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Gregory K. Hillis Talks Thomas Merton, and What His Affair with a Nurse Taught Him About Love and Humility

Tuesday, January 31, 2023, 5:307 p.m.

Butler Commons, Duane Library
441 East Fordham Road
Bronx, NY 10458
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We learned from Thomas Merton’s private journals—published 25 years after his death—of an affair Merton had in the summer of 1966 with a nurse (“M”) who cared for him after a medical procedure. If we take seriously Merton’s status and contributions as a Catholic thinker, then Merton’s description of his relationship with “M” needs to be considered. And from Merton’s account, we not only get a sense of his own shortcomings, but we see him honestly grappling with those shortcomings. Merton wrestled with his own failures and did so in journals he knew would be published without restrictions. Merton’s unwillingness to be known apart from his foibles, apart from the complexity of who he was as a human being striving to do God’s will, manifests a level of humility that merits recognition.

This lecture will delve into Merton’s account of his relationship with “M,” not to defend this relationship or to give it a sympathetic treatment, but rather to explore what Merton’s account tells us about how he viewed himself, his relationship with God, and his relationship with his fellow monks in light of this affair.

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