Well, birthday, but not the traditional kind. On December 10, 1968 the dear soul Thomas Merton was birthed from this life into eternity. One of the books I read while I was wandering away from the Catholic Church was Merton's Seven Storey Mountain. This is essentially Merton's autobiography. Merton was a man who came to the Catholic Church and before he became a Trappist monk, he lived quite a bohemian life. I think that is where I identified with him. Merton was definitely a "regular guy," who was gripped by God and felt a strong need to be closer to God.
Merton's popularity grew especially after his death, when his books became quite popular. In his own time, Merton skated on the edge of his faith and often pushed the envelope of accepted Catholic social teaching. At the untimely end of his life, Merton was in the process of creating interfaith dialogue with the Buddhists. I am not saying Merton desired to be a Buddhist, rather I am saying he wanted to create an atmosphere where God could be shared and we could begin to listen with our hearts.
I recommend any of Merton's writings to you, and her was a prolific writer. If you are a newly returned Catholic, thinking about a return, or a non catholic who finds the Catholic Church interesting, I highly suggest you start with The Seven Storey Mountain. Maybe it's me, but I can hear God's gentleness and mercy speaking through Merton's words.
So many people who come to the Catholic Church or return to the Church can look back over the years and see God's Hand guiding them carefully to a place of wholeness and healing in the Church. It is an awesome feeling! And when you read Merton, there are many places you can feel God's Hand touching Thomas Merton.