Thomas Merton and Therese Lentfoehr: The Story of a Friendship

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Author: Nugent, Robert Year: 2012
Publisher: Alba House New York Pages: 194
Binding: Paperback


This book tells the story of the 20-year relationship of the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton and Sister Thérèse Lentfoehr -- a published poet, teacher and nun of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine Savior in Wisconsin -- from their initial contact in 1948 to his death in 1968. Every book on Thomas Merton makes mention of Thérèse as the one person who had an important impact on his work over a very long period of time, both as a personal friend and professional colleague. To date, however, no one has explored the story of this unique relationship. This book is a chronological narrative and analysis of their relationship carried on primarily through letters with but two face-to-face encounters, in 1951 and 1967. Though based on the 100+ letters of Merton to her and more than a dozen extant letters and cards from her to him, it is not a collection of their correspondence. They reveal, rather, the fact that Thérèse was Merton's literary critic, confidant, archivist, publicist and assistant in many ways, including the typing of many of his works. Along the way she managed to amass the largest single private collection of Mertoniana in existence at the time including copies of original manuscripts of such works as The Sign of Jonas, and The Seven Storey Mountain. Previously unpublished photographs of the two of them are included here.