prophetic charism that marks apostolic religious life.
Indian religious life upholds three values: contemplation, prophecy, and community. Given these values, I find a deep affinity between the ideals of Indian consecrated life and Thomas Merton’s contemplative-prophetic spirituality. This study proposes therefore, that the spirituality of Thomas Merton can serve as a vital resource for the relevance of the consecrated life in India.
Thomas Merton was a 20th century Christian spiritual leader in the United States, a priest and a Cistercian monk who sought to find a balance between contemplation and social action. He believed that contemplation and action had to go hand-in-hand, making him a forerunner of the modern-day emphasis on the intersection of faith and social justice. Though he often experienced deep insecurity, spiritual darkness, confusion, and restlessness, his spirituality remained Christ-centered. While he lived his life in deep interiority and contemplation, Merton went beyond the confines of his monastic life and iii engaged prophetically in the world through his involvement in interfaith dialogue and his powerful writings, many of which denounced injustices such as violence and war, economic disparity, the breakdown of community, the nuclear arms race, racism, and ecological degradation.
Today, Indian consecrated men and women are called to deepen their spirituality in order to fuel a renewal of the structures of the Indian Church, to confront the social evils of our time, and to seek out new forms of interreligious dialogue in our pluralistic and multi-religious context. Through my exploration of Thomas Merton’s writings, I consider how his contemplative-prophetic spirituality can serve as a valuable resource for a renewal of consecrated life in India, one that is immersed in the concrete realities of the society, the Church, and the post-modern world. Though my study makes a contribution to the existing field of contextual analysis of consecrated life and mission in India, it is unique in that it brings Merton’s contemplative-prophetic spirituality into dialogue with the Indian context, proposing renewed forms of spirituality that are characterized by a deep integration of contemplation and action, solitude and engagement with the world.
Regarding methodology, the study employs Sandra Schneiders’ hermeneutical approach, which consists of three steps: description, critical analysis, and interpretation. In the descriptive phase, I explore the life and spiritual journey of Thomas Merton. Corresponding to the critical analysis phase, I consider the contemplative and prophetic dimensions of Merton’s spirituality as well as salient points from sociological studies of religious life in India. In the interpretative phase, I consider how the contemplative-prophetic spirituality of Thomas Merton may vitalize consecrated life in India today.
Jose, Fabian, "The Contemplative-Prophetic Spirituality of Thomas Merton: Its Relevance for the Consecrated Life in India" (2018). Jesuit School of Theology Dissertations. 14.