Do you remember the story some years ago about the U.S. Catholic bishops deleting Thomas Merton from the U.S. Catechism? As the National Catholic Reporter reported,
Two catechetical translators — Msgr. Michael Wrenn, dean of students at St. Joseph Seminary in Dunwoody, N.Y., and Kenneth D. Whitehead, a Catholic author who formerly served as U.S. assistant secretary of education — wrote an article for Catholic World News, a Web site, condemning the catechism’s biographical inclusion of the internationally admired Merton …
Wrenn and Whitehead have asserted that Merton’s investigation of Eastern religions toward the end of his life make him a poor role model for faithful Catholics.
A movement arose to lobby the U.S. bishops to include Merton, but he was excluded.
This is an interesting backdrop to the decision of Pope Francis to highlight precisely this Trappist monk in his speech to the U.S. congress, as RNS reports:
At his speech before Congress on Thursday (Sept. 24), Pope Francis listed Trappist monk Thomas Merton as one of four exemplary Americans who provide wisdom for us today. …
That monk was significant because 10 years ago, when the first national Catholic catechism for adults was published in the U.S., Merton’s name was omitted as not Catholic enough.
So there you have it: a follower of the Rule of Benedict (as Cistercians and Trappists are) was highlighted for a U.S. audience by Pope Francis. I wonder if he Francis realized the significance of his decision to include this Trappist monk.