Thomas Merton wrote The Silent Life a decade after he took orders. In his Prologue, Merton describes the book as "a meditation on the monastic life by one who, without any merit of his own, is privileged to know that life on the inside . . . who seeks only to speak as the mouthpiece of a tradition centuries old." It is a remarkable work-one that combines a lucid and informative description of the nature and forms of monasticism, communal and solitary, with a passionate defense of the contemplative's quest for God. The intense beauty of Merton's meditation, radiating from beneath its surface calm, makes The Silent Life a classic of its kind.