Just after Thomas Mertons death in 1968, Catholic social activist Catherine de Hueck Doherty wrote to Mertons abbot: "In some strange mysterious way I never quite understood, [he] was in part my spiritual son."
The friendship originated when Merton worked at Friendship House in Harlem, and this volume of warm, candid correspondence traces nearly three decades of friendship through thirty-one surviving letters - fourteen written by Merton, and seventeen by Doherty.
Dohertys previously unpublished letters are now brought together with those of Merton. The exchange reveals Mertons development from a young man searching for his place in Gods plan, to a monk seeking God through solitude and work for social justice.
Robert A. Wild
Robert A. Wild is a priest of the Madonna House community in Combermere, Ontario—a community of laywomen, laymen, and priests founded by Catherine de Hueck Doherty. He helped in the editing of Catherine de Hueck Doherty's early works and now serves as Postulator for her cause for canonization.
Catherine de Hueck Doherty (1896-1985) was born in Russia in 1896 and emigrated to Canada in 1921. In 1938 she established Friendship House in Harlem, New York—an interracial center that distributed goods to the poor and conducted lectures and discussion groups to promote racial understanding. After hearing Doherty talk at St. Bonaventure University in 1941, Thomas Merton came to Harlem and the two became friends. Doherty later founded the Madonna House community in Combermere, Ontario. She lived there until her death in 1985, and her cause was opened in 1994. She has been given the title Servant of God.
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is widely acclaimed as one of the most influential spiritual masters of the twentieth century. A monk, poet, spiritual writer, and social activist, he is perhaps best known for his spiritual autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain.
Fr. Robert Wild is a providential choice as editor of Compassionate Fire, the complete correspondence between Thomas Merton and Catherine de Hueck Doherty. With this book, we now have available both sides of their fascinating exchange of letters beginning with the early 1940s until Merton's tragic accidental death on December 10, 1968. It can be highly recommended to all seekers of the truth.
- Brother Patrick Hart, O.C.S.O, Abbey of Gethsemani
The letters of Catherine de Hueck Doherty and Thomas Merton show us in very human ways the struggle one must go through in order to live as an authentic Christian in the modern world. It is an excellent book that will inspire anyone who tries to understand their faith, will encourage anyone who tries to live their faith, and will guide anyone who desires to share their faith with others.
- Lorene Hanley Duquin, Author of They Called Her the Baroness: The Life of Catherine deHueck Doherty
The letters are an engrossing read of an intimate relationship between two people passionately in love with a God of justice and mercy. The early letters are especially interesting, as they express the deep influence that Catherine, through her work with the poor in Harlem, had on Merton during his initial years of discernment of his vocation. I knew Catherine in her last years, and experienced the strong spiritual presence she communicated with those on the journey. What is most striking in the letters is the intimate contact that persisted between the two of them through the years, as they continued to share a spiritual friendship that had developed out of a mutual love for the poor.
- Fr. Damien Thompson, O.C.S.O, Abbot Emeritus, Abbey of Gethsemani
Reading these letters is like listening to a conversation between two warning canaries in a dangerous mine shaft. Both Catherine Doherty and Thomas Merton were contemplatives and sensitive to the dangers facing the Church: faith being absorbed by culture, inattention of the clergy, the lure of wealth, and the neglect of the poor. It is not too late to pay attention to these letters and to be moved in faith to take our Catholic life seriously. To do this, however, we will have to follow their example by seeking God honestly, praying deeply and consistently, reflecting critically, and striving for a holiness that knows the demands of love.
- Fr. Francis Martin, Professor of New Testament, Dominican House of Studies, Washington, D.C.
The living testimony of two great souls aflame from the same Holy Spirit.
- Richard J. Payne, Founding Editor in Chief, The Classics of Western Spirituality,Executive Producer, Arcadia Films