October 15, 2021
Scott Russell Sanders is the author of twenty books of fiction and nonfiction, including Hunting for Hope and A Conservationist Manifesto. His most recent books are Earth Works: Selected Essays (2012) and Divine Animal: A Novel (2014). A collection of his eco-science fiction stories entitled Dancing in Dreamtime will be published this fall, and a new edition of his documentary narrative, Stone Country, co-authored with photographer Jeffrey Wolin, will appear in 2017. Among his honors are the Lannan Literary Award, the John Burroughs Essay Award, the Mark Twain Award, the Cecil Woods Award for Nonfiction, the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2012 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University. He and his wife, Ruth, a biochemist, have reared two children in their hometown of Bloomington, in the hardwood hill country of Indiana’s White River Valley.
"Reading Merton in the Rain" was presented in June of 2017 at St. Bonaventure University for the 15th General Meeting of the International Thomas Merton Society.
September 28, 2021
This is a Tuesdays with Merton bonus episode from the archives of the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. In June of 2021, Andrew Prevot, associate professor of Theology at Boston College, presented a plenary address to the 17th General Meeting of the International Thomas Merton Society. His address was titled "Contemplation in Times of Crisis."
Andrew L. Prevot, associate professor of theology at Boston College, writes and teaches at the intersection of spiritual, mystical, systematic, and liberation theologies; phenomenology; and continental philosophies of religion. Recent publications include, Theology and Race: Black and Womanist Traditions in the United States, Thinking Prayer: Theology and Spirituality Amid the Crises of Modernity, Anti-Blackness and Christian Ethics edited with Vincent W. Lloyd, and “Ignacio Ellacuría and Enrique Dussel: On the Contributions of Phenomenology to Liberation Theology” which appeared in A Grammar of Justice: The Legacy of Ignacio Ellacuría, edited by. J. Matthew Ashley and Kevin Burke. He earned his B.A. from Colorado College and his Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame.
"Contemplation in Times of Crisis" explores two themes in Merton's writings: (i) Merton's belief that the great social and political crises of this world begin deep inside each of us and, therefore, require some sort of contemplative remedy and (ii) Merton's sober recognition that, if understood and practiced in certain problematic ways, contemplation can fail to yield the transformative results we want from it and, in fact, make us complicit in violence. Prevot clarifies the conditions under which Merton suggests contemplation can help, rather than hinder, our navigation of contemporary crises such as anti-black racism and ecological devastation.
September 15, 2021
On June 27, 1949, Merton was allowed, for the first time, to venture outside the Abbey of Gethsemani’s gated enclosure to walk in the woods alone. His writing and his spirituality changed forever as a result. In Thomas Merton's Gethsemani: Landscapes of Paradise, author Monica Weis notes, "Once beyond the monastery walls, Merton's heart soared." Why? Perhaps, after being doused in words for years, suddenly he could share an expansive, silent space with God and just listen. This session will explore what Merton found beneath the branches, on the hills, and in all of nature: a sense of transcendence.
Sophfronia Scott is a novelist, essayist, and leading contemplative thinker whose work has appeared in numerous publications. Her latest book, The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton, received a Louie award in 2021. Sophfronia’s other books include Love's Long Line, and This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World, co-written with her son Tain. She holds degrees from Harvard and Vermont College of Fine Arts. Sophfronia lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut and is the founding director of Alma College’s MFA in Creative Writing, a graduate program based in Alma, Michigan.
August 12, 2021
In a 1966 Commonweal article, Merton describes a time when “almost nothing is really predictable … almost everything public is patently phony, and in which there is at the same time an immense ground of personal authenticity that is right there and so obvious that … most cannot even believe that it is there." Is there a more apt description of the situation we face today? How then can we fashion a personal response to the "new normal" that is unfolding? With Merton as our navigator, is there a way to discover clarity, meaning, authenticity, and, yes, even beauty in these confounding times?
Judith Valente first began reading Thomas Merton shortly before beginning her career in journalism at the age of 21 at The Washington Post. She subsequently worked for The Wall Street Journal and was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in journalism. She then covered religion as an on-air correspondent for PBS. She is the author of two collections of poetry and several spirituality titles, including How to Live: What The Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community and The Art of Pausing, which she coauthored with Brother Paul Quenon.
August 3, 2021
This is a Tuesdays with Merton Bonus Episode from the Archives of the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. The following lecture was the ITMS Presidential Address of David Golemboski delivered for the 17th General Meeting of the International Thomas Merton Society, presented June 26, 2021.
David Golemboski is an Assistant Professor of Government & International Relations at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he writes and teaches on politics, law, and religion. His writing has appeared in academic journals such as Political Research Quarterly and Law & Philosophy, as well as in popular journals such as Commonweal and America. His work on Merton has appeared in the Merton Annual, the Merton Seasonal, and the Merton Journal. David holds an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School and a Ph.D. from Georgetown University. He is a former Daggy Scholar and the current President of the International Thomas Merton Society. David lives in Sioux Falls with his wife and twin daughters.
July 15, 2021
As participating readers of his powerful gift for spiritual direction, even in absentia and posthumously present, already know from their experience of his writings, the most significant forces in Thomas Merton’s own spiritual formation came from his reading and pursuing of intersections and convergences with those whose influence shaped his ever-organic selfhood and its transcendence. In many ways profound and providential resonances, his “double image,” Denise Levertov, like Merton, creates poetry which serves as spiritual direction. Their friendship creates a pas de deux for those inclined to join in “the general dance” of the Spirit in the cosmos.
Lynn R. Szabo is a devoted scholar of the poet, mystic, and political activist Thomas Merton. She is the editor of the first comprehensive selection of his poetry, In the Dark Before Dawn: New Selected Poems of Thomas Merton (New Directions, 2005), and is Professor Emerita of English Literature, Trinity Western University, near Vancouver. In her retirement, Lynn serves as a spiritual director, a mentor to writers and young professors, and a facilitator of study groups for the National Council of Jewish Women. Her decades of studying poetry, especially Merton’s, are one of the pleasures not interrupted by her more recent life as a wheelchair navigator!
June 11, 2021
Clement of Alexandria, in his Protreptikos (Greek for “persuasion”), defined the Church as “an army that sheds no blood.” This phrase struck Thomas Merton with special force. It greatly distressed him that so many of his Christian contemporaries were advocates of war and even saw nuclear weapons as enjoying God’s blessing. This session will discuss Merton’s engagement in peacemaking and his close ties with Dorothy Day and others who were at war with war.
Jim Forest has spent a lifetime in the cause of peace and reconciliation. Among his personal acquaintances were some of the great peacemakers of our time, including Thomas Merton, Daniel Berrigan, Henri Nouwen, and Thich Nhat Hanh. He worked with Dorothy Day at the Catholic Worker in New York and then went on to play a key role in mobilizing religious protest against the Vietnam War and served a year in prison for his role in destroying draft records in Milwaukee. He is the author of over a dozen books on spirituality and peacemaking, including The Root of War is Fear: Thomas Merton's Advice to Peacemakers.
May 17, 2021
||Merton Was in Love With Wales — its poetry, its Celtic sensibility, its ravishing beauty and rich history. Although he came to the art of David Jones rather late in his life, he understood implicitly what Jones was doing as a visionary. There are some striking things that they were doing in parallel unaware of each other, probing the past, resurrecting forgotten cultural memories, attending to the power of ritual and sacrament, aching for unity and harmony. This session will explore some of these creative and spiritual convergences.
Dr. Michael W. Higgins is a university president, biographer, journalist, scholar, and media commentator. His book on Cardinal Newman will appear in the Spring of 2021 and his book on Pope Francis in 2023. Past publications on Merton include: Heretic Blood: The Spiritual Geography of Thomas Merton; Faithful Visionary; The Unquiet Monk; and Thomas Merton: Pilgrim in Process (ed).
April 15, 2021
Every wisdom tradition describes in its own way a cloud of unknowing that veils the utterly ineffable source and force coursing through this universe as its very life. With paradoxical lucidity on matters of darkness and unknowing, Thomas Merton shared his experience of being "overshadowed" by the Cloud of enveloping Mystery. His desire to live into its Presence has become a well-scripted legacy of post-modern spiritual emergence, written in an idiom that continues to speak cogently to the spiritual pilgrims of the second millennium. This session explores Merton's "familiarity" with the anonymous 14th century master of The Cloud, and his own transmission of its still emerging wisdom.
Dr. Kathleen Noone Deignan of the Congregation of Notre Dame is founding director of the Deignan Institute for Earth and Spirit at Iona College, New Rochelle, NY, where she was Professor of Religious Studies for 40 years while guiding The Merton Contemplative Initiative and co-convening The Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue. Past President of the International Thomas Merton Society, she is a regular presenter at its meetings. Her book-length publications include When the Trees Say Nothing: Thomas Merton’s Writings on Nature and Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours, including an audio-book that includes her sacred songs and psalmody.
April 7, 2021
This is a Tuesdays with Merton bonus episode from the archives of the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. It was recorded at the 16th General Meeting of the International Thomas Merton Society at Santa Clara University in California, June 28, 2019.
Robert Ellsberg is the Publisher of Orbis Books and the author, most recently, of Blessed Among All Women: Women Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time. His other award-winning books include: A Living Gospel: Reading God’s Story in Holy Lives; Blessed Among Us: Saintly Lives for Every Day; All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; and The Saints’ Guide to Happiness. He served as managing editor of The Catholic Worker for two years during the last years of Dorothy Day, and he has dedicated himself to editing her work and promoting her mission. He has edited Dorothy Day: Selected Writings, The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, and All the Way to Heaven: Selected Letters of Dorothy Day. He has edited anthologies of Thich Nhat Hanh, Gandhi, Flannery O’Connor, Charles de Foucauld, and Pope Francis. For the past four years he has written a daily entry on saints for Give Us This Day.