Thomas Merton: the Exquisite Risk of Love Paperback – 14 Nov 2012
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Waldron is unique amoungst the many who have been influenced by Thomas Merton...Here is a mature text that would, one imagines, thrill the monk himself, as well as making a thrilling read for those neither enslaved by Merton-mania, nor too hooked up on matters of church authority. --Prof Richard Whitfield, scientist, educator, human development specialist and poet
About the Author
Robert Waldron, internationally known Merton scholar, has a B.A. and M.A. in English literature. He is also the recipient of four grants from America's National Endowment for the Humanities as well as the author of fifteen books, five of them devoted to Thomas Merton. He is also the recipient of two awards for his writing on modern spirituality from the Catholic Press Association. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts. He lectures on Thomas Merton and also directs Merton Retreats.
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the terrible book by Mark Shaw on this same subject was enough to turn people off
from trying yet another. Shaw and Waldron may have used the same editor, as both books annoy the reader with typographical errors throughout. Unfortunately, with both books that is also only the beginning of the reader's annoyance...
I was willing to give this author the benefit of the doubt because this book correlates
Merton's "Eighteen Poems", written during his relationship with student nurse Margie
Smith, and his diary entries from the same period (published as "Learning to Love",
Volume Six of Merton's diaries). Each chapter in this book focuses on one poem.
At first, the author's "Jungian" interpretation of this relationship didn't particularly bother
me, especially when he focuses on the obvious "midlife crisis" aspects. But in the last
few chapters, he lays all his cards on the table, making it abundantly clear that he has
no understanding whatsoever of the monastic life. In this interpretation (again, we've
heard it all from Shaw before) the Catholic Church, Gethsemani Abbey, and particularly
Merton's abbot form the unholy trinity who bully Merton into giving up the only true fulfillment
of his life: departure from his monastery to live with Margie in sexual bliss.
"There is an authority higher than the Church's authority, and it is the Self that resides within
us all." This sentence epitomizes the author's whole take on Merton's life and work -- and is
also the reason why, in the end, Merton is such a disappointment to him. As this author admits,
Merton eventually blamed himself for the mistake (that is, the sin) of his love relationship with
Margie. He eventually burned her letters without glancing at them -- an act that horrifies Waldron
but is understandable to anyone (including Merton) living within the Holy Tradition which looks
to St. Peter, St. Mary of Egypt, St. Augustine, and others without number who point us to the way
of repentance. Merton never denied his love for Margie, but it was not the foundational story of
his life. But that foundational story is outside the capacity of this author to comprehend.