Working my way through the works of Thomas Merton more or less consistently over the last several years, I found myself wondering what he sounded like. I knew there was a collection of audio tapes at the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University, but there was nothing I could find on the Internet. Last fall I discovered that Credence Communications was putting out a series of CDs featuring Merton speaking to groups of novices in the 1960s. Portions of the recordings have also been posted on YouTube.
Much like founding out what a favorite radio personality looks like, hearing the voice of someone you only know from their writing can be completely different from what you imagine. In this case, Merton sounds much like I thought he would – approachable, direct, knowledgeable without being pedantic. Given the original audience for the talks he was giving the content is somewhat esoteric, but the recordings provide an interesting glimpse into Merton as a human being. As I have experienced in his writing, Merton is all about being authentic, all about the true self, regardless of the particularities of religious doctrine, so it’s good to hear him come across this way “in person.”