Sunday, August 23, 2009

Glenn Hinson on His Life-Changing Encounter with Thomas Merton

Glenn Hinson, who taught church history and spirituality at Southern Seminary in Louisville for more than thirty years, wrote recently of his encounter with Thomas Merton.

He said, “Merton was one of my happiest ‘accidents.’ I took students to the Abbey of Gethsemani on 7 November 1960, to introduce them to the Middle Ages. Merton was our bonus. He changed the lives of every one of us and continues to do that for countless others.”

Hinson wrote earlier of one of the episodes that occurred on this history ‘field trip’ to the monastery in the hills of Kentucky. The class came primarily to develop their awareness of the communities that developed in the Middle Ages, not to learn about a life of prayer.

The host,Thomas Merton, gave the class more than they expected. After talking about the rise of the monastic life in the Medieval period, Merton asked if there were any questions.

One student asked what Hinson most feared would be asked. The student said, “What’s a smart fellow like you doing in a place like this?”

Hinson said that he expected Merton to respond in anger or frustration that he’d not been heard, but Merton responded very simply: “I am here because this is my vocation. I believe in prayer.”

Glenn Hinson, Thomas Merton Facebook Page, 29 July 2009.

E. Glenn Hinson, Spiritual Preparation for Christian Leadership, Nashville, Upper Room Books, 1999, 151.

This ‘vocation’ story is one of the many stories from the book by Geoff Pound, Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment, Eureka: John Broadbanks Publishing, 2009, 54-56.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

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Image: Thomas Merton.