Just after Thomas Merton's death in 1968, Catholic social activist Catherine de Hueck Doherty wrote to Merton's 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 lettersfourteen written by Merton, and seventeen by Doherty. Doherty's previously unpublished letters are now brought together with those of Merton. The exchange reveals Merton's development from a young man searching for his place in God's plan, to a monk seeking God through solitude and work for social justice.
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