Learning to Love: Exploring Solitude and Freedom, The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume Six: 1966-67: 1966-67 - Learning to Love: Exploring Solitude and Freedom v. 6

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9780060654849: Learning to Love: Exploring Solitude and Freedom, The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume Six: 1966-67: 1966-67 - Learning to Love: Exploring Solitude and Freedom v. 6

The sixth volume of Thomas Merton’s acclaimed journals is the most revealing and compulsively readable yet as the unpredictable cloistered Merton falls head over heels in love with a beautiful young nurse.

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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From the Back Cover:

JUNE 9 1966

Concelebration early. I stood there among all the others, soberly aware of myself as a priest who has a woman… Before God I think we have been conscientious and have kept our love good. Yet is it reasonable for me to be writing her love poems – even a song?

True as our love may be, we have to be perfectly realistic about it. Today especially I was thinking we must be realistic in our expectations for the future. There just is no real future for our love as a real 'love' affair. In heaven maybe we will be one. It is perhaps true that she loves me more than she ever loved anyone and that she wants to give herself totally to me for life. But we cannot do anything about it. I see clearly that we are both torn by contradictions… I see that I have to really 'love her' and not just love love or love her body. It is a training in realism and in love of 'the person' she is (a person inexhaustibly beautiful and lovable to me).
- from 'Learning to Love'

I have no intention of keeping the M. business out of sight. I have always wanted to be completely open, both about my mistakes and about my effort to make sense out of my life. The affair with M. is an important part of it – and shows my limitations as well as a side of me that is – well, it needs to be known too, for it is a part of me. 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.
- May 11 1967

The sixth volume of Thomas Merton's acclaimed journals is the most revealing and unpredictable yet as the cloistered Merton falls is love with a beautiful young nurse. Revealed here in its entirety for the first time, Merton's passion spills across the pages as he struggles to reconcile this unexpected love with his monastic vows.

Spanning from 1966 to 1967, 'Learning to Love' finds Merton in his most active period. Troubled by events at home and abroad, he expresses anger at wars in Vietnam and the Middle East and outrage at racism and injustice in American society. At his intellectual peak, he reads widely and voraciously, carries on an active global correspondence, receives such high-profile friends as Joan Baez, Jacques Maritain, and Thich Nhat Hanh, and writes insightful essays on topics from Zen Buddhism and Vatican II to the works of Albert Camus – all the while penning poignant love poems for M., furtively calling her from the monastery, and arranging to meet with her, all the while searching his soul for the answers to this crisis of the heart that has 'made a mess out of everything'.

Inevitably, the affair is discovered and Merton is forced to acknowledge the consequence of his situation. Bewildered and desperate, he reassesses his need for love and his commitment to celibacy and the monastic vocation and discovers, painfully, that the only possible solitude is 'the solitude of the frail, mortal, limited, distressed, rebellious human person, made of his loves and fears, facing his own true present.' 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 he recommits himself completely and more deeply to his vocation – the very 'root-fact of my existence' – with a new and deeper understanding of the nature of both worldly and spiritual love.

"When all the journals are published, it is likely that they will take their place with the famous journals of Henry David Thoreau, G.M. Hopkins, Edmund Wilson, and perhaps be seen as an American version of St Augustine's 'Confessions'"
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

Christine M. Bochen is professor of religious studies at Nazareth College at Rochester. A founding member of the International Thomas Merton Society, she edited the fourth volume of Merton's letters, 'The Courage for Truth.'

About the Author:

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a Trappist monk, writer and peace activist. His spiritual classics include the bestselling The Seven Storey Mountain, New Seeds of Contemplation and The Sign of Jonas. Christine M. Bochen is professor of religious studies at Nazareth College at Rochester, New York. A founding member of the International Thomas Merton Society, she edited the fourth volume of Merton’s letters, The Courage of Truth.

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