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August 12, 1994

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0 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana August Literary agent reflects on relationship with Thomas Merton PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (CNS) Literary agent Naomi Bur- ton Stone recalls her first thought when she heard that a promising young author had entered a Trappist monastery and vowed to live in silence. "I was stunned and furious. What a waste! My God, he will never write another book, I thought," said Ms. Stone in an interview with The Church World, Portland's diocesan newspaper. But Father Thomas Merton proved her wrong and grew to become the most widely read Christian commentator on the- ology, the contemplative life and social causes. Ms. Stone, now 82 and living in a retirement community in Portsmouth, is credited with having discovered Father Mer- ton, author of "The Seven Storey Mountain" and several other books that wielded a tremendous influence on Catholics in the post-World War II era. Barely a year after Ms. Stone arrived in New York from England and settled in as a reacler and literary agent at Curtis Brown on Madison Av- enue, a blond young man with a faintly English accent dropped off a manuscript and asked if it was worthy of publi- cation. He was teaching at St. Bonaventure's at the time. "After reading the manu- script of his novel, 'The Labyrinth,' I told Tom Merton that I thought the book was commercially risky," Ms. Stone recalls. "But I did think he was a promising writer. And I took him to lunch at the Roosevelt Hotel in the next block -- not the elegant dining room where an agent generally takes a cel- ebrated author. And I did en- courage him to continue writ- ing. I didn't know at the time that he was a Catholic, and that he was thinking of becom- ing a monk." When he entered Gethse- mani Abbey in Kentucky on Dec. 10, 1941, Merton asked a friend to tell Ms. Stone. She didn't hear from him again until 1947, when a manuscript from a Trappist priest named Father Louis arrived on her desk. When she realized that Fa- ther Louis was the religious name of Father Thomas Mer- ton, her interest was immedi- ately sparked. And as she read the manuscript of "The Seven Storey Mountain" -- Father Merton's story of his conver- sion and newfound life -- sh'e was convinced it was mar- ketable. She contacted Bob Giroux, a friend of Father Merton's who was then a junior editor at Harcourt Brace publishing house and later became a part- ner at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. "Harcourt Brace imme- diately offered to buy the man- uscript -- and I found myself working out a contract with Father Abbot of the monastery at Gethsemani," Ms. Stone re- calls. In 1948, Harcourt Brace published about 5,000 copies in the first printing, which quickly sold out. "It just took off in a way that startled everybody," Ms. Stone remem- bers. Harcourt Brace printed and reprinted it until more than 1 million copies were sold in the United States alone. "It was amazing," said Ms. Stone. "And it became a real moneymaker for Gethsemani Abbey in Ken- tucky which -- until then -- had been relying on the sale of its cheeses to support the monastery." In 1949, Ms. Stone received the manuscript for Father Merton's next book, "Seeds of Contemplation." Thirty-four other manuscripts followed over the next two decades. When Ms. Stone visited Fa- ther Merton at the monastery, where he was permitted to live in a hermitage so he could write without distractions, they would take long walks on the monastery grounds. "As a non-Catholic, it always touched me when I heard the bells intoning the Angelus and Tom would bow his head and pray." But he had a fault which caused Ms. Stone considerable grief as a literary agent. When fans -- especially men and women religious -- asked him for segments of his manuscript, or whole chapters, he could never refuse them. That caused major problems with publishers and copyright restrictions. "Once I received a call from a publisher in France who wanted to work out a contract with Tom for the publication of a manuscript which -- un- known to the caller -- had al- ready been published," Ms. Stone said. The publisher had received it from a French nun. "Apparently, Tom had given the manuscript to the nuns," she said. "I rushed down to Kentucky and read the riot act to him! I used to get so cross with him. He was like a child -- and I was like an older sis- ter to him. Something like Lucy and Charlie Brown in 'Peanuts."' Father Merton died on 10, 1968, in a freak Bangkok, Thailand, where was attending a meeting Asian Benedictine and clan monks and nuns. his trip, he asked the call Ms. Stone himself thing were to happen to Merton. "It was almost as if he pated that he would not alive," Ms. Stone said. "He been such a champiOn peace, and opposed ironic that his body was turned from the Far East on military plane alongside bodies of American GIs were killed in Vietnam war was waging fiercely." First Communicants Members of the 1994 First Communion Class at Mary Help of Christian Church, Hill, include, front row, Heath Gogel, Jackie Kern, Janelle Wessel, Amanda mann, Reid Jochim, second row, Grant Balbach, Stephen Gressner, Kyle ChaSe, Dilger, Brad Gogel, Luke Kern, Derek Mehling,'third row, Lori Balbach, RodneY Father Gregory Spencer, pastor, Jeremy Gogel, Stacey Kern and Donna Balbach. Give yqur graduate something they can really use. A direction. Covenant House Faith Community Know a graduate who's still searching for their next move? Tell them they can put what they've learned--and what they believe  to work by putting the Gospel into action. Covenant House Faith Community is Christian men and women of all ages, helping the truly forgotten -- homeless kids. Members commit themselves to 13 months of service helping young people while living in a lay Christian community dedicated to a prayerful lifestyle. Faith Community is a vibrant, action-oriented and deeply spiritual challenge. No special talents or religious knowledge are required. What it takes is a commitment to God, fellow community members and the homeless kids of our city streets. Tell your graduate about this richly rewarding challenge of a lifetime. Where they can put their education  and their faith -- to work. Write or call: Orientation Director, Covenant House Faith Community, Dept. B 346 W. 17th Street, New York., NY 10011 (212) 727-4971 New 'fork Fort Lauderdal New Orleans Houston Los Angeles * Anchorage * Toronto Shortfall for retired religious rises to $6.3 WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Despite fund-raising and cost- cutting efforts, the retirement liability for members of U.S. religious orders increased by $1.4 billion over the past two years to reach $6.3 billion. Information about the short- fall was released in mid-July by the accounting firm of Arthur Andersen & Co., which prepared the 1994 Retirement Needs Survey report from data provided by U.S. religious in- stitutes to the Tri-Conference Retirement Office. The $150 million raised in six national collections for re- tired religious since 1987 failed to cover even the retirement cost increases attributable to inflation alone, estimated at $200 million per year, the re- port said. "It is therefore increasingly important to go beyond tradi- tional fund-raising efforts to additional sources of revenue such as lay equivalent salaries, rental income, cost allocations to subsidiary institutions and creative ways to reduce retire- ment costs through collabora- tive efforts and operating effi- ciencies,  said Dale Kent, head of the survey team for Arthur Andersen. "This gap must be ad- dressed," he added. "It is a se- rious threat to many orders." The report was prepared iii i ii I i 301 MAIN ST. VINCENNES. IN 47gl I" I I I1. from 1993 data religious institutes ing 94 percent of all gious. The Tri tirement Office responses into a needs analysis c ompl gram, from which dersen compiled the port. The report showet 1993, only 3 women religious the age of 40, were 80 or over. religious, 12 pert, under 40 and only were 80 or older. There was some in the data. =The sets designated for continues to grow tals $4.543 billion report said. In ado number of have to draw from ment funds is doWn since 1985.