Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a contemplative monk who spent 27 years inside the walls of a Trappist monastery in Kentucky. Only in his last year was he permitted to travel at any length. Even though he was never at Auschwitz this poetry places him there so as to let a generous sensitivity and tenacious faith like his respond to this horrendous calamity. Merton stands for all those who, in the light of Auschwitz, ask the question: where was God, and in so asking expose their belief to severe trial. Merton's struggle with this question was lived out elsewhere. Only the location has been shifted in the poetry that follows.
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Thomas, of Melchizedek, had no altar
On which to offer sacrifice,
Only empty hands held like a paten
On which he placed those being sacrificed,
Spoke the words
And gathered what strength remained him
To raise them to the Father.
It was the only way he had to help,
But already before his offering
They were being awaited
Whom the tormentors
Thought they were helping.
Except for one who stood there
In SS black
Watching Thomas's compassion
Radiate to the crowds.
On seeing it he stripped
And entered the lines
To be one with them,