Learning To Love: Exploring Solitude and Freedomby Thomas Merton
Having embraced a life of solitude in his own hermitage, Thomas Merton finds his faith tested beyond his imagination when a visit to the hospital leads to a clandestine affair of the heart. Jolted out of his comfortable routine, Merton is forced to reassess his need for love and his commitment to celibacy and the monastic vocation. This astonishing volume traces
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Having embraced a life of solitude in his own hermitage, Thomas Merton finds his faith tested beyond his imagination when a visit to the hospital leads to a clandestine affair of the heart. Jolted out of his comfortable routine, Merton is forced to reassess his need for love and his commitment to celibacy and the monastic vocation. This astonishing volume traces Merton's struggle to reconcile his unexpected love with his sacred vows while continuing to grapple with the burning social issues of the day—including racial conflicts, the war in Vietnam, and the Arab-Israeli conflict—visiting and corresponding with high-profile friends like Thich Nhat Hanh and Joan Baez, and further developing his writing career. Revealing Merton to be 'very human' in his chronicles of the ecstasy and torment of being in love, Learning to Love comes full circle as Merton recommits himself completely and more deeply to his vocation even as he recognizes 'my need for love, my loneliness, my inner division, the struggle in which solitude is at once a problem and a 'solution'. And perhaps not a perfect solution either' (11 May, 1967).
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January 2, 1966. Feast of Holy Name of Jesus
It has been raining steadily for almost 36 hours. This morning toward the end of my meditation the rain was pouring down on the roof of the hermitage with great force and the woods resounded with tons of water falling out of the sky. It was great! A good beginning for a New Year. Yesterday in a lull I was looking across the valley at black wet hills, sharply outlined against the woods, and white patches of water everywhere in the bottoms: a landscape well etched by serious weather.
Working on an essay for Hildegard Goss-Mayr ([for] Der Christ in der Welt). Reading E.A. Burtt's book, sent by him from Cornell -- and galleys of a good book on the Church trans[lated] from Dutch [The Grave of God: Has the Church a Future? New York, 1967]. The author is an Augustinian, R. Adolfs. Still have Endo Mason's excellent book on [Rainer Maria] Rilke and England. Reading Romans in lectio and finding it difficult (chs. 5-6). Finished a curious journalistic book on the liberation of Paris -- a symbolic event! Hitler was set on annihilating the city and his military evaded the order. De Gaulle and the communists, etc. One cannot help admiring de Gaulle, even though he is a stubborn ass. There is something providential about his character. He was just reelected President of France in December. I like him better than Churchill, anyway!
Learning to Love. Copyright © by Thomas Merton. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a Trappist monk, writer, and peace and civil rights activist. Merton's works have had a profound impact on contemporary religious and philosophical thought. He is best known for his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain and New Seeds of Contemplation.
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This is perhaps the most intense of the journals published in this series. Merton recounts, in vivid detail, his personal struggles related to his (unconsummated) love affair with a student nurse. He records with intimate and unsparing detail the tension he feels between his desire to keep faith with his vocation and vows, and the competing desire to keep faith with the woman for whom he experiences an at times overwhelming love. This tension is given added force by his struggles with his abbot, who he perceives as threatened by Merton's success as a writer and public figure, and to whom he attributes an unconscious desire to sabotage his legitimate efforts to be in ministry in the world. Further complicating this trial is the Merton's own ambivalence about his success, which he at times perceives it as a potential threat to his calling to solitude and prayer. His struggles pertaining to his love affair make up the long central section of the book. This central section is framed by entries more typical of the Journals series, reflecting Merton's wide reading and his commentary on his reading, and his reflections on the life of faith and prayer. This volume is invaluable for any who wrestle with the call to be "in, but not of the world," granting as it does the privilege to walk side by side with a spiritual genius as he acknowledges and confronts with brutal honesty his own humanity, his shortcomings -- and his failures.