The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University

Concurrent Sessions for the ITMS 16th General Meeting

guide to concurrent Sessions


Session A - Friday, June 28 - 8:45 AM - 10:15 AM

Session B - Friday, June 28 - 3:30 PM -  4:45 PM

Session C - Saturday, June 29 - 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Session D - Saturday, June 29 - 1:30 PM -  3:00 PM    

Session E - Saturday, June 29 - 3:15 PM -  4:45 PM


FRIDAY, JUNE 28
8:45 AM – 10:15 AM

                                   

A1.  Merton and Writing

a.  Michael McGregor – "Making Ourselves Heard: Lessons from Merton’s Approach to Principled Dissent and Communal Renewal."

Michael N. McGregor is an ITMS board member and the author of Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax.

In “Peace: A Religious Responsibility,” Merton urged us to “make ourselves heard” on national issues, and his own outspoken opposition to racism, nuclear arms and war showed us how to do it.  Refusing to be confined by dogma and religious language or compromised by the violent rhetoric of others, he found a middle way based on deep conviction, powerful oratory, and a consistent orientation toward hope and love.

b.  Jamal Lyksett – "Ex-Patriots of the Church: Common Spiritual Threads of Thomas Merton and Simone Weil."

Jamal Lyksett teaches Philosophy at the University of Idaho.  His interests include Eastern, Continental, and Catholic thought.  He lives in Moscow, Idaho with his family.

Thomas Merton and Simone Weil each called the church to greater catholicity.  Merton’s cloistered and contemplative life and Weil’s radicalism and activity did not prevent them from sharing a certain mysticism and a prophetic call against a “patriotism” of the church.  This paper explores this spiritual siblinghood. 

 

A2.  Merton and Race Relations 1

a. Paul Dekar – "Thomas Merton on Racial Justice: Notes on the Road towards a New World."

Paul R. Dekar, is Professor Emeritus, Memphis Theological Seminary, wrote Thomas Merton: Twentieth Century Wisdom for Twenty-First Century Living (2011) and Dangerous People: The Fellowship of Reconciliation Building a Nonviolent World of Justice, Peace, and Freedom (2016).

Drawing on publications and correspondence with southern whites and blacks, I explore Merton’s advocacy for non-violent racial justice. His vision of a “new world” being born in which all God’s people are one remains prescient at a time when some seek to reverse civil rights advances of the 60s in the southern US.

b. Gray Matthews – "Merton and Decolonization."

Gray Matthews teaches Communication at the University of Memphis, coordinates the Memphis ITMS Chapter and has served the ITMS as co-editor of the Merton Annual and a member of the Board.

Merton’s contemplative insights into human action have much to contribute to global concerns regarding decolonizing the human mind and the world we struggle to live in together.  The vital relevancy of decolonization for indigenous and nonindigenous people is illumined by Merton’s contemplative critique of domination in a world of action.

 

A3.  Merton and the Ignatian Tradition / Dan Berrigan

a. Michael Plekon – "Communion and engagement: Merton, Berrigan, and liturgy at the November 1964 Gethsemani Retreat and beyond."

Michael Plekon is Professor Emeritus, Baruch College of the City University of New York and a priest of the Orthodox Church in America.

At the Spiritual Roots of Protest retreat at Gethsemani in 1964, the presentations of Merton, Berrigan, Muste and Yoder are important for the protest movements to follow but even more so, the two eucharistic litugies celebrated. The important place of liturgy, for Merton and the rest, will be explored, both in the retreat and beyond.

b. David Golemboski – "Guilt, Innocence, and Social Subversion: Thomas Merton on Monastic 'Bystanding'."

David Golemboski is an Assistant Professor of Government & International Affairs at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, SD. He is Vice-President of the ITMS.

In a satirical essay titled “A Signed Confession of Crimes Against the State,” Merton mocked the idea of contemplation as some kind of social offense. Yet, Merton also famously described himself as a “guilty bystander.” This paper unpacks Merton’s understanding of monastic “guilt” and explores monasticism’s socially subversive edge.

 

A4.  Workshop

Christine Bochen – "Traveling Thomas Merton’s ‘Road to Joy’."

Newly retired after fifty years of teaching religious studies at Nazareth College and a founding member and past president of ITMS, Christine M. Bochen has taught, lectured, edited and written about Merton for decades – with joy!

“I hope that you and I together will secretly travel our own road to joy,” Merton wrote to young Grace Sisson.  Attentive to the signposts and the obstacles Merton identified along “road to joy,” we will explore three dimensions of Merton’s experience and understanding of joy – being human, friendship, and becoming one – and consider what the practice of joy entails.

 

A5.  Workshop

James D'Angelo – "The Yoga of Vocal Vibrations: an Experiential Workshop."

James D'Angelo, PhD is a musician/composer and educator who has taught courses about sacred and therapeutic sound for over 20 years and written two published books on the subject.

The word “yoga” means “union.”  It refers to the union of the individual true Self with the Universal Self. Particular kinds of vocal vibrations can break through the barrier of the illusory false self, and foster a state of meditation and contemplation that leads to this union.

 

A6. Workshops

a. Judith Valente – "Let Peace Be Your Aim: Merton, Peacemaking and The Rule of St. Benedict."

Judith Valente has worked for national PBS-TV, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Her most recent book is “How To Live: What The Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community." She is a popular retreat leader and serves on the ITMS board.

The Rule of St. Benedict offered Merton an early seed bed upon which to cultivate his own ideas about peace and non-violence. Participants will have a chance to discuss and reflect on what “The Rule” says about correcting faults, dealing with anger, and dispensing with useless chatter by showing “esteem for silence” so that peace might mature in the heart.

b. Paul Pynkoski – "Prophecy, Poetry, Contemplative Action: A Response to Merton’s Call to Peacemaking."

Paul Pynkoski resides in Toronto. In 2018, he brought several Christian organizations together to create Voices for Peace, a one day ecumenical conference.

Thomas Merton called peacemaking “the one task which God has imposed upon us in the world today.” Weaving Merton’s writing and art with contemporary music, art, poetry, and personal story, we will explore ways we might respond to his invitation to this task and work to build a community of peacemakers.


FRIDAY, JUNE 28
3:30 PM – 4:45 PM
 

 

B1.  Merton and Poetry

a. Patrick F. O'Connell – "Still Crying after All These Years: The Tears of the Blind Lions at Seventy."

Though Merton Seasonal Editor Patrick O’Connell was nearly two years of age when The Tears of the Blind Lions first appeared, both he and it were considerably older before he delved into it for the first time.

This presentation, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the first Synod of Bishops, will provide an overview clarifying the generally unrecognized relationship between these four texts, with particular attention to the specific contributions of Merton to the message sent to the synod, as well as to the thematic and textual similarities and differences among the three related pieces he himself composed.

b. Mary Frances Coady – "'Wild Air':  Thomas Merton and Gerard Manley Hopkins."

Mary Frances Coady lives in Toronto.  Her book, Merton & Waugh: A Monk, A Crusty Old Man and The Seven Storey Mountain, was published by Paraclete Press in 2015. 

A book of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poetry was placed in young Thomas Merton’s hands when he was seventeen.  Six years later, as he read the Jesuit poet’s biography, the course of his life changed.  This paper traces the ongoing importance of Hopkins and his poetry in Merton’s life and work.

 

B2. Merton and Formation

a. Dung Tran and Michael Carey "Thomas Merton and the Formation of Authentic Leaders."

Dung Q. Tran is an Assistant Professor of Leadership and Organizational Development at Cabrini University near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Michael R. Carey is an oblate of Saint Andrew’s Abbey in Valyermo, California, and an Associate Professor of Organizational Leadership at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.

This paper examines a variety of themes in Thomas Merton’s writing that speaks to what it means to become an authentic leader, such as the true self, obedience to truth, submission to a transcendent reality, and the integrative and relational dynamics of knowing and being.

b. Thomas Malewitz – "No One Is an Island: Experiences of Using Themes from the Writings of Thomas Merton as a Curriculum Response to Adolescent Bullying."

Thomas Malewitz is a theology educator at St. Xavier High School, Louisville, KY.  He also serves as an adjunct lecturer and workshop presenter for diocesan catechetical formation.

Bullying is acknowledged as an epidemic by 21st century educators.  Scholars are calling for new perspectives to respond to bullying.  This paper offers an example of how themes from the writings of Thomas Merton can be used in a secondary curriculum to response to adolescent bullying from a holistic perspective.

 

B3.  Merton and Peace 1                                                                                                                                                               

a. Bernadette McNary-Zak "Recollection as a Monastic Form of Nonviolence."

Bernadette McNary-Zak is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee (https://www.rhodes.edu/bio/mcnary-zak).

Why should the monks of Gethsemani remember and reflect on the civil rights protests in Birmingham? This paper presents and analyzes Merton’s argument in “Some Points from the Birmingham Nonviolence Movement” (June 10, 1964) that recollection facilitates a monastic form of nonviolent resistance in active solidarity with the Birmingham protestors.

b. Justin Klassen – "Peace Beyond Prose: Augustine and Merton on Creation’s Useless Speech."

Justin D. Klassen, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Theology at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY. His scholarly work focuses on philosophical theology and environmental ethics.

This paper argues that the persuasive clarity of modern technocratic reason conceals a violent fear of mystery. With Augustine and Merton, it then explores the possibility of a transformed relationship to reality’s excesses, whereby we would learn to love the unintelligible as the Word of God exceeding all text.

 

B4.  Workshop                                                                                                

Malcolm Cash "Abandoning the Tribes of Whiteness:  Thomas Merton and James Baldwin on The Black Revolution."

Malcolm Cash is a writer and professor. He is the author of "Sweet Home: A Memoir", and forthcoming creative nonfiction, poetry, and essays on Lorraine Hansberry, Thomas Merton, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and the Black experience in America.

We will survey Thomas Merton’s and James Baldwin’s literature, and leadership, which presents insights and transformational ways forward in transforming the complex, multilayered condition of the White Tribes in America. Baldwin and Merton provide indispensable models for genuine reconciliation and true integration for all USAers.

 

B5.  Guided Meditation

Bill Meyer"Reflection and Renewal: Three Guided Meditations inspired by the writings of Thomas Merton."

Bill Meyer is a teacher, author, and speaker currently in the final stages of writing a book titled “Three Breaths and Begin” inspired by Merton’s writing.

Rooted in a contemplative curriculum, the workshop will be built around three guided meditations: the first will be an exploration of silence and solitude, the second will be inspired by the great sequoia groves of Northern California, and the third will be an offering of peace inspired by Merton’s poetry and life’s work.

  

B6. Video Presentation

Morgan Atkinson – "Merton Friends and Sleeping Under Those Magnificent Redwoods."

Morgan C. Atkinson is a writer/producer who has had 16 documentaries broadcast on public television. His programs on Thomas Merton have been broadcast nationally on PBS.

This program casts a light on Thomas Merton’s friendship with Daniel Berrigan; the irrepressible northern California teenager, Suzanne Demattei (nee, Butorovich);  and his relationship with Redwoods monastery. The audience will witness friendships, Merton’s passion for social justice, and his love for the natural world as seen in northern California.


SATURDAY, JUNE 29
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM

 

C1.  Merton, the Celts, and Wildness

a.  Monica Weis "Early Irish Hermit wisdom: Insights on Harmony and Inner Peace."

Dr. Monica Weis SSJ, professor emerita of English at Nazareth College, is a contributor to The Merton Seasonal and Annual, reviewer for Cistercian Studies Quarterly, and author of three books on Merton, the most recent being Thomas Merton and the Celts.

During the last four years of his life, Thomas Merton became entranced by early Celtic Christianity and, in particular, Irish hermit poetry, even creating his own “anthology” of favorite hermit poems. This paper will explore Merton’s fascination with Celtic Christianity, especially Irish hermit poems, to discover how these literary "graffiti” affirmed Merton’s desire for more solitude.

b.  Deborah Kehoe – "Merton’s Poetry and the Call for 'Rewilding' the Human Heart."

Deborah Kehoe, recently retired from teaching college English, lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with a husband, two cats, a dog, and a pond rich with wildness.

Referencing Merton’s “The Wild Places,” which extols the wisdom of John Muir’s naked embrace of nature on its terms, this presentation examines poems by Merton that suggest his shared understanding with Muir, a connection that expands when viewed through the lenses of contemporary thinkers decrying the effects of “domesecration” and “speciesism.”

 

C2.  Merton and Transcending Barriers

a. David Orberson "Thomas Merton and the 'Nones:' What Merton Has to Say About Our Current State of Religiosity."

David E. Orberson PhD teaches theology part-time at Bellarmine University and has worked in the insurance and risk management industry. He is the author of Thomas Merton: Evil and Why We Suffer.

Thomas Merton recognized that the American religious landscape was changing, and he wrote extensively about how Christians should live in a post-Christian world.  In this presentation, I survey the current religious trends and explore Merton’s writings for new possibilities and roles for the Church and people of faith today.

b. Liam Lynch – "Contemplative Cosmopolitanism: Thomas Merton’s Response to Xenophobia."

Dr Liam Lynch is a part-time teacher and researcher at Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia. His PhD thesis examined Oscar Wilde’s philosophy of art.

This paper proposes Thomas Merton’s contemplative experience and his exploration of St. Benedict’s Rule as reliable Christian antidotes to the current global xenophobic phenomenon. It argues that Merton’s spiritual writing is a manual toward a realisable engaged spirituality that challenges the fear of difference which fosters hatred of the other.

 

C3. Merton and Peace 2

a. Anthony Nuccio – "What Does It Mean to Be at Peace? A Mertonian Engagement with Antifascist Organizing and Thought."

Anthony Nuccio is a member of the Chicago chapter of the ITMS; he is in discernment with the Secular Franciscans and is an independent writer.

To wrestle with the meanings of peace, the author will use Gordon Zahn’s framing of Merton as a “reluctant pacifist” to offer a creative and thoughtful reflection on contemporary antifascist organizing and its challenges and developments of Merton’s thoughts on peace, violence, and Catholic life in the contemporary United States.

b. Dominiek Lootens  – "Thomas Merton and community change: in dialogue with Septima Clark and Saul Alinsky."

Dominiek Lootens is Deputy Director of Academic Affairs at the University Centre Saint-Ignatius (UCSIA) in Antwerp. 

In a letter to Dom Helder Camara, Thomas Merton refers to the community organizer Saul Alinsky. He describes Alinsky as one of the radical friends of Jacques Maritain. Septima Clark, mutual friend with Merton of Vincent Harding, was an important voice in the women-centered model of community change. This paper will bring Saul Alinsky, Septima Clark and Thomas Merton in dialogue looking at their views of community change within the civil rights movement.  

 

C4. Guided Prayer / Meditation

Christopher Pramuk – "'Us and Them': Merton on the Dark Side of the Moon."

Christopher Pramuk is Chair of Ignatian Thought and Imagination at Regis University in Denver, and the author of Sophia: The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton.

Select tracks from Pink Floyd’s 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon are juxtaposed with Merton’s writings, a kind of shared audio divina for confronting the meaning of “sanity” and “madness” in a world where acts of inhumanity and mass violence have become normalized. Is God, is empathy, possible?

 

C5. Guided Meditation

Jacqueline Chew, Jacqueline Corl-Seidel, and Sue YoesOutdoor Walking Meditation.

Jacqueline Chew teaches piano at the University of California – Berkeley.  A Benedictine oblate of New Camaldoli Hermitage, Big Sur,  CA, she also dances with Dancers Circle, a liturgical dance group based in the Bay Area, CA.


Jacqueline Corl-Seidel is assistant choreographer for Dancers Circle where, since 1986, she has danced, designed costumes and adorned space.  Her extensive classical dance background provides a strong support for the many other forms of dance she studies and teaches.


Sue Yoes currently teaches English and Reading at De Anza College and is an oblate of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, CA. While receiving her Master’s in Religious Studies at the University of California – Santa Barbara, she studied prose and poetry of Thomas Merton.


Let the words of Thomas Merton guide your meditation as we walk silently in the cool, morning air on the beautiful Santa Clara University campus. Short periods of walking to various contemplative sites will alternate with sitting in silence. Accompanying us will be poetry, music and gentle movement.

 

C6.  Guided Prayer

Kathleen Deignan, Ceire Kealty, and Ashley Hubekah – "Practicing Peace:  The Promises of 'Merton’s Beatitudes'."

Kathleen Noone Deignan, CND, PhD is Professor of Religious and Environmental Studies at Iona College and Founding Director of the Iona Spirituality Institute which hosts the Merton Contemplative Initiative.


Ashley Hubaykah is a religion teacher at Calvert Hall College High School in Baltimore. Ashley holds a BA in Religious Studies and International Studies from Iona College and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Notre Dame University of Maryland.


Céire Kealty is a doctoral candidate at Villanova University. She is pursuing her PhD in Theology. Her research interests include contemplative spirituality, economic ethics in consumer culture, and embodiment as a conduit to Divine unity.


Pilgrimage holds a privileged place in Muslim and Christian traditions. Making the Hajj is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Through interactive meditations, we will explore non-violence as a means to transcend historical divisions between Christianity and Islam. Participants will be invited to experience hospitality, enact mental pilgrimage, and pray together for peace.



SATURDAY, JUNE 29
1:30 PM – 3:00 PM

                                   

D1.  Merton and Ecology

a.  Carol Lenox – "The Exterior Silence of the Forest: Merton’s Guidance for Environmentalists."

Carol Lenox works as an environmental researcher in North Carolina and enjoys exploring the connection between our spirituality and our experience of the natural world.

Looking through the lens of Thomas Merton’s correspondence with peace activists and others, this paper examines Merton’s thoughts on the importance of the interior life and fidelity to the work we are called to do and how these might provide spiritual guidance to those in the modern day environmental movement.

b. Robert Whalen "Peace on Earth, Peace with Earth: Thomas Merton and Loren Eiseley on Ecology, Spirituality, and Justice."

Robert Weldon Whalen is the Sam and Carolyn McMahon Professor of History at Queens University of Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Thomas Merton and Loren Eiseley, essayists and poets, shared a remarkable ecological spirituality and a conviction that because, as Barry Commoner remarked, “everything’s connected,” peace on earth had to include peace with earth. This paper explores their intersecting and sometimes colliding visions of God’s green Kingdom.

 

D2.  Merton and Race Relations 2

a. Greg Hillis – "Letters to a Black Catholic: Thomas Merton’s Correspondence with Fr. August Thompson."

Gregory K. Hillis is Associate Professor of Theology at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. He is currently working on a monograph on Thomas Merton’s Catholicism for Liturgical Press.

This paper examines the correspondence between Merton and Fr. August Thompson, a black Catholic priest in the diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana. I assess Fr. Thompson’s perception of Merton as a leader in the civil rights movement, and examine what their correspondence reveals regarding Merton’s understanding of what role he, a contemplative monk, should play in the cause of racial equality and peace.

b. Marjorie Corbman – "'Welcome, Brother Merton': The Challenge of the Black Power Movement to Thomas Merton's Thought on Non-Violence."

Marjorie Corbman is a doctoral candidate in Theology at Fordham University. Her research examines the Black Muslim movement’s challenge to Christian conceptions of divine justice. 

This paper examines the challenge the Black Power movement posed to Thomas Merton’s understanding of peace-building. Engagement with Black Power advocates led Merton to reflect on the fading effectiveness of non-violent political resistance and to redefine the true work of peace-building as identifying and opposing the root causes of violence.

 

D3.  Merton and the Classroom / Merton and Lax

a. Alan Kolp – "A Revolution of Love: Creating Contemplatives in the College Classroom."

Alan Kolp holds the Baldwin Wallace University Chair in Faith & Life.  A lifelong Quaker, he is also a Benedictine oblate.

The college classroom becomes a laboratory for soul work—helping students become contemplatives.  When students awaken their desire for a deeper, loving life committed to the pursuit of meaning and purpose, they commence a pilgrimage of love. Love is at the center of all humans, which is where God dwells.

b. Emma McDonald – "Circling God: 'Perichoresis' in Robert Lax’s 'Circus of the Sun', Fanny Howe’s Indivisible, and the Life and Poetry of Thomas Merton."

Originally from, Baltimore, MD, Emma McDonald is currently a graduate student at Yale Divinity School studying ethics and literature. She was a Daggy Scholar at the 15th ITMS General Meeting in 2017.

The concepts of “bewilderment” in Fanny Howe’s novel Indivisible and “unfolded grace” in Robert Lax’s poem “The Circus of the Sun” facilitate their spherical illustration of the circular search for God; this paper will explore these themes in connection with the life and poetry of Thomas Merton.

 

D4.  Workshop

Kaya Oakes "Spiritual Autobiography in the Footsteps of Merton."

Kaya Oakes teaches nonfiction writing at UC Berkeley, is a contributing writer for many magazines, and the author of four books.

The experience of writing one’s spiritual autobiography can be a transformative tool, particularly for lay people who often feel voiceless. In this workshop session, participants will draw on short passages from Merton’s writing in order to better understand the genre of spiritual autobiography and to generate short pieces of writing.

 

D5. Workshop

Jeff Kiernan – "It’s a Beautiful Day in the…Monastery: A Workshop in Discovering Some Harmonies Shared by Thomas Merton, Fred Rogers, and Ourselves ."

Jeff Kiernan is a teacher of Religion and Adjunct Lecturer in Sociology and the Sociology of Religion. A USAF Vietnam-era veteran, he was honorably discharged as a conscientious objector.

Two seemingly disparate 50th anniversaries occurred in 2018: the death of Thomas Merton in December of 1968 and the celebration of the beginning of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” in February of that year. This workshop uses some key thematic topics from both Merton and Rogers (e.g. listening, true self, shared humanity), some of Holly Yarbrough’s jazz style vocalizations of “the Neighborhood’s” music, and the insights of those participating in the workshop.

 

D6. Workshop: "Finding Peace in the Midst of Chaos: 'Silence, Love This Growth'."

Larry Culliford

Long-term ITMS member, Larry Culliford loves helping people understand themselves better. His books include Much Ado about Something and Seeking Wisdom: A Spiritual Manifesto.

The workshop will follow this format. 1: Introduction: In search of Merton's "true self". The journey towards spiritual maturity. Exercise - a) becoming still b) silent reflection c) discussion (in pairs) 2: Suggestions: Adopting a 'Spiritual Development Plan'. Exercise - a) silent reflection b) preparing a plan c) sharing ideas 3: General discussion/ Q & A.


SATURDAY, JUNE 29
3:15 PM – 4:45 PM

                                   

E1.  Merton and the Ignatian Tradition

a.  Dan Horan"Learning from a 'Saint Next Door': The Pursuit of Holiness in Thomas Merton and Pope Francis."

Daniel P. Horan, OFM, PhD is a Franciscan friar and Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Spirituality at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, author of The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton.

This paper explores how Gaudete et Exsultate can support veneration of Merton as an exemplar of Christian action and contemplation, a “saint next door” as Pope Francis describes such holy women and men who are not already beatified and canonized; and  an examination of how Merton’s writings anticipate the nature of Christian discipleship as Pope Francis teaches today.

b.  Cristóbal Serrán-Pagán y Fuentes  – "Panentheism in Thomas Merton and Teilhard de Chardin: Finding God in All Things."

Cristóbal Serrán-Pagán y Fuentes is currently a Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Valdosta State University. He is the author of a new book, St. John of the Cross: His Prophetic Mysticism in the Historical Context of Sixteenth-Century Spain.

This paper examines the Ignatian view of finding God in all things held by Thomas Merton and by Teilhard de Chardin. These two Catholic mystics reconciled in their thoughts the apparent tension that exists between divine transcendence and divine immanence. In so doing, Merton’s and de Chardin’s panentheistic views can serve as a corrective to both classical deism and pantheism.

 

E2.  Merton  and Peace 3

a. Christopher Fici – "Merton and the Yoga of Peacemaking: Contemplation in Action in Dialogue with the Bhagavad-Gita."

Christopher Fici is a Ph.D candidate at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he focuses on constructive and comparative theology with a particular engagement in eco-theology.

For Thomas Merton, the Bhagavad-Gita “can be seen as the great treatise on the 'Active Life.' But it is really something more…” How does Merton, in concert and co-creative dance with the voice, or the song, of the Gita, teach us how to fuse worship, action, and contemplation for a yoga of peacemaking?

b. Jim Robinson – "To Worry About Birds and People: Pesticides, Nuclear War, and the False Self."

Jim Robinson is a doctoral candidate at Fordham University, concentrating in Systematic Theology. His dissertation is titled “Merton and Ruether: Toward a Contemplative-Prophetic Ecotheological Anthropology." 

In a letter to Rachel Carson, Merton traces the violence of pesticides and nuclear war to a shared sickness. I pair Merton’s identification of this sickness with his broader analysis of the false self, arguing that unveiling the false self and unravelling it through contemplation are vital to resisting omnicide.

 

E3.  Merton and the Off Side

a. Paul Pearson – "Wearing 'Our Mitres to Bed' – Thomas Merton and the Need for Humour in 'This Mad Place'.

Paul M Pearson is Director and Archivist of the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University, resident secretary of the ITMS, and chief of research for the Merton Legacy Trust.

This paper will explore Merton’s sense of humour as a way for him to critique the world, humorously warning readers of our propensity to “wear our mitres even to bed.” Merton’s uses his irreverence to temper truth, and to point out the falseness of whatever “sacred cows” he perceives.

b. Lynn Szabo – "The Erotic 'Celibacy' of Thomas Merton: A 'True Capacity for Maturity, Liberty and Peace'."

Lynn R. Szabo, Professor Emerita of English, Trinity Western University, Vancouver, focuses her scholarship on Thomas Merton’s writings, in particular, his theopoetics and mystical ontology.

The embodied, erotic experience of Thomas Merton, as he recorded it, is integral to his monasticism and its significance in our current world, a “mad place” in which a commitment to celibacy has become a religious anachronism. His quest for intimacy with female presence, both human and Divine was lifelong and all-embracing.

 

E4.  Workshop

Marianne Hieb – "Encountering Glimpses of Merton’s Journey: Selections of his Visual Art and Imagery."

Marianne Hieb, RSM, MFA, ATR, D. Min, an artist, art therapist, and retreat facilitator. Her interest in art processes as path and language finds echo in Merton’s lifelong creative quest.

Throughout his life, Merton encountered intuitive knowledge, peace, creative madness, contemplative silence, insight, and integration through the world of art and visual imagery. This workshop will explore some of Merton’s significant art and visual experiences, and provide the opportunity to respond with our own visual and/or journal writing. Journaling supplies provided.

 

E5. Guided Meditation / Workshop

Sarah Kothe and Cassidy Hall"Peace through Poetry."

Cassidy Hall is the author of Notes on Silence, filmmaker (In Pursuit of Silence), podcaster (Encountering Silence), and holds a masters degree in counseling. Cassidy’s writing has been published in the Convivium Journal, and the Merton Seasonal.

Sarah Kothe was a 2015 ITMS Daggy Scholar. She received her master’s degree in theological studies from Emory University in 2018 and is currently teaching religion to middle school students in New York City.

In his “Letter to Poets,” Thomas Merton reveals the depths of a poet’s vocation calling poets to be “ministers of silence” who cure the world of violence and absurdity with a “therapeutic love” that changes everything. In this session, moments of silence mixed with Merton’s poetry will provide those in attendance with a sacred space in which to cultivate their own poetic spirit.

 

E6.  Workshop

Susan McCaslin and JS Porter – "Thomas Merton’s Dance with the Feminine."

Susan McCaslin, Canadian poet, author of Into the Open: Poems New and Selected, has written extensively on Thomas Merton and the divine and human feminine. Susan is a retired Faculty Emerita of English and Creative Writing at Douglas College in British Columbia.  

J.S. Porter is the author of The Thomas Merton Poems and Thomas Merton: Hermit at the Heart of Things. He blogs for The Nancy Duffy Show and has a column in Dialogue Magazine.

Much of Thomas Merton’s growth as a monk and writer had to do with his deepening sense of the feminine. Merton’s struggle with the feminine enriched his understanding of his place in the world. “The Divine and Embodied Feminine,” a dialogue recently published in Works&Conversations, will be the basis of their presentation, as well as their daring new study, Superabundantly Alive: Thomas Merton’s Dance with the Feminine.




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