My blogposts are accessible at

Work in Progress 2017


“Before Merton met Margie: preliminary visits from Eros”–on the visitations of Eros, that primal spirit, to Thomas Merton, preliminary to and proleptic of his Grande Visite when he and Margie met.

Books ready for publication

“A Thomas Merton Harvest: Essays and Reviews 1974-2017,” a collection of some of my writings on Merton over those years; foreword by Patrick F. O’Connell, professor of English and Theology, Gannon University, Erie, PA

Conversations with a Painting and the Search for the Father“–a memoir-reflection on my great painting (see “The Painting” on this website for a brief summary of my connection)

“Leonard Cohen and Thomas Merton: Soul Brothers”intended for a general audience; brings together the many similarities and points of connection between them on their journeys to becoming transcultural and transreligious spiritual teachers; foreword by Lorne Calvert, principal of St Andrew’s College, Saskatoon; former premier of Saskatchewan

“Thomas Merton’s Day of a Stranger: Solitude as Resistance . An annotated edition of Merton’s essay, “Day of a Stranger,” a brilliant piece which pulls together in the space of a few pages all of Merton’s major themes; includes the first, second, third and final drafts; a number of essays written about it (two of them mine); and annotations to the final text of DS to connect the large number of references in the essay with Merton’s comments about them in his journals; essays or introductions from thirteen other scholars; focuses on Merton as “a theologian of resistance” – foreword by David Belcastro; submitted to Paulist Press June 1

Submitted for publication in 2017

“Benedetto Calati and Thomas Merton: From Critique to Encomium” – on the change of mind in prominent Italian theologian and public intellectual Benedetto Calati; having been very critical of Merton, he ended by describing him as God’s gift to the monks of the 20th century. Submitted to The Merton Seasonal August 5, 2017

“Thomas Merton’s Day of a Stranger: Solitude as Resistance  – Version 4 of the essay, annotated (see above), with an introduction. Submitted to The Merton Annual July 10, 2017

Published in 2017

“Polarized by Khadr,” one of five letters published on the subject of the compensation paid by the federal government to Omar Khadr: The Globe and Mail, July 7, A10.

“Verbatim: an interview with Christina Kinch” (co-ordinator of the Contemplative Justice Network),  The United Church Observer (April 2017) 46.

“Verbatim: an interview with Rochelle Graham” (minister to persons with dementia), The United Church Observer, February, in the print issue p. 44; on line,

“Interview with Michael Bell” (former Canadian ambassador to Israel), The United Church Observer, February, in the print issue pp.12-13; on line,

“Public Intellectual and Democratic Dissenter: Thomas Merton and Nuclear Weapons,” The Thomas Merton Annual 29, ed. Joseph Quinn Raab and Deborah Kehoe (2016) 159-79.

“A Single Sacred Community: an Interview with Charles Brandt–Hermit, Bookbinder, Ecologist,”  The Thomas Merton Annual 29, ed. Joseph Quinn Raab and Deborah Kehoe (2016) 38-57 (with David Chang).

Published in 2016

Letter to the editor: Christian Century 133.19 (September 14) 6 – “Another side of Wiesel,” written in response to his obituary in CC 133.16 (August 3) 17, and pointing out that the obit omitted his hostility to Palestinians. Two appreciative emails: North Carolina and New York State.

“Good Spirits,” a “First Look” piece for The United Church Observer; concerns a neo-monastic community-cum-brewery in Victoria; July-August issue, 10-11.

“An unsuitable saint” (see below): rpt. in Island Catholic News 30:1-3 (Spring) 11.

Consonantia in Thomas Merton: personal, social and cosmic harmony,” in The Thomas Merton Annual, v. 28 (2015), ed. David Belcastro and Joseph Quinn Raab (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 2016) 97-111. See also p. 12 for the editor’s comment on the article.

“Catholics and Jews begin new dialogue” (a news brief): The United Church Observer (March 2016) 44.

“An unsuitable saint: the recent canonization of an 18th-century Spanish colonizer has incensed Indigenous North Americans. What was Pope Francis thinking?”  The United Church Observer (February 2016) 

Published in 2015

“Advent with Thomas Merton,” 2015 Advent Reflections for the Community of Vancouver School of Theology. Vancouver: VST, 2015, n.p.–my contribution on (unpaginated)  p. 11

“Divergent views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” (the paper’s heading): letter to the editor, Anglican Journal 141.9 (November) 4. Comment on two letters in the September issue of the Journal.

“Thomas Merton and Leonard Cohen: Soul Brothers and Spiritual Guides,” Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction 21.4 (December 2015) 32-39.


“I loved your article on Thomas Merton and Leonard Cohen in the December 2015 Presence. I thought it was full of delicious information that lit up both Cohen and Merton. The article, so well-written and so engaging, was about two men beloved for different reasons; and yet, as you point out, they were both “plumb-lines for the divine and a monastic perspective in everyday life” (Nov 29, 2015): Jinks Hoffmann, Toronto, poetry editor of Presence.

“Thank you so much for your thoughtful and insightful article. I valued the connection between Leonard Cohen and Thomas Merton, both of whom have been inspiring guides for many years.  . . . I think one of the nuances . . . that I value from Leonard – live in performance – is the quality of respectfulness and humble presence he brings to the music and his team. He personifies the one who is in service to the music and the art form itself. I find a similar presence and respectfulness in Merton’s approach to the poetic imagination” (Sept 23, 2016): Peter Wiltshire, chaplain, Wesley College, Melbourne, Australia.

*Letter to the editor, Guardian Weekly (September 18), p. 23, asking that in the press the word “execution” be reserved for the action of a government which uses capital punishment, and that other deaths, such as those of the young journalists killed by a disgruntled colleague, be described as murders, which is what they are

“Unholy allies: Christian Zionists are among Israel’s most ardent supporters. But their apocalyptic theology comes with dangerous strings attached”–a report on the Sabeel conference held in Vancouver April 23-25 (see The United Church Observer, September  – – and in the print edition, pp.20-21. Six reader comments at the web link.


Thank you, Don.  What a splendid job you did! Gerald Hobbs, professor emeritus, Vancouver School of Theology, and a member of the conference organizing committee (Dec 7, 2015).


“Olive trees and the powers of darkness: a Holy Week reflection,” Topic 46.6  (Summer) 23

“Consonantia in Thomas Merton: harmony personal, social and cosmic,” a presentation at the 14th General Meeting/Conference of the International Thomas Merton Society, Louisville, Kentucky, June 6


Thomas Merton and the Noonday Demon: The Camaldoli Correspondence (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock), published May 19 (cover below) – available via; published in the UK by Lutterworth Press, Cambridge, also in 2015

This book concerns Merton’s attempts in the mid-fifties to transfer from Gethsemani to Camaldoli, an ancient monastery in Italy, in search of more silence and solitude than was available to him at his own monastery, Gethsemani, in Kentucky. As a hermeneutic, I use the ancient monastic concept of acedia, variously translated as restlessness, dissatisfaction, self-disgust–and about a dozen other related terms. This was a subject which Merton taught to the novices when he was novice master; and yet it seems that it never occurred to him to apply it to himself, and to his own feelings and actions. The larger context of the book, of course, is Merton’s desire for a solitude in which he could come closer to his own True Self, and go deeper with God in love and freedom.


Reviews and comments

From Jim Forest, author, friend and correspondent of Merton, secretary of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship

“I have just started reading your book on Merton and the Noonday Demon and find it very exciting and finely written. Groundbreaking.”

From Professor John S. Conway, professor emeritus of History, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

“I am writing to tell you how much I valued the opportunity to read your new book on Thomas Merton and the Noonday Demon.  I can just imagine the thrill and excitement you must have had when a package of 50-year-old letters in an ancient monastery archive in the Tuscan Appenines was given to you to read.  And I want to say how much I admire the obvious diligence and the extensive time you must have spent in searching out the clues contained in these letters.    Your efforts have made the story one which I am sure will be of interest to many readers, besides those already engaged by your previous studies of Thomas Merton.    . . .  Your sympathy for Dom James Fox is something I can certainly share, and [I] was deeply impressed by the generosity and insight of the letter from Montini.  I believe that many readers of all faiths will be grateful to you for your splendid researching in this book” (personal email, April 9, 2016).

From Ron Dart, professor of Political Science and Religious Studies, University of the Fraser Valley, in Crux 50.2 (Summer 2014*) 8-9. *This journal, published by Regent College, is some issues behind, but they are continuing to use the belated dates. Hence a review of my book, published in 2015, will appear to the reader of some decades from now, to have been published before the book was [ :) ]. Rpt. in The Merton Journal 22.2 (Advent 2015) 24-26, and, on line, in Clarion, July 14, 2015 –

“Grayston does a superb job of setting the dilemma [of Merton’s vocation] both within a broader, classical context and within Merton’s own personal experience of boredom, restlessness, and an idealized other place. . . . a finely crafted tome.”

From Angus Stuart, rector of the Church of St Francis in the Wood, West Vancouver, BC: Topic 46:10 (December 2015) 22 (newspaper of the Anglican diocese of New Westminster).

“[the author] does not pull his punches when it comes to critiquing Merton’s methods and motives. . . . As so often with Merton’s writings, . . . a mirror is held up to our own lives . . . . a great book . . . scholarly but not stuffy–a substantial contribution to Merton scholarship . . . a very good introduction to Merton for those who have not read him before . . . .”

From Victor A. Kramer, emeritus professor at Georgia State University, Atlanta, spiritual director and retreat leader, in The Merton Seasonal 41.1 (Spring 2016): a review,”Acedia and Wanderlust,”23-25.

“This book is quite amazing. It is good and clear and strangely challenging. It tells us about a Merton we would as soon not know about while we also learn to admire him. It is well organized, not preachy, and compassionate. It is well researched and charitable. It is both difficult to read and a pleasure. It makes you wonder. It enlightens, both a scholarly book, well written and compelling. It tells us several stories: Merton’s quest; the author’s quest; and implies everyone’s quest in seeking the will of God. It is about indecision and revision and the need to know, but finally it reminds us that we have a need to accept the fact that we must have faith. It is about vocation and seeking, hoping, and praying and it is a mystery-detective story too, well worth reading.”

From Joe Raab, co-editor, The Merton Annual.“Just wanted you to know that I am feasting on your book and thoroughly enjoying it. Superb scholarship coupled with engaging prose and insightful analysis” (Oct 21):

From Gary Hall, tutor, The Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham, UK, and co-editor, The Merton Journal.“I just had to send you a message, as I’m into your Noonday Demon and really enjoying it. What a great piece of work. And I very much like the way you have introduced and framed it” (Nov 18, 2015).

From John Stuart, teacher, headmaster, careers advisor, retired, Marlborough, Wiltshire, UK.

“… what a masterful book [Thomas Merton and the Noonday Demon] is and what a significant contribution to Merton studies it must be. …  How splendid to have this extra dimension (of direct dialogue) on how  this central issue in Merton’s life was played out. And what players! (Even Montini!). And what chutzpah Merton could display! Fascinating how Grayston steers the reader to reflect on his/her own vocational journey – not least by sharing his own reflections so effectively” (Jan 23, 2016).

From Patrick F. O’Connell, professor of Theology and English, Gannon University, Erie, PA, and dean of contemporary Merton scholars, in The American Benedictine Review 67.2 (June 2016) 172-79.

” . . . groundbreaking new book . . . one of the most revealing looks at this crucial transitional period in Merton’s life . . . lucid, comprehensive, very readable and in the main convincing . . . one of the most important biographical studies of Thomas Merton . . .  meticulously researched and attractively presented . . . one of the most stimulating studies of Thomas Merton to appear in recent years.

From Mary John Marshall, OSB, abbess emerita of Malling Abbey, West Malling, Kent, UK, in Cistercian Studies Quarterly, 51.3 (2016) 395-98.

“. . . thoughtful and very thought-provoking / a careful analysis of this affliction [acedia] as it beset Merton / has the features of a tabloid scoop, but there is vastly more to it than that / the encounter . . . with M [Margie Smith] . . . is treated with restraint and sensitivity / a deeply engaging and readable book / a valuable perspective on a prophet who saw far ahead of his time . . . .”

From Larry Culliford, psychiatrist, author, member of the Thomas Merton Society of Great Britain and Ireland, in The Journal of Spirituality 7.1 – on  line,

. . . a remarkable piece of scholarship, filling an important gap in the bigger picture of  Thomas Merton’s life and spiritual struggle. . . . Don Grayston is to be congratulated on turning over long-lost Camaldoli stones, uncovering these thirty-six magical letter-threads, and weaving from them an elaborate, Merton-shaped signpost to spiritual maturity for our consideration in this highly estimable book.

From Dan Horan, professor in the Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, in The Merton Annual 29, 239-42

. . . a notable contribution / [merits] a wide readership / provides a helpful introduction to the key characters involved in the correspondence / delights the historical imagination / insightful and well researched / required reading for the Merton scholar or committed admirer . . . .


“Holy Land narratives: Three recent takes on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can help Canadians grasp the whole picture,” a “culture essay” for the United Church Observer, published on-line May 4, at Print edition, pp. 4, 14-15.

* Letter in response: Karen Rodman, “Not the West Bank I know,” Observer, July-August, 8

“Beautiful hymn,” letter to the editor, Anglican Journal 141.5 (May) 4.

“Come and see,” letter to the editor, The Jewish Independent, Vancouver (April 17) 21, interpreting the intention of the Sabeel conference on Christian Zionism

Letter to the editor, Guardian Weekly (March 20) 23, applauding President Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL pipeline (permanently cancelled November 5)

Panelist, at a Symposium for a graduate course on Contemplative Education in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University, February 28

“Thomas Merton at 100: Public Intellectual and Democratic Dissenter,” lecture for the Institute for the Humanities, Simon Fraser University, February 5

Speaker (one of six) at Thomas Merton’s Beerthday Party, January 31, at the Our Town Café, Broadway and Kingsway in Vancouver

Non finis quaerendi: my journey with Thomas Merton,” in We are Already One: Thomas Merton’s Message of Hope. Reflections in Honor of his Centenary (1915-2015). Gray Henry and Jonathan Montaldo, eds. Fwd. Paul M. Pearson. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, pp. 224-27.

“A very special confirmation,” Topic 46.1 (January) 8.

Published in 2014

“Homelessness: A Collage.” Topic 45.6 (June) 19. 014%20Topic_finalforweb.pdf

“Encounter with a Mentor” [Trevor Huddleston].  SALT: Newsletter of the Anglican Parish of Salt Spring Island 41.4 (Spring) 9-11.

“Pete Seeger: singer, saint, sage (1919-2014).” SALT: Newsletter of the Anglican Parish of Salt Spring Island 41.4 (Spring) 14-15.

Non finis quaerendi: my journey with Thomas Merton.”  The Merton Journal 21.1 (Eastertide) 3-9.

Rev. of Sylvie Simmons, I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen (New York: Ecco/HarperCollins, 2012), and Alan Light, The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah” (New York: Atria/Simon and Schuster, 2012). The Merton Annual 26 (2013) 259-64.

Published in 2013

“Consonantia.” Topic 44.10 (December) 18.

“Memories, dreams, reflections 1963 – 2013.” SALT: Newsletter of the Anglican Parish of Salt Spring Island 40.3 (Advent 2013) 14-15. Rpt of a blogpost of the same name, October 11, 2013.

Ken Shigematsu, God in my Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013, pp. 252.

“‘Disappearing Palestine’—the transit ads and “our Jewish teachings.” Proposed op-ed article for The Vancouver Sun in response to the Sun editorial of September 4, 2013: “Rosh Hashanah greeting with rising hate against Jews” [sic]: not published.

“Give thanks for those who made their life a light: reflections following the memorial service for the Reverend Dr Cyril Powles,” Topic 44.8 (October 2013) 12.

Foreword to Bob Purdy, Without Guarantee: In Search of a Vulnerable God (Chesterfield, MO: Mira Digital Publishing, 2013) vi-viii.

“Dan Berrigan at 92,” in SALT: Newsletter of the Anglican Parish of Salt Spring Island 40.2 (Summer 2013) 6. Rpt of a blogpost of the same name, May 1, 2013.

“The human experience of transcendence: Merton at Polonnaruwa,” presented to the 13th General Meeting/Conference of the International Thomas Merton Society,” Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT, June 14

“The Inner Pilgrimage” – Sermon preached at St Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, Vancouver, June 2, 2013, at the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Pacific Jubilee Program in Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Direction –

“I didn’ ‘ave the Latin …”, SALT: The Newsletter of the Anglican Parish of Salt Spring Island 40.1 (Easter 2013) 13, 15.

“Holding a place open for humanity: meaning and challenge.” Fifth Annual Lecture in Palliative Care, Palliative Care Division, Faculty of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, January 24.

Published in 2012

“Merton in Asia: The Polonnaruwa Illumination,” in Ross Labrie and Angus Stuart, eds., Thomas Merton: Monk on the Edge (Vancouver: Thomas Merton Society of Canada) 135-54.

Letter, February / Anglican Journal / 5-6 /Wrong side of history

Letter, April 6 / Anglican Journal (June) 3.
Jesus and the Church (appreciation for Mark MacDonald)

Letter, May 1 / Guardian Weekly / May 11, 23
Tom Holland

Letter, June 29 / Globe and Mail / July 2, A8
Camp bullies

Letter, August 21 / Globe and Mail / August 22, A10
The tacit contract

Letter, October 5 / Anglican Journal / December, 4
Moderator Gary Paterson as gay

Contribution to a Review Symposium on Monica Weis, SSJ, The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton, foreword by James Conner, OCSO (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 20ll). The Merton Annual, v. 24, ed. David Belcastro and Gray Matthews (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 2012), 281-323, my contribution 305-13. Other contributors: Donald P. St John, Bonnie Thurston, Kathleen Deignan, CND.

The Alleluias are back ….” The Merton Journal 19.1 (Eastertide) 3-5.

Published in 2011

Letter, July 10 / Guardian Weekly / published, didn’t clip it
Disagreeing with TGA? (Timothy Garton Ash)

“A comment on Keith Hammond, ‘Universities in opposition to Israel’s military occupation and the de-development of the West Bank and Gaza.’” Journal of Cultural and Pedagogical Inquiry, 3.1 (2011),

“Engaged Encounter,” rev. of Rowan Williams, A Silent Action: Engagements with Thomas Merton. Foreword Jim Forest, afterword Kallistos Ware. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 2011,
In The Merton Seasonal 36.3 (Fall 2011) 23-25.

“The Compassionate Listening Project,” Topic (Sept 2011) 4.

Review of Barry L. Padgett, Professional Morality and Guilty Bystanding: Merton’s Conjectures and the Value of Work (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), in The Merton Annual, v.23, ed. Gray Matthews and David Belcastro. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 300-303.

Letter, Guardian Weekly, 6-12 May 2011, 23

Letter, The Globe and Mail, 26 May 2011, A14

“Israel-Palestine: The Pedagogical Challenge,” with Dave Chang. Journal of Cultural and Pedagogical Inquiry. 2.2 (2010) 19-32.

Published in 2010

Letter, July 16 / Globe and Mail / published

Letter, November 19 / Guardian Weekly / 23
Omar Khadr

“On Art,” Christian Century 127.5 (March 9, 2010) 47. Reproduction of “The Holy Man,” a painting by Velenka Fanderlik, with a caption by Lois Huey-Heck, much reduced by her editor (the full version is on the painting’s own page on this website).

“Sore feet and a rested soul.” Rev. of Rooster in the Cathedral, by Paul Myers. Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC: Shoreline Press, 2009. On Paul Myers’ website,

Review of The Bishop’s Man, by Linden MacIntyre. Toronto: Random House, 2009. Anglican Journal 136.2 (February 2010) 11.

“Is criticism of Israel Anti-Semitic?” Topic 41.1 (January 2010) 7.

“Angli/can or Angli/can’t?” Topic 41.6 (Summer) 7.

Letter (on Omar Khadr), Guardian Weekly (UK),

Interview on the place of Christmas in our society, with Darcy Wintonyk, for CTV:

Published in 2009

Monastic in his [own] way’: Thomas Merton and Leonard Cohen,” The Merton Seasonal 34.3 (Fall 2009) 3-9,

Review of Thomas Merton – In My Own Words, ed. Jonathan Montaldo, in The Merton Annual, v. 21, ed. David Belcastro and Gray Matthews (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae) 281-82.

Published in 2008

“In the Footsteps of Thomas Merton: Asia,” in The Merton Seasonal, ed. Patrick O’Connell (33.4, Winter 2008) 21-28.

“Week of a Stranger: Thomas Merton Bibliographic Review 2006,” in The Merton Annual, v. 20, ed. Victor Kramer (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae) 299-340.

“The Polygamy Problem,” review of The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada’s Polygamous Mormon Sect, by Daphne Bramham, in The Vancouver Sun (March 29, 2008) D10.

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