Rev. John and Mrs. Margaret Merton (above) were among the approximately four hundred present at the service to remember and celebrate forty years after Thomas Merton’s death, in the Christ’s College Chapel where Thomas Merton’s father, Owen, would have regularly worshipped as a student. John Merton is a first cousin of Thomas Merton and is a retired Anglican priest. He received a letter from Thomas Merton praying on his ordination day, but generally Thomas Merton was kept to one family correspondent which in New Zealand was his grandmother until she died. After this it was his Aunt Kit. She was one of the 53 passengers and crew who drowned in the tragedy of the inter-island ferry Wahine foundering and capsizing at the entrance to Wellington Harbour. That happened April 10, 1968. Thomas Merton wrote in his journal April 25
a frightful mess … and in the middle of it all, poor, sweet Aunt Kit, old and without strength to fight a cold wild sea! I look at the sweater she knitted to protect me against the ‘the cold’ and the whole thing is unbearable.
I have read books in our Christchurch Public Library signed by Thomas Merton to his aunt. Later that year, of course, Thomas Merton died, and it was too short for new New Zealand family correspondence to develop.
The service was recorded for Radio New Zealand as a Christmas service, and I will let you know here when it will be broadcast, and if possible place a podcast here. A most moving point in the service was when Rev. John Merton read the most famous prayer of his cousin:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.