As the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Merton approaches in 2015, a new book about the Trappist monk so closely associated with the friars has been written. “The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton” by Daniel Horan, OFM, of Boston was released last month.
The book “offers a unique insight on the influence of St. Francis and the Franciscan spiritual and intellectual tradition on one of the best-known voices on spirituality and social justice in the 20th century,” according to a description from Ave Maria Press. In it, Daniel compares St. Francis and Merton, exploring their spiritual lives, their role as models of Christian living through shared theological styles of reflection, openness to other faiths, devotion to peace and view of God. Dan also writes about how Merton’s “Franciscan spirit” influenced his own faith.
“I have always wanted to write a book about the Franciscan influence in Merton’s life and writings,” said Dan. “For years, I have been fascinated by this aspect of his life and the intersection with our tradition, especially the way he incorporated Franciscan theology into his own popular writing.” Part of the book discusses Holy Name Province’s link to Merton, who had applied to join the Franciscan friars.
“Nearly everybody thinks that Merton was eventually rejected by the friars at 31st Street because he was alleged to have fathered a child in Cambridge, England, while in college,” Dan said. “This is not the whole story. In chapter three, I present all the facts and context to show what actually unfolded was much more complex.”
Dan includes a chapter about Merton’s time at St. Bonaventure University, and his relationship with several friars — including Philotheus Boehner, OFM, Thomas Plassmann, OFM, and Irenaeus Herscher, OFM — who helped Merton discern his vocation to religious life.
“Much of the book focuses on the profound ways that Francis, St. Bonaventure, John Duns Scotus, St. Angela of Foligno and others from the Franciscan tradition informed and shaped Merton’s personal life and spiritual writings,” Dan said. “Merton’s most famous idea, ‘The True Self,’ is actually a popularization of John Duns Scotus’s principle of individuation, known as haecceitas. I think this book will be fascinating for those who love both the Franciscan tradition and Merton’s work.”
On Oct. 2, St. Anthony Shrine hosted a book launch and Dan gave a presentation, followed by a book signing. He has several events scheduled in the next month:
- Oct. 16: A lecture on theology of creation at the regional meeting of the College Theology Society in Boston
- Oct. 22: A lecture on Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis at St. Peter Church in Cambridge, Mass.
- Nov. 5: A lecture on “The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton” at Assumption Parish in Wood-Ridge, N.J.
In April, he will be one of the keynote speakers at the Spiritual Directors International annual conference in Louisville, Ky.
In addition to preparing for PhD comprehensive exams, Dan will be contributing a monthly column for the Italian magazine The Messenger of Saint Anthony as part of the Year for Consecrated Life that begins this fall.
He will also release another book, “Postmodernity and Univocity: A Critical Account of Radical Orthodoxy and John Duns Scotus,” in December. Published by Fortress Press, the book is a scholarly text that “offers a substantial challenge to the narrative of radical orthodoxy’s idiosyncratic take on Scotus and his role in ushering the philosophical age of the modern,” according to the book’s description.
Dan, who was solemnly professed in 2011 and ordained in 2012, is the author of several other books, including: “Dating God: Live and Love in the Way of St. Francis,” “The Last Words of Jesus: A Meditation on Love and Suffering,” and “Francis of Assisi and the Future of Faith: Exploring Franciscan Spirituality and Theology in the Modern World.”
Information about Dan’s work and his schedule can be found on his website.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.