I learned today of the passing of Father Matthew Kelty, who was the confessor of the famous American Catholic mystic Thomas Merton, or Father Louis as he was known to his community. Although they were the same age, Father Matthew became Thomas Merton’s confessor at the Abbey of Gethsemani where both were Trappist monks. One of the remarkable things about Father Matthew was that he “came out” as a gay man at the age of 90!
He and Thomas Merton had similar backgrounds. Both had parents who were artists. They were the same age. Although Father Matthew arrived at Gethsemani later than did Thomas Merton, Father Matthew was assigned to be Thomas Merton’s confessor, while Father Louis was in charge of the newer members of the community, the novitiates. When Merton left for the conference in Bangkok where he would experience death, somehow Father Matthew knew that he would not return.
Father Matthew was not a famous person, but he wrote about the contemplative life and celibacy. He said, “Sex is not the problem; love is.” He wrote Sunday homilies, continuing the tradition of creativity at Gethsemani.
He died at age 96, having been a missionary as well as a contemplative. He was a modest and quiet man, but influenced the greatest American mystic and contemplative. May Father Matthew rest in peace.