Before reading Thomas Merton’s little book Contemplative Prayer,  I had anticipated the difficulties in coming to terms with an entirely different system of theology and spirituality–in this case, one kind of Roman Catholic monastic life. I write “one kind” because I discovered that Merton himself would join Protestants in criticizing the stereotyped vices of the monastery.  Perhaps it’s best to say that Merton was a very influential Roman Catholic monk, writing compellingly for what he saw as the ideals of Roman Catholic monasticism. At any rate, it takes time to receive an author on his own terms, especially with respect to unfamiliar theological systems, because much of the furniture is the same, only arranged quite differently. 
At this point, I need to fill in a gap. Why am I bothering to read Thomas Merton’s Contemplative Prayer? Last winter, I met a Roman Catholic. He and I have met more or less biweekly to read books that have been influential to us, using these books as platforms for discussion. Yes, Merton was his pick. I am now trying to crystallize a few responses to Merton’s biggest ideas therein. I think an acquaintance with these general differences would profit us, and so I share them with you.
Read more about First Impressions of Thomas Merton