Thursday, August 27, 2009

Merton on Love

The following is excerpted from an article: “a buyer’s market for LOVE?”, which appeared in the December 24, 1966 issue of the AVE MARIA magazine. This was shortly after he had fallen into a romantic relationship with a nurse:

“... for love takes you out of yourself. You lose control. You “fall”. You get hurt. It upsets the ordinary routine of life. You become emotional, imaginative, vulnerable, foolish. You are no longer content to eat and sleep, make money and have fun. You now have to let yourself be carried away with this force that is stronger than reason and more imperious than even business!

“... but the question of love is one that cannot be evaded. Whether or not you claim to be interested in it, from the moment you are born you are bound to be concerned with love, because love is not just something that happens to you: It is a special way of being alive.

“ ... We do not live merely to vegetate through our days until we die. We do not live merely to take part in the routines of work and amusement that go on around us. We are not just machines that have to be cared for and driven carefully until they run down.
“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone - we find it with another. We do not discover the secret of our lives merely by study and calculation in our own isolated meditations. The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love.


  1. Fascinating, especially in context. I have great sympathy for that nurse who must have felt dumped, when Merton found his footing as a celibate monastic again.

  2. I think that the fact that she has remained anonymous and silent all these years speaks volumes about her.

    Merton must have seen (and loved) that basic inner integrity.

    She was engaged to another man soon after the affair ended, something that Merton encouraged.

    Despite regaining his footing as a celibate monastic, I think that Merton felt a great sense of loss while letting her go.

  3. That is an interesting point about the nurse. It has the ring of truth. No doubt, Merton felt a great deal of the pain of loss when he let her go. On the other side of the coin, the love deepened his spirituality greatly.

  4. In his private journals, before the relationship, Merton periodically exposed a place in himself that felt unloved.

    Afterward, he never did that again.

    I'm no shrink, but I would say that Merton's so-called "problems" with women were rooted in losing his mother to cancer at the age of 6.

    The very real love that we give to each other is truly a gift from God.


From Dorothy Day’s editorial in the Catholic Worker on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.