A Confessional Portrayal of the Last Day in the Life of Thomas Merton, the Famous Catholic Monk and Writer
Why did Thomas Merton die the way he did?
Paul Hourihan’s powerful new voice challenges our most basic assumptions about religion and spirituality in this intense, unforgettable rendering—in semi-fictional form—of the last hours of Thomas Merton’s life.
Why did the famous Catholic monk and acclaimed writer, die so mysteriously and suddenly in a cottage room outside of Bangkok in December 1968?
In this radical reinterpretation of Merton’s character, Hourihan provides a convincing explanation to this question, which a multitude of Catholics have asked themselves. He probes the enigmatic event with such insight that the significance of Merton’s death is finally illuminated.
He sees Merton as a tragically divided soul unable to resolve his conflicts within a Christian framework. Consequently, he was driven for release into the world of Oriental mysticism. Hourihan also views him as a man who should not have become a monk in the first place. He sees him as falling victim to his own spiritual inadequacies, as well as to fame, and uncritical hero-worship from laity and clergy, both lacking knowledge of what constituted a true mystic. This fact-based confessional novel will appeal to ex-Catholics and others with a Christian background searching for guidance outside of their traditional faith.
This spiritual book also reveals the unsuspected gap between the reality and the image of this 20th century Catholic icon, exposing the truth behind the façade. Therefore, it is not recommended for warm admirers of Thomas Merton, who want to maintain their cherished image of him.
Hourihan demythologizes Thomas Merton, a man sadly unsuited for the role his followers imposed on him. His basic conclusion is that Westerners lack grounding in a mystical orientation that would instruct them about the nature of spirituality. Hourihan, an American himself, reveals Western religious institutions as inadequate for understanding the deeper mystical traditions.
A Note of Caution
Rooted in the mysticism of the East, The Death of Thomas Merton is not intended to confuse or disturb the faith of anyone, but it is a novel likely to seem overly provocative to many, and may offend Westerners comfortable in their religious beliefs—especially warm admirers of Thomas Merton.
As religious faith is our most treasured possession, those who have it should guard it carefully. The present work is not for some.
No one should be ashamed of acting prudently in so crucial an area. We all know the experience of exposing our minds to books or films which, in retrospect, we would have done better to avoid. For certain individuals The Death of Thomas Merton may be such an experience.
The “Preface” should be examined to help in coming to a decision.
Reviews and Readers’ Comments
“In this complex work of fiction based on the last day in Thomas Merton’s life, Paul Hourihan has worked with words on the canvas of Merton’s life to create a dynamic picture of how his inner dialog and his spirit’s quest may have evolved on that December day of 1968 in Bangkok. Through Hourihan’s words Merton has become even more exalted in my consideration, because through The Death of Thomas Merton I see myself in him and him in me. He is even more to be called venerable for his confrontation with a conflict that, were it fully known by his higher-ups, could potentially have raised the roof of theological and philosophical attitude.
“In Hourihan’s book we sample what life is all about in our inner worlds through his portrayal of Merton. I highly recommend it to all readers, no matter what their opinion is about Thomas Merton, for they’ll put down the book—having finished it—with greatly enhanced insight.
“To me, the real question raised by Hourihan’s novel is, on that day when Thomas Merton died so suddenly, did something really die or was something being born?”
– Lily G. Stephen, author of The Third Verse Trilogy, Blooming Rose Press
“… A profound and thoughtful testimony … very highly recommended reading both as a work of fact-based fiction and as a thoughtfully speculative portrayal of Thomas Merton in terms of his life and his thought.”
– The Midwest Book Review, Oregon, WI