Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Maurice Flood,

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


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00:00:00 - Introduction to monastic life

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Partial Transcript: --monastic life, and, and what inspired you or called you to enter?

Segment Synopsis: Flood discusses what influences led him to pursue joining a monastic order in the 1950s. He notes the influence of Thomas Merton's Sign of Jonah. Flood also describes his time coming to the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani. He discusses his first time meeting Thomas Merton.

Keywords: Influences; Inspirations; Monastic life; Motivations; Sign of Jonah (Thomas Merton)

Subjects: Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani (Trappist, Ky.); Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.

00:08:56 - Thomas Merton as a teacher

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Partial Transcript: Um, you said that Father Louis was very, sort of, ordinary looking Joe. Uh, describe this ordinary looking Joe.

Segment Synopsis: Flood starts with describing Merton's physical appearance, but moves into discussing their relationship in general. He spends time discussing Merton's role and presence as a teacher while taking classes with him during the 1960s at Gethsemani Abbey.

Keywords: Monastic classes; Monastic life; Physical descriptions

Subjects: Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani (Trappist, Ky.); Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.

00:16:54 - Merton's theology

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Partial Transcript: And, you mentioned his vision of the divine, it, it may take five hours, but can you synopsize, sort of, what was the essence of his vision of the divine?

Segment Synopsis: Flood explores Merton's beliefs and theological inspirations. He discusses the importance of the Early Church Fathers and St. Theresa in Merton's worldview. Flood notes Merton's belief in simplicity and the need for quiet and solitude. This segment features two breaks where the tapes were being changed.

Keywords: Beliefs; Early Church Fathers; Saint Theresa; St. Teresa; St. Theresa; Theology

Subjects: Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani (Trappist, Ky.); Cistercians; Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.

00:26:22 - Merton's hermitage and reputation among the community

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Partial Transcript: Um, describe to me, as if I did not know, how he became a hermit, uh, um, how that came about.

Segment Synopsis: Flood discusses Merton's process of becoming a hermit at the Abbey of Gethsemani, slowly spending more time in retreat at the Abbey. Flood also discusses how Merton was received by the community at the abbey, especially the impact of Merton's celebrity status on his reputation among the other monks.

Keywords: Hermitage; Monastic communities

Subjects: Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani (Trappist, Ky.); Celebrity; Hermits; Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.; Monks

00:36:42 - Merton's trip to Asia

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Partial Transcript: What did you think--and what did the community think, when suddenly he was going to Asia?

Segment Synopsis: Flood discusses Merton's trip to Asia during the 1960s. He talks about Merton's interest in eastern religion, and hoping to gain further insights from Asian religious traditions. Flood also discusses the lack of access to much outside knowledge at the abbey, and the lack of periodicals, and its impact on keeping up with Merton's travels.

Keywords: Eastern religions; Ecumenism

Subjects: Asia; Buddhism; Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.

00:42:33 - Reaction to Merton's death

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Partial Transcript: Um, what, what was your reaction individually when, and how did you hear that he had died?

Segment Synopsis: Flood describes learning of Merton's death in 1968. He transitions to his own beliefs on death in general.

Keywords: Death

Subjects: Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.

00:46:47 - Merton's relationship with Abbot James Fox

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Partial Transcript: Much has been made in Merton lore of his tension with Abbot James Fox. Is that overblown? Is that typical of tension between any monk and the abbot?

Segment Synopsis: Flood discusses the relationship between Thomas Merton and Abbot James Fox during their time together at the Abbey of Gethsemani. The conversation transitions to a discussion on the monastic vow of obedience, and its applicability to secular life.

Keywords: Monastic life; Personality conflicts; Secular life; Vows of Obedience

Subjects: Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani (Trappist, Ky.); Fox, James, Abbot of Gethsemani, 1896-1987; Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.

00:51:21 - Our Lady of the Redwoods Abbey

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Partial Transcript: I am here, so I know what Redwoods looks like, but, uh, the viewer that might see this, won't. So, uh, give me a thumbnail description of Redwoods monastery, you know.

Segment Synopsis: Flood focuses on his own personal journey to Our Lady of the Redwoods Abbey in California. He discusses the timing of his coming to Redwoods Abbey as an older monk, and living alongside women. He ends the segment noting Merton's views on Redwoods Abbey.

Keywords: Monastic life; aging

Subjects: Monks; Our Lady of the Redwoods Abbey (Whitethorn, Calif.)

00:54:57 - Merton's purpose in going to Asia

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Partial Transcript: Did he talk in terms of what he hoped to accomplish, or accomplish might not be the right word, but do in Asia?

Segment Synopsis: Flood recollects what he knew about Merton's travels to Asia. He discusses not intruding in Merton's private life. Flood thanks the interviewer for his direction and questions. The segment and the interview ends with the interviewer and crew discussing other camera shots to take for the interview.

Keywords: Intentions

Subjects: Asia; Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.