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The Letters of Thomas Merton and Victor and Carolyn Hammer: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

edited by F. Douglas Scutchfield and Paul Evans Holbrook Jr. foreword by Paul M. Pearson

Availablecloth$40.00s 978-0-8131-5352-0
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360 pages  Pubdate: 12/25/2014  6 x 9  7 color photos, 5 b&w photos

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Poet, social justice advocate, and theologian Thomas Merton (1915–1968) is arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century. In his short lifetime, he penned over seventy books and maintained a brisk correspondence with colleagues around the globe. However, many Merton scholars and fans remain unaware of the significant body of letters that were exchanged between the Trappist monk and Victor and Carolyn Hammer.

Unable to leave his home at the Abbey of Gethsemani except on special occasions, Merton developed a unique friendship with this couple from nearby Lexington, Kentucky. Carolyn, who supplied Merton with many of the books he required for his writing and teaching, was a founder of the King Library Press at the University of Kentucky. Victor was an accomplished painter, sculptor, printer, and architect. The friendship and collaborations between Merton and the Hammers reveal their shared interest in the convergence of art, literature, and spirituality.

In this volume, editors F. Douglas Scutchfield and Paul Evans Holbrook Jr. have collected the trio’s complete correspondence for the first time. Their letters, arranged chronologically, vividly demonstrate a blossoming intellectual camaraderie and provide a unique opportunity to understand Merton’s evolving philosophies. At times humorous, often profound, the letters in this volume shed light on a rare friendship and offer new insights into the creative intellect of Thomas Merton.

F. Douglas Scutchfield, MD, FACPM, FAAFP, DSc (Hon), DHL (Hon), is the inaugural Peter P. Bosomworth Professor of Health Services Research and Policy at the University of Kentucky.

Paul Evans Holbrook Jr., MA, MDiv, ThM., PhD, has taught philosophy and comparative religion at the University of Kentucky and ethics at Midway College. He was an apprentice to Carolyn Hammer and serves as bibliographer to the Hammer estate. Since 1988, he has served as director of the King Library Press at the University of Kentucky.

Offers new insight into Merton’s broad, complex, and overlapping interests. The volume also adds a unique dimension to common knowledge of the Merton–Hammer relationship by expanding readers’ awareness of Victor Hammer’s life, talents, artistic philosophy, and spiritual insights. -- Monica Weis, SSJ, author of The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton

This volume is an unexpected treasure. The extent and depth of the correspondence is a revelation of a mutually influential and beneficial friendship among kindred spirits. -- Patrick O’Connell, author of The Vision of Thomas Merton

This volume is essential reading for an understanding of Victor Hammer's extraordinary life and talent and Thomas Merton's ability to sustain deep and lasting friendships. Scholars . . . will find these letters . . . informative. -- Forthcoming in Cithara

These letters tell the story of a tender and deep friendship among artists. . . . The letters, chronologically arranged, communicate an evolving kinship beginning with artistic collaborations, expanded through human, spiritual and artistic concerns/challenges, and celebrated frequently with the little picnic or visit — and agape of sorts. . . . The story of this exceptional friendship awaits all readers of Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. -- The Merton Seasonal

This source will be essential for any student of Thomas Merton. -- Kentucky Libraries

The letters admirably capture the complexity and curiosity of Merton, and the warmth of one personal friendship that sustained him throughout his many intellectual and theological ventures. -- Catholic Library World

The value of these letters lies principally in the light that they shed on Merton's thinking about art, besides giving us a vivid picture of a friendship.

There is very much to enjoy in these letters. -- Merton Journal

Books about Thomas Merton proliferated around 2015, the centenary of his birth. This volume may be the most significant.

Both Kentucky scholars, the editors have produced an important volume illustrating Catholic intellectual life in the mid-twentieth century. Their extensive notes are valuable especially in identifying people mentioned and in synchronizing letters with Merton’s journals. -- Catholic Historical Review

The Letters of Thomas Merton and Victor and Carolyn Hammer offers not only insight into Merton’s day-to-day life in the monastery and with friends, but also one can hear Thomas Merton in “conversation” with like-minded friends regarding issues important to him in the 1950s and 1960s. -- Pennsylvania History

Dr. F. Douglas Scutchfield is the 2017 recipient of the UK Libraries Medallion for Intellectual Achievement.