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The Sign of Jonas Paperback – November 18, 2002

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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Book
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (November 18, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015602800X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156028004
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #394,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was born in France and came to live in the United States at the age of 24. He received several awards recognizing his contribution to religious study and contemplation, including the Pax Medal in 1963, and remained a devoted spiritualist and a tireless advocate for social justice until his death in 1968. The Sign of Jonas was originally published in 1953.

More About the Author

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has millions of copies and has been translated into over fifteen languages. He wrote over sixty other books and hundreds of poems and articles on topics ranging from monastic spirituality to civil rights, nonviolence, and the nuclear arms race.

After a rambunctious youth and adolescence, Merton converted to Roman Catholicism and entered the Abbey of Gethsemani, a community of monks belonging to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists), the most ascetic Roman Catholic monastic order.

The twenty-seven years he spent in Gethsemani brought about profound changes in his self-understanding. This ongoing conversion impelled him into the political arena, where he became, according to Daniel Berrigan, the conscience of the peace movement of the 1960's. Referring to race and peace as the two most urgent issues of our time, Merton was a strong supporter of the nonviolent civil rights movement, which he called "certainly the greatest example of Christian faith in action in the social history of the United States." For his social activism Merton endured severe criticism, from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who assailed his political writings as unbecoming of a monk.

During his last years, he became deeply interested in Asian religions, particularly Zen Buddhism, and in promoting East-West dialogue. After several meetings with Merton during the American monk's trip to the Far East in 1968, the Dali Lama praised him as having a more profound understanding of Buddhism than any other Christian he had known. It was during this trip to a conference on East-West monastic dialogue that Merton died, in Bangkok on December 10, 1968, the victim of an accidental electrocution. The date marked the twenty-seventh anniversary of his entrance to Gethsemani.

Customer Reviews

These contemplations easily reach my heart and mind.
Gisela R. Padfield
THE SIGN OF JONAS is a collection of journal entries written by Thomas Merton between 1946 and 1952.
Timothy Kearney
Reading and re-reading this book is like having a close friend.
D. Curry

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By LuelCanyon on November 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
This classic book finds Merton in his burgeoning prime as a writer and at the emotional apogee of his monastic life; readying for ordination, and the subsequent unfolding of a spiritual path which he so fully lived at Gethsemani abbey, still true then, still pristine. Later, of course, things soured a bit, Merton's mind moved on, his spiritual understanding both widened and deepened. But the journal pages in 'The Sign of Jonas' are among the most beautiful on the block, infused with Merton's joy of religion, and with his magnificent prose. It's always seemed a daunting idea, if not impossible, to both describe the innocent and inevitable timbre of Thomas Merton's voice and to adequately praise it. We can lament that there is only so much Merton to read, yet one is flushed a bit with relief knowing that every page of every book contains the whole of his spiritual, not to mention literary, genius. 'Sign of Jonas' sits up at the top of the heap, along with 'Waters of Siloe' and 'Bread in the Wilderness', and the incredible 'Journals'. The geniality of the book is such that it becomes everything just to read his pages on the changing landscape at Gethsemani come winter, and the snow! Merton's intense Love is like a burning coal through to the end. Impossible to remain unchallenged in the face of this kind of perfect spiritual literature.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Kearney VINE VOICE on January 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
THE SIGN OF JONAS is a collection of journal entries written by Thomas Merton between 1946 and 1952. The purpose of the book was to introduce readers to the daily life of a monk, though the gifted Merton was hardly a typical monk of his day or any other. Readers will get a glimpse into this spiritual seeker and see the ups and downs of the life of someone who was truly in search of union with God. Since readers of this text are encountering Merton nearly forty years after his death, we read it with hindsight and can see the complexities that are Merton. We have many spiritual nuggets, his daily struggles and his restlessness and the conflicts both within himself and with monastic life. We also see someone who was trying to persevere in the spiritual life which may be one reason why Merton appeals to so many and his life captures so much interest. Perhaps what I enjoy most I enjoy most about THE SIGN OF JONAS would be the references to his writings and the publication of THE SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN. We hear him speak in some entries about edits that have been made by the publisher, references to portions that were edited by the monastery itself (often referred to as censored, but since he was writing it for the benefit of the order, the order did have the right to do some editing) and his love/hate relationship with the book that made him a well know figure.

In order to best appreciate this book, I would read it after THE SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN. It would also be a good idea to be familiar with the expectations of religious life as well the rigors of the life of a Trappist prior to the reforms of Vatican II. Without a basic knowledge of Merton's life, as well as the circumstances of his life would probably make THE SIGN OF JONAS somewhat confusing.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Tony Theil on October 19, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Unlike many of Merton's other books, The Sign of Jonas is easily understood and makes for good light reading. His journal covers his early monastic life from 1946 to 1952 and is an intimate look inside the cloister of Gethsemani. The life of a monk is not as idyllic or full of ritual as my preconception. There is quite a bit of manual work, particularly in the fields where even Merton's hands became calloused from digging ditches. The daily activities make for enjoyable reading.
Also revealing are Merton's laments about his assignment as a writer. He found writing to be an unpleasant task causing great dispeasure and dissatisfaction. Over time, after his ordination, writing provided the quiet and solitude he sought. But he was a harsh critic of his own books. This is what he wrote in his journal about Seeds of Contemplation:
"There is nothing to be proud of in this one, either. It is clever and difficult to follow, not so much because I am deep as because I don't know how to punctuate, and my line of thought is clumsy and tortuous. It lacks warmth and human affection."
Although there is some truth in his self-evaluation, it cannot be said about The Sign of Jonas that it lacks warmth and human affection. And his poetic style shows in several entries. The Sign of Jonas is certainly in the "top 10" of Merton's books and will be read again.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By William H Holley Jr. on June 25, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thomas Merton is my favorite author. I've read a great many of his books including the multi-volume set of his journals which was published a few years ago. I believe that Merton's at his best and is most accessible in his biographical writing. I think that was much of the reason why his early "Seven Story Mountain" was so well received by the public. "Sign of Jonas" fits this mold. So I'm reading it for the third time, the first on Kindle. I give Merton five stars.

But as one reviewer reported, the text is loaded with typographical errors. I saw the warning, but I like the book so much that I bought Amazon's kindle version anyway. The other reviewer was not exagerating. How could Amazon go ahead and sell this without having someone proof read it? To me it's sloppy, negligent, and an insult to Merton. If I was the publisher, I'd pull this kindle version.

Amazon has a good thing going with these kindle books, but they'll kill their business if they continue to sell such shoddy material. HEY AMAZON; PROOF READ YOU KINDLE BOOKS AND CLEAN THEM UP BEFORE YOU SELL THEM!!!
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