Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Judith Valente,

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - The general appeal of Merton

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Partial Transcript: Ok, one of the things that caught my eye in your response was your own, uh, sort of, how your spiritual journey began with Thomas Merton

Segment Synopsis: Valente says Merton was restless and questioning and that appealed to her as a college student, and his discussion of peace and nonviolence was striking to her. She talks about personally relating to his story in the "The Seven Storey Mountain." Valente says the power of his writing lies in its personal nature, and thinks his writing is still extremely relevant to contemporary issues.

Keywords: Catholicism; Faith and Violence: Christian Teaching and Christian Practice (Thomas Merton); Non violence; Non-violence; Nonviolent resistance; The Seven Storey Mountain (Thomas Merton); The Sign of Jonas (Thomas Merton)

Subjects: Buddhism.; Christianity.; Church.; Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.; Monasteries; Monks; Nonviolence; Pacifists; Religion.; Trappists

00:09:06 - Authentic experience of God / Connecting Eastern and Western spiritual practices

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Partial Transcript: For the very few people who do not know who you are--

Segment Synopsis: Valente thinks people are hungering for an authentic experience of God that goes beyond words and the traditional images of God. She says people want a true sense of community when they worship and the experience of a personal God. She also thinks people are still searching for a new language to talk about God. Valente discusses being drawn to Eastern spiritual practices and way of life. She thinks Merton legitimized the connection between Eastern and Western spiritual practices.

Keywords: Catholicism; Cross-cultural communication; Cultural relations; Doctrines; Religious doctrines; Spiritual communities

Subjects: Buddhism; Buddhism.; Christianity.; Church; Dogma; Hinduism; Master and servant.; Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.; Monasteries; Monks; Religion.; Religious communities; Trappists

00:15:46 - Merton remaining Catholic

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Partial Transcript: In as comfortable as you can be--

Segment Synopsis: Valente thinks its sad that the institutional church has neglected Merton since his death. She thinks its a shame he wasn't included in the catechism. Valente says Merton needled authority but remained Catholic through and through. He could explore and appreciate other religions but still remain Catholic. Valente talks about how Merton was a terrible teacher, but was great at one-on-one conferences with the novices.

Keywords: Catholicism; Communion; Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Thomas Merton); Contemplation in a world of action (Thomas Merton); Eucharist; Gospel; The Seven Storey Mountain (Thomas Merton); The Sign of Jonas (Thomas Merton); Thoughts in solitude (Thomas Merton)

Subjects: Buddhism.; Catholic church; Christianity.; Church.; Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.; Monasteries; Monks; Religion.; Sacraments; Trappists

00:24:41 - Monks helping us find the purpose of our lives

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Partial Transcript: Merton write too much?

Segment Synopsis: Valente briefly discusses Merton's writing. She says his redeeming quality with his celebrity status is that he was uncomfortable with that role. Valente thinks most monks are more comfortable toiling anonymously. She wonders whether his death helped his popularity. She thinks monks are there to remind everyone there is more than just the typical dream and life.

Keywords: Asceticism; Catholicism; Isolation

Subjects: Asceticism; Buddhism.; Catholic church; Celebrities; Christianity.; Church; Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.; Monasteries; Monks; Trappists

00:32:50 - Mystics / Cultural zeitgeist of 1968

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Partial Transcript: Well, what Richard Rohr, uh, uh, he broke down the etymology of the word seer

Segment Synopsis: Valente says a mystic is someone who brings people back to remembering what it means to be human. Valente discusses the zeitgeist of 1968, and says that the riots and protests made her not feel safe in her own home. She says it was a time of violence and a time of spiritual awakening.

Keywords: Bobby Kennedy assassination; Faith and Violence: Christian Teaching and Christian Practice (Thomas Merton); Kathleen Norris; Robert F. Kennedy assassination; Seers; The Seven Storey Mountain (Thomas Merton); Thoughts in solitude (Thomas Merton); War protests

Subjects: Buddhism.; Catholic Church.; Chittister, Joan; Christianity.; Church.; De Waal, Esther, 1930-; Hinduism; Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968--Assassination.; Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968.; Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.; Monasteries; Monks; Mystics; Nuns; Race riots; Religion.; Trappists; Yoga