International Thomas Merton Society

    NEWSLETTER

                    Vol. 9, No. 2                                  Fall, 2002

2003 General Meeting Program Set

   At its June meeting, the Board of Directors of the International Thomas Merton Society approved the program for the ITMS Eighth General Meeting, to be held June 5-7, 2003 at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.  The theme of the meeting, “The Hawk’s Dream: Thomas Merton’s Sacred Landscapes,” is taken from a passage in Merton’s final journal focusing on his attentiveness to the natural world and the sacramentality of creation.  Major speakers include Douglas Burton-Christie, James Finley, Richard Rohr, OFM, and Mary Jo Weaver.  The program will also feature an address by ITMS President Jonathan Montaldo, a panel on Merton and the East, twenty-five concurrent sessions and workshops, meditation and worship sessions, and entertainment.  The meeting will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first major Merton conference, held in Vancouver in 1978, and will feature the publication debut of a revised edition of Thomas Merton: Pilgrim in Process, a collection of papers from that conference.

     Douglas Burton-Christie, professor of theology at Loyola-Marymount University in Los Angeles and editor of Spiritus, the journal of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, will deliver the Springboard Address on Friday morning.  He is the author of The Word in the Desert: Scripture and the Quest for Holiness in Early Christian Monasticism as well as a forthcoming book on landscape and the sacred.

     James Finley, who will speak on Saturday morning, was a novice under Thomas Merton at the Abbey of Gethsemani, and is presently a psychotherapist in private practice in California.  He is the author of Merton’s Palace of Nowhere, which has sold more than 88,000 copies since its publication in 1978, as well as The Contemplative Heart and other works on contemplative spirituality.

     Richard Rohr, OFM is founder of the Center for Contemplation and Action in Albuquerque, NM, a popular speaker, and author of more than a dozen books, including Hope against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, and Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount.  He will speak Saturday afternoon on Merton and the landscape of the desert.

     Mary Jo Weaver, Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University, has published books on the modernist controversy, on the women’s movement within the Catholic Church, and on divisions within American Catholicism at the turn of the millennium.  Most recently, she is the author of Cloister and Community: Life within a Carmelite Monastery.  A featured speaker at the 1978 Vancouver Conference, she will deliver the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Address on Thursday morning.

     Opening sessions on Thursday morning of the conference will include a “First-Timers Orientation” led by Robert Grip; “Daggy Youth Scholars Forum”; “Shannon Fellowship Forum” featuring former Shannon Fellow Ginny Bear discussing her work; the ITMS Chapters Workshop with Chapters Coordinator Ed Farley; and a slide presentation on Merton’s early life in France with Brother Paul Quenon, OCSO and in New York City with Loretta Carney and Walt Chura. On Friday afternoon, a panel discussion on Merton and the East will feature Roger Corless, Lucien Miller and Joseph Raab and will be moderated by former ITMS president Bonnie Thurston. 

     Meditation sessions each morning will be led by Fr. Basil Pennington, OCSO.  Ecumenical worship services will be led by William Paulsell, and an interfaith service on Friday will feature a Sufi Ceremony of Remembrance led by Majid Buell and the Rumi Society.  Daily mass will be celebrated by Rev. Patrick Eastman.  The Friday evening salmon barbeque to be held at the UBC Anthropology Museum will feature traditional singing and dancing by Native American (First Nations) performers.

 Concurrent session topics include:

• “Merton and Alaska”: Elizabeth O’Hara, RSM and Bonnie Thurston;
• “Merton and Left Coast Culture”: Jeff Kiernan and Angus Stuart;
• “Merton and Lograire”: Kenneth Burridge and Patrick O’Connell;
• “Merton and Social Critique”: Judith Hunter and Judith Hardcastle;
• “Merton and Technology”: Daniel Bogert-O’Brien and Paul Dekar;
• “Merton and the Interfaith Journey”: William Apel and Edward Kaplan;
• “Merton and the Philosophy of Place”: Ron Dart and Gray Matthews;
• “Merton and the Shakers”: Paul Pearson and Walt Chura;
• “Merton and the Southwest”: Elizabeth Parr and Keri Wehlander;
• “Merton and West Coast Poets”: Robert Inchausti and Catherine Owen;
• “Merton at the Margins”: David Belcastro and Patrick Bludworth;
• “Merton: Landscape and Inscape”: Jeffrey Cooper, CSC and Monica Weis, SSJ;
• “Merton’s ‘Firewatch’”: Ross Labrie and David Leigh, SJ;
• “Merton’s Forbears”: Michael Griffith and Lynn Szabo;
• “Merton’s Poetic Landscapes”: Deborah Kehoe and John Noffsinger;
• “Merton’s Soulscape”: Larry Culliford and Michael Sobocinski.


Workshops and performance presentations include:
• “A Merton Spiritual Concert”: Patrick Collins;
• “Dancing Merton’s Hagia Sophia”: Susan McCaslin and Celeste Snowber;
• “Landscape and Lectio”: Mary Murray;
• “Merton’s Celtic Vision of Landscape”: Mary Earle and Sylvia Maddox;
• “Merton’s Photography”: Anthony Bannon;
• “‘My Name is That Sky’: Merton’s Reflections on Nature”: Kathleen Deignan, SND;
• “Sacred Landscape, Sacred Soulscape: Robert Lax on Patmos”: Steve Georgiou;
• “Thomas Merton, Harold Talbott and Chadral Rinpoche”: Donald Grayston;
• “Wilderness and Paradise”: Donna Kristoff, OSU.
 

     Evening entertainment will include live jazz, blues and soul at “Uncle Louie’s Bongo Bar,” featuring “Old Angel Midnite” (Angus Stuart), and folk music and poetry readings at “The Monk’s Cellar,” managed by Donna Kristoff, OSU and Susan McCaslin.

     The Program Committee for the Eighth General Meeting is chaired by ITMS Past President Christine Bochen, with Judith Hardcastle as Site Coordinator; other members of the committee include Donald Grayston, Michael Higgins, Ross Labrie, ITMS President Jonathan Montaldo, Patrick O’Connell, Paul Pearson, Lynn Szabo, and Monica Weis, SSJ.

     Registration materials, with further information on the schedule, costs and accommodations for the conference, will be included in the Winter 2002 issue of The Merton Seasonal.  Updated information will be made available at the Merton Center website (www.merton.org) as well as at the British Columbia Merton Chapter website (www.merton.ca).

Shannon Fellowships Awarded

    At the June meeting of the ITMS Board of Directors, Erlinda Paguio, chair of the Shannon Fellowship committee, announced the names of the three winners of the 2002 fellowships.  They are Paul Dekar, Kevin McGuirk and Sharon Moore-Cooke.  The Shannon Fellowship program was established in 1997 in honor of the founding president of the ITMS to promote scholarship on Merton and his work.  Up to five annual awards, of a maximum of $750 each, are granted to scholars for research on primary-source Merton materials at the Merton Center at Bellarmine University or other archival collections.  This year’s selection committee includes Michael Higgins and Waldecy Gonçalves as well as Erlinda Paguio.

     Fellowship winners and their projects include:

·        Paul Dekar, of Memphis Theological Seminary, Memphis, TN, will use his award to research material for his project, “Thomas Merton and Technology,” in which he plans to incorporate Merton’s insights on technology into the wider conversation about the impact of new technologies on society;  

·        Kevin McGuirk, of the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, will use his award to research material for his project, “Thomas Merton and Writing,” in which he will consider the distinction between writing as identity and writing as practice in Merton’s work;

·        Rev. Sharon Moore-Cooke, a psychologist and minister of the United Church of Canada from Vancouver, British Columbia, will use her award to research material for her project, “Psychological Dimensions of Thomas Merton,” in which she will examine materials from Merton’s journals in the light of the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Inventory and the Enneagram.

      The ITMS Board also voted to approve a request from the newly formed Merton Society of Poland for a Shannon Fellowship grant to help fund its first general meeting, held October 24-27, 2002. 

     The deadline for applications for Shannon Fellowships for 2003-2004 is March 15, 2003.  Awards must be used between July 1, 2003 and June 30, 2004.  Awards will be based on the quality of the proposal submitted and on the need for consulting archival materials at the site proposed.  Applicants must be members of the ITMS; they may join the Society at the time of application by including a check for $20, made out to “ITMS”, along with their proposals.  Current officers and Board members of the ITMS, as well as grant committee members, are not eligible for fellowships during their term of office.

     Application for Shannon Fellowships must include the following:

·      a detailed proposal of 500-750 words explaining the subject and goals of the applicant’s research and the rationale for consulting primary sources at the Merton collection selected by the applicant;

·      a letter of recommendation from a scholar familiar with the applicant’s qualifications and research interests;

·      a proposed expense budget: grants will cover costs of travel to and from collections; expenses for accommodations and food during time of research at archives; costs of photocopying;

·      disclosure of any other sources of funding awarded or applied for, with amounts received or requested.

     Applications are encouraged from established scholars, from researchers without academic affiliation, and from students and younger scholars, including those engaged in research for theses and dissertations.

     Completed applications for fellowships should be sent to the selection committee chair, Erlinda Paguio, 7317 Honiasant Drive, Louisville, KY 40214; email: erlinda@louisville.edu.  The committee’s decisions will be announced to the ITMS Board of Directors at their June, 2003 meeting and will be communicated to applicants shortly thereafter.

Merton Scholars Retreat

      A weekend of silence, contemplation and dialogue for presenters at the ITMS Seventh General Meeting took place at the Abbey of Gethsemani July 12-14, 2003.  Conceived by conference site coordinator and current ITMS president Jonathan Montaldo as an opportunity for scholars to share insights on their work in the context of prayer and monastic liturgy, the retreat, coordinated by Jonathan Montaldo and facilitated by Lynn Szabo, was attended by eighteen scholars.  Participants included David and Debbie Belcastro (OH), Michael Callaghan (NY), Walt Chura (NY), Kathleen Deignan, SND (NY), Jim Forcier-Call (NM), John King (AR), Gray Matthews (TN), Erlinda Paguio (KY), Tom Peterson (IN), Paul Pearson (KY), Tom Sheridan (PA), John Silitto (UT), Marilyn Sunderman (ME), Bob Toth (KY) and Ray Wilkie (KY).

     The purpose for the retreat, as articulated to the group by former ITMS president Fr. James Conner, OCSO, was twofold: to think and reason together as intellectuals, but also to break from the madness of busy lives in order to allow God to refresh the soul in silence.  Discussion sessions alternated with periods of joining the monks in prayer. 

     The retreat began after Compline Friday evening with a group discussion of the question, “What draws you to Merton studies?”  Participant Gray Matthews noted, “We finally had to stop talking for fear of missing the Night Office at 3:15 a.m.!”  Saturday morning, spent in dialogue on the front porch of Merton’s hermitage during a rainstorm, featured Br. Paul Quenon’s reading of Merton’s essay “Rain and the Rhinoceros” (and the sudden appearance, in a four-wheeler, of Fr. Matthew Kelty).  Discussion focused on sharing ideas regarding the current status of Merton studies, with input from Merton Foundation Director Bob Toth, Merton Center Director Paul Pearson and ITMS Vice President Erlinda Paguio on a wide variety of educational resources and support currently available, as well as ongoing efforts and proposals to improve and increase assistance to educators by the Foundation, the Center and the ITMS. 

     An afternoon panel of Gethsemani monks, including Fr. Michael Casagram, Fr. James Conner, Br. Patrick Hart, Fr. Matthew Kelty and Br. Paul Quenon, shared personal memories of Merton along with their respective hopes for the ITMS and future of Merton studies, followed by a tour of the monastic library, a slide presentation by Br. Paul on the recent pilgrimage to Prades, France, and an evening poetry reading in the chapel.  The final gathering on Sunday morning included a discussion of Merton’s relationship to “M,” and expressions of appreciation for the fellowship and shared insights provided by the weekend.  The retreat concluded with the announcement that such scholar-retreats are planned to be a regularly scheduled ITMS event in future years.

Daggy Scholars Retreat

    Daggy Youth/Student Scholars from the ITMS Seventh General Meeting, at the invitation of ITMS President Jonathan Montaldo, met together for a reunion and retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani June 14-16, 2002.  Eight of the twelve scholars from the 2001meeting attended the program, which was facilitated by Daggy Committee chair Dr. Virginia Ratigan, with the assistance of her husband Jim and Jonathan Montaldo.  By offering the opportunity for the Scholars to regather the year following the general meeting, the Daggy Scholarship Program expanded its horizons to provide an opportunity for ongoing community formation, to include a more intense look at monastic life in the context of the spiritual search, and to provide a firm foundation for full participation of the younger generation in the life of the ITMS.

     In addition to participation in monastic prayer, highlights of the weekend included a visit to Merton’s hermitage and a hike to the “Gethsemani Statues” and Dom Frederic’s Lake, both guided by Br. Paul Quenon, as well as a visit with Br. Patrick Hart.  Discussions on experiences of the past year included reflections on “Merton on Peace and Justice,” which was added to the program in order to help understand the events of September 11 and its aftermath through Merton’s compassionate eyes.

     Among the main themes made apparent throughout the weekend were the importance of communication, vulnerability and change, and the inter-relation of all three.  As participant David Odorisio, from Phoenixville, PA, commented, “Through the many conversations and discussions, both in private and as a group, we learned that change only occurs when one is willingly open and vulnerable and that communication is the only means to affect such change.  It was through this weekend of deep and honest dialogue that the scholars began to realize that each person encountered in daily life is a potential teacher.  We entered the school of our own lives.”

     The scholars emphasized the value of the true spirit of friendship and intimacy that unfolded as they shared experiences and insights.  For Justin Williams, from Tulsa, OK, “to know others as well as we know ourselves” was the message he received from the reunion/retreat.  Kristin Wisniewski, from Bernardsville, NJ, added that being at the Abbey felt like coming home again: “The people, the surroundings and the spirit of the place all combined to make an amazing experience.  The friendship and fellowship that was brought by all was exceptional and refreshing (not to mention exactly what I needed!).”  Theresa Walsh, from Erie, PA, who attended the retreat although recovering from mononucleosis, said of her experience, “Even with mono I find myself compelled to be in the company of my ITMS friends.  Truly I believe that we have all grown and changed over the course of this year, and coming together to be united again has made a great impact on me!”  Theresa Sullivan, from Windham, ME, wrote after the meeting, “How fortunate I felt to share the same loving passion for peace, love, and nonviolent solutions that our friend and brother wrote so ardently about.  Coming home, I felt a part of me had bonded in a deeper way with the Abbey.  I felt more intimate with Merton, the Abbey, the Brothers, and the Daggy Scholar Group.  I appreciated the special gifts I received from everyone.”

     Reflecting on the power of pain, compassion, and peaceful reconciliation, one scholar penned the following lines:

        Quiet soul,
                Contemplate touching the heavens
                                In trees,
                                        Even dead ones.

The scholars left the discussion with, in David Odorisio’s words, “a renewed sense of mission and determination that no matter how great the evil, a greater love will and must prevail.”

Daggy Scholarships Available

     The International Thomas Merton Society will once again sponsor the Daggy Youth/Student Scholarship Program to make it possible for young people to participate in the ITMS General Meeting.  The program is named in honor of the late Dr. Robert Daggy, founding member and second president of the ITMS and longtime director of the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University.  Up to fifteen scholarships will be awarded, covering all costs (except transportation) of attendance at the Eighth General Meeting of the ITMS, to be held at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada, June 5-7, 2003.  The awards will also include one year’s free membership in the ITMS.  Young people between the ages of fourteen and twenty-nine, and full-time undergraduate students up to the age of forty, are invited to apply.

     Kristin Wisniewski, a 2001 Daggy Scholarship recipient, writes of her time at the Seventh General Meeting: “It was wonderful to see so many other people who were as interested in Merton as I am.  I attended talks on Merton and technology, Merton and interreligious dialogue, Merton and Rabbi Heschel, Merton and the East, Merton and civil rights, as well as many others.  It was three and a half days of pure knowledge overflow.  Looking back on my time at the conference, I have to say it was the most incredible, life-changing experience I have ever had!  This would have to take into account the people that I met, such as Brother Patrick Hart, Tommie O’Callaghan, Rev. Wayne Burns, other Daggy Scholars, and scores of other Mertonians, as well as the discussions I had, the sleep I lost (totally worth it!), information I gained, and the incredible flood of emotion that I felt.  I am sure it is an experience that I will not soon forget!”

     Scholarship applicants should submit a statement explaining why they are interested in learning more about Thomas Merton and how they think they would benefit from attending the ITMS General Meeting.  They should also obtain a recommendation from a youth minister, campus minister, pastor, teacher, or other qualified adult explaining in what capacity he/she knows the applicant and why the applicant should be considered as a qualified candidate for an ITMS scholarship.

     Completed applications, including the recommendation, must be submitted by April 15, 2003, to the scholarship committee chair, Dr. Virginia Ratigan, Department of Religious Studies, Rosemont College, 1400 Montgomery Avenue, Rosemont, PA 19010; email: vratigan@rosemont.edu.  Applications should include the age of the applicant, proof of educational status (if applicable), telephone number and email address (if available) as well as a return address.

     Any ITMS member who knows an eligible young person / student that would benefit from attending the 2003 General Meeting in Vancouver should encourage him or her to apply for a scholarship.

Merton’s New York

     A pilgrimage program to sites associated with Thomas Merton in New York City will be held May 15-22, 2003.  Cosponsored by the British Columbia Chapter of the ITMS and the Humanities Department at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC, the tour will be directed by Donald Grayston and Judith Hardcastle.  The program includes daily sessions on Merton’s life and thought; a special Merton lecture and exhibit at Butler Library, Columbia University; a public talk on Merton and peace/social justice issues by Daniel Berrigan, SJ; a Merton seminar in cooperation with Zion Episcopal Church in Douglaston, Long Island; a lecture and tour at “The Cloisters” Museum; a public lecture at Corpus Christi Church in cooperation with the ITMS Manhattan Chapter; and visits to sites that comprise “Merton’s New York” such as Harlem and Greenwich Village. There will also be free time to enjoy the theatre, museums and ambiance of Manhattan.

     Accommodation is at The House of the Redeemer, 7 East 95th Street (near “Museum Mile” and Central Park) on Manhattan’s upper east side.  Built in 1913, the house is the former Palazzo Fabbri, home of a scion of the Vanderbilt family.  Since 1949, it has been an Episcopal retreat house.  As accommodation at The House of the Redeemer is limited to eighteen people, those interested in participating are encouraged to reserve early as it is anticipated that the program will fill up quickly.  The cost for the pilgrimage is $1,225 (US) / $1,925 (CDN).  A “commuter rate” of $350 (US) for those people who live in the New York City area is also available.

     For more information, contact Don Grayston at donald_grayston@sfu.ca or Judith Hardcastle at judithhardcastle@telus.net.

Alaskan Cruise

     Following the ITMS Eighth General Meeting in Vancouver, BC, ITMS members can take advantage of an ITMS group rate for a 7-day Alaskan Cruise on the luxurious “Princess Mercury,” departing Vancouver Sunday, June 8 and returning June 15.  Ports of call in Alaska include Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, Hubbard Glacier, Valdez, College Fjord and Seward.  Cost ranges from $735 US (inside cabin) to $1,070 US (outside cabin) plus port charges, fees and taxes.  As group space at this special price is limited, all those interested in the tour are encouraged to book reservations early.  For more information, contact Lindy Rothenburger at The Travel Group at 1-800-665-6345; email: lindyr@travelg.com.

ITMS Authors

     A number of ITMS members have recently published books on various topics.

Rusty Moe is the author of Our Presence Together In Chaos (Windsor, ON: Black Moss Press, 2001) 57 p. [ISBN: 0887533493 – $15.95 pbk], a book of poetry that includes a section entitled “The Gethsemani Cuttings,” culled from notes taken on retreats at the monastery over the years. Robert Lax, reviewing the manuscript shortly before his death, wrote: “Thanks for (in this boy’s view) some very good poems!  I really like everything about them (and that’s rare around here).  Length, message, images – every word counts, and many sing.  Sweet, heavenly voice!”  It is available from Black Moss Press (519-252-2551), Bardstown Art Gallery (502-348-6488), and the author (317-876-3093), as well as on Amazon.com.

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Paul Quenon, OCSO has edited, with John B. Lee, an anthology of poetry on spiritual themes entitled Smaller Than God: Words of Spiritual Longing (Windsor, ON: Black Moss Press, 2001) 180 p. [ISBN: 0887533574 – $19.95 pbk]. Among the more than fifty poets included are Dianne Aprile, Ernesto Cardenal, Thomas Merton, and Paul Quenon.

* * * * * * *

Robert Waldron is the author of a novella entitled Blue Hope (Orleans, MA: Paraclete Press, 2002)

128 p. [ISBN: 1-55725-290-4 – $13.95 pbk], a story of spiritual renewal with an indirect Merton connection: a depressed professor encounters a Cistercian hermit-poet (with a snake in his outhouse!) at a Trappist monastery in Vermont.

Spirituality & Environment Retreat

    Merton Retreat 2002: Spirituality and the Environment,” sponsored by the Thomas Merton Foundation, took place June 10-14, 2002 at the Abbey of Gethsemani.  Building on the results of its highly successful Merton Retreat 2000 on Spirituality and Leadership, the Foundation brought together a distinguished international group of scholars, contemplatives, political, environmental, business, and scientific leaders from a wide variety of ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds for four days of reflection and dialogue on environmental issues and actual and potential contributions of authentic contemplative spirituality to ecological healing of the earth. The retreat concluded with a Public Forum at the Brown Theater in Louisville, in which participants engaged in “contemplative dialogue” among themselves and with members of the audience.

     The retreat and forum were organized based on the belief that Thomas Merton’s message and life can help build a new pattern for living that integrates the contemplative in each person with day-to-day activities, and that this message can become a source of deep change in a world often distracted by superficial solutions to complex problems. The process takes its inspiration from Merton’s “Mt. Olivet Letter” of the early 1960s, in which he wrote, “The contemplative character of the setting and the complete absence of the pressures and routines of organizational life will favor a recovery of spiritual and humanistic perspectives, in which the emphasis will be not on the social process but on the good of man as ‘image of God.’  It is believed that such a viewpoint is necessary if man is to dominate the processes he has created instead of being dominated by them.”

     Participants in the retreat included J. Robert Banks, retired vice president at Sunoco, Inc.; Rev. Sally Grover Bingham, an Episcopal priest active in the environmental community for twenty years; Peter C. Frumhoff, Director and Senior Scientist of the Global Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists; Lodel D. Magbanua, Negros Island Mission Coordinator of Handicap International, Negros Occidental, Philippines; Gugulethu Matlaopane, member of the Independent Electoral Commission in North Cape, South Africa, and activist in issues related to toxic waste and its impact on the environment; Dr. S. Madhavan Nair, Program Director, Centre for Environment Education, New Delhi; Alfredo Narvaez, convener of the first Mexico City Environmental Youth Forum, and founder of the Mexico City Environmental Youth Network; Sherry Pech, OCSO, prioress and cellarer of the Cistercian community at Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa, where she manages and works on her monastery’s organic farm; Michael Rotondi, a practicing architect and educator; Carl Safina, Vice President for Marine Conservation and founder of the Living Oceans Program at the National Audubon Society; John Seed, founder and director of the Rainforest Information Centre in Australia; Fr. Alamiro Andrade Silva, OFM, founder of the InterFranciscan Office of Justice, Peace and Ecology, Brasilia; Michael Toms, founding President of New Dimensions Foundation, co-founder of New Dimensions Radio and Chief Executive Officer of the New Dimensions Broadcasting Network; Monica Weis, SSJ, Professor of English at Nazareth College, Rochester, NY, and former vice president of the International Thomas Merton Society; Pam Wilson, program associate at the Fetzer Institute, a nonprofit private operating foundation that supports research, education, and service programs exploring the relationships among body, mind, and spirit, which provided funding for the retreat.

     Retreat facilitators were Steven Wirth, founding partner of The Yardley Group, Inc.; Julie Murray, a private practitioner in spiritual direction, and faculty member at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing Science, New York; Ginny Schaeffer, Director of the Angela Merici Spirituality Center, Louisville, KY; and Gregory Acker, musician, instrument-builder, and arts educator.

TMS Oakham Conference

     The Fourth General Meeting of the Thomas Merton Society of Great Britain and Ireland took place April 5-7, 2002 at Oakham School, Rutland, UK.  The conference theme was “‘With the World in My Bloodstream’: Thomas Merton’s Universal Embrace.”  This is the third time that the TMS General Meeting has taken place at Oakham, which Thomas Merton attended from 1929 to 1933.

     Major presentations included Donald Grayston speaking on “Finding ‘The Great Compassion, Mahakaruna’: Thomas Merton as Transcultural Pioneer”; Robert Inchausti on “Beyond Political Illusion: Thomas Merton on the Role of the Individual in Troubled Times”; and Bonnie Thurston on “Three Islamic Poems by Thomas Merton.”  The presidential address was delivered by Canon A. M. Allchin.  The final day of the conference featured a panel discussion on the meeting theme with Donald Grayston, Robert Inchausti, Bonnie Thurston and Rev. Patrick Eastman, who also led meditation sessions and celebrated the Eucharist during the meeting.

     Concurrent session presentations included: David Belcastro – “Merton and the Beats”; Fernando Beltrán Llavador  – “Thomas Merton’s World Discourse: Economic Globalization vs. Religious Universality”; Richard Berendes and Earl Madary – “Thomas Merton And Dorothy Day: The Marriage of Contemplation and Action, a Call to Radical Hospitality”; Arthur W. Biddle – “Merton and the Second World War: Three Poetic Responses”; Tom Del Prete – “The World in My Bloodstream: Merton’s Experience of Relatedness”; Judith Hardcastle – “The Mysticism of World Faiths in Merton’s ‘Inner Experience’”; Paul M. Pearson – “Redeeming the Rhinoceros: The Healing Power of the Night Spirit and the Dawn Air”; Thomas W. Sheridan – “Merton as Odysseus-for-Everyman”; Michael R. Sobocinski – “Love and the Discovery of the True Self and Healing in Psychotherapy”; and Angus Stuart – “Grace Beats Karma: Thomas Merton and the Dharma Bums.”

Polish Merton Conference

     The first Thomas Merton Conference in Poland, sponsored by the newly formed Polish Merton Society and the Homini Publishing House, will take place October 24-27, 2002 at the University of Lublin

     After a welcome from the Rector of Lublin University, the opening presentation will be made by Abp. Prof. Józef Zycinski, entitled “Interior Crisis of Scientific-Technical Civilization and the Role of Spiritual Values.”  This will be followed by presentations by Br. Patrick Hart OCSO on “Merton – Witness to Life” and by Adam Boniecki and Tomasz Fialkowski on “Merton in Poland.”  A highlight of the first day of the conference will be an appearance by Merton’s friend and correspondent, Nobel-Prize winning poet Czeslaw Milosz.  The day will conclude with a discussion of the topic, “Merton in Poland – A Prophet or Adventure of a Single Generation?” and a showing of the video “A Taste of Gethsemani.”

     Major presentations of the second day of the conference include Paul M. Pearson: “Thomas Merton Archivist”; Maciej Bielawski: “Merton’s Paradox: Living on the Edge – Experience of the Center”; Stanislaw Obirek: “Merton’s Beer”; Krzysztof Bielawski: “Merton’s Summer Diary and the Experience of Love”; Katarzyna Bruzda: “Merton’s Artistic Works”; Waclaw Hryniewicz: “Mysticism of Merton and Julian of Norwich – A Comparison”; Theresa Sandok: “Thomas Merton’s Contemplative Vision”; Jan Andrzej Kloczowski: “Mystics and Ethics.”  The evening will feature recollections of Thomas Merton by Patrick Hart and Basil Pennington and a showing of the video “Merton – A Film Biography.”

     Presentations on Saturday include: Zofia Zarebianka: “Merton’s Literary Essays”; Elzbieta Kislak: “Merton and Milosz in the Face of Totalitarianism”; Jan Bereza: “Thomas Merton’s Theology of I”; Konrad Malys: “Merton’s Cistercian Studies”; Paul M. Pearson: “Mertonian Societies around the World: History, Aims, Actions.”  The day will also include a founding meeting of the Polish Merton Society.

     On the concluding day of the conference, participants will travel to the National Book Fair at Cracow, where a featured book will be tbe Polish translations of Silent Lamp by William H. Shannon.

     Financial contributions by the ITMS, as approved by the Board of Directors at its June meeting, helped make possible the conference and the participation of Merton Center Director Paul M. Pearson.

Gethsemani Encounter II

    The second Gethsemani Encounter between Catholic and Buddhist monastics took place at the Abbey of Gethsemani April 13-18, 2002.  Inspired by the pioneering work of Thomas Merton and sponsored by Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, the conference was a sequel to the first Gethsemani Encounter held at the abbey in July 1996 and attended by the Dalai Lama.  The theme for this second gathering, which included participation by representatives of Theravada, Zen and Tibetan Buddhism as well as by Cistercian and Benedictine monks and nuns along with lay scholars, was suffering as understood in the two traditions.  Opening presentations were given by Abbot Thomas Keating, OCSO and Ven. Henepola Gunaratana.  Other opening day presentations, on suffering caused by a sense of unworthiness and alienation, were given by Joseph Goldstein, Columba Stewart, OSB, Mary Margaret Funk, OSB and Blanche Hartman.  Subsequent speakers and topics included: a text by His Holiness the Dalai Lama (read by Geshe Lobsang Tenzin) and presentations by Kathy Lyzotte, OCSO, Ven. Thubten Chodron and James Wiseman, OSB on suffering caused by greed and consumerism; presentations by Geshe Lobsang Tenzin, Daniel Ward, OSB, Stephanie Kaza and Mary Collins, OSB on suffering caused by personal and structural violence; and presentations by John Daido Loori, Margaret Michaud, OSB, Ajahn Sundara and Donald Grabner, OSB on suffering caused by sickness and aging.  Summary presentations were made by Norman Fischer and Fr. Leo Lefebure.  Proceeding of the conference will be published by Doubleday in 2003.

Merton Elderhostel

    An Elderhostel experience entitled “Delving Deeper into Thomas Merton” took place August 11-16 at Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY, coordinated by Dr. Paul M. Pearson, Director of the Bellarmine Merton Center. 

     The week included trips to the Abbey of Gethsemani, where participants visited Merton’s hermitage and gravesite and participated in the monastic liturgy, and to the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, KY, where participants received a guided tour of the village.

     Presentations included “Merton the Archivist,” “Seeking Paradise: Thomas Merton and the Shakers” and “Awake to a New Language: Thomas Merton’s Recovery of a Paradise Language” with Paul M. Pearson; “Thomas Merton and the Mystics – Sufism” with ITMS Vice President Erlinda Paguio; “Thomas Merton and the Cold War Letters” with Michael Johmann, Professor of Humanities and English at the University of Louisville; and “Thomas Merton and Flannery O’Connor” with Fr. George Kilcourse, Professor of Theology at Bellarmine University.  Participants also viewed the videos “The (Almost) Final Days of Thomas Merton: A Conversation with Harold Talbott,” “Kentucky Friends of Merton” and “Thomas Merton: Seeder of Radical Action” with  Joan Chittister, OSB.

     The next Merton Elderhostel at Bellarmine is scheduled for April 6-11.  For further details contact Linda Bailey on (502) 452 8161 or by e-mail: lbailey@bellarmine.edu or visit the Elderhostel website. An Elderhostel focused on Merton and led by Walt Chura will also be held October 13-18 at Holy Cross Monastery, P.O. Box 99, West Park, NY 12493-0099; for further information, phone:845-384-6660 ext.308; fax: 845-384-6631.

Oakham School Renovation

     Next year, 2003, will mark the 150th anniversary of the rebuilding of School House, the main building at Oakham School, Rutland, UK, which Thomas Merton attended between 1929 and 1933.  The school has just started a program of extensive refurbishment of the building.  The Trustees of Oakham School have put forward some monies but the intention is to look for sponsorship from former pupils and others, who would then have rooms named in their honor.  The total cost of each room will be about £4000 (about $6,000), the cost being quite high because each room will be given a replacement wooden window frame, a sink and wall-to-wall carpeting – luxury compared to conditions during Thomas Merton’s time in Hodge Wing of the building.  Any member of the ITMS who might be interested in helping this project financially by sponsoring the renovation of Merton’s old room should contact Martin Minshall at Oakham School, Oakham, Rutland, England; email: MVM@oakham.rutland.sch.uk.  It would be very fitting if Merton’s old room could be named after him.

New Publication Planned

    Monkscript: A Folio of Literature, Art and Spirituality is seeking poems, fiction, essays, art, retreat journals, meditations and interviews.  Monkscript invites writings that spring from the ambiance of  monasticism, eastern or western, writings by those who live either inside or outside of monasteries, writings by anyone whose art breathes the atmosphere and spirit of monasticism of whatever kind. Monkscript is a format for creative writing of a high literary standard.  It specializes in writings by authors inspired by monasteries, monastic life, and any contemplative style of living.  Monkscript includes art and spirituality, as reflective of monastic life as well as contemplative living, as major fields of interest. Editors are Bernadette Dieker and Paul Quenon, OCSO; poetry editor – Frederick Smock, essay editor – Jonathan Montaldo, associate editors – Gray Henry, Bob Hill, Nana Lampton, Dianne Aprile.  Send mailings to: Editor, Monkscript, 49 Mockingbird Valley Drive, Louisville, KY 40207; phone: 502-897-3641; fax:502-893-7373; email: monkscript@aol.com. Please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.  Monkscript, vol. 1 will be available in December 2002 for $15.00, sent to the above address.

Merton Happenings

John Collins, a member of the ITMS Massachusetts Chapter, conducted a five-part series on Thomas Merton at St. Mary’s Parish in Shrewsbury, MA during the past year.  The focus of the series was Merton’s  book, New Seeds of Contemplation.  John will conduct a four-part Merton series during 2002-2003, open to the Worcester Diocese.

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Lawrence Cunningham gave a presentation on Merton as part of Villanova University’s Conference on Catholic Peacemakers in April, 2002; he also taught a graduate course on Merton during the summer 2002 semester at the University of Notre Dame, and accompanied fifteen high school students to the Abbey of Gethsemani July 22-24 as part of a three-week theology course at Notre Dame.

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Phil McIntyre-Paul and Christopher Page led a backcountry hiking retreat entitled “Bread in the Wilderness: Thomas Merton as Wilderness Guide” in the interior mountains of southern British Columbia  August 4 -10, 2002.  The retreat, sponsored by the Sorrento Centre, an Anglican retreat and conference center, included four days/nights of backcountry hiking and camping, framed in a cycle of morning and evening offices, centering prayer, spiritual direction and reflections exploring Merton's relationship to nature.

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ITMS Vice President Erlinda Paguio and Merton Center Director Paul M. Pearson directed a four-week course on Merton for the St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Louisville, KY May 5-26, 2002.

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Richard Reilly, Richard Simpson and Paul Spaeth, faculty members at St. Bonaventure University, Olean, NY, presented a week-long seminar entitled “Thomas Merton and Robert Lax: The New York Years and Beyond” at the Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, NY August 5-9, 2002.  The course focused on the two friends’ writings, spirituality and lives, especially in connection with the Western New York area.

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A weekend retreat entitled “Exploring the Life and Writings of Thomas Merton,” directed by Father Luke Jolly and Michael Woodward, was held at Worth Abbey, West Sussex, UK on June 21-23, 2002.

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On Sept. 18, Victor Kramer spoke on “Thomas Merton: Compassion, Kairos and Social Action” at Cannon Chapel, Emory University, Atlanta, GA.  He is also presenting a course on “Thomas Merton as Spiritual Master” as part of the Spring Hill College MA Program at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Atlanta, Sept.-Dec. 2002.

Upcoming Events

On October 4-6, a retreat entitled “The Road to Joy – A Retreat with Thomas Merton” will be held at St. Joseph’s Spirituality & Education Centre, 8 Humphreys Rd., Kincumber South, New South Wales 2251, Australia.  Retreat directors are Beth Goodwin-O’Neal and Sr. Colleen O’Sullivan.  This is the first retreat offered by the Australian Chapter of the ITMS. The cost is $130 (single occupancy) or $120 (shared occupancy). For further information, phone: +61 2 4368 4807; fax: +61 2 4368 3849.

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On October 5-6, Fr. Patrick Collins will direct a retreat on Thomas Merton at Holy Apostles Church, McHenry  IL; for further information contact Fr. Collins at pcollins@sirus.com

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On October 18-20, Fr. Patrick Collins will direct a retreat on “The Inner Experience” by Thomas Merton at The Cenacle, Warrenville  IL; for further information contact Fr. Collins at pcollins@sirus.com.  

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On November 15-17, Fr. Patrick Collins will direct a retreat on Thomas Merton at the Benedictine Center, Moline, IL; for further information contact Fr. Collins at pcollins@sirus.com.

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On November 30 and December 7 there will be a symposium in Newtown, N.S.W., Australia on Merton's writings on war and peace. For further information contact Elizabeth Goodwin: Phone: 02 - 95320968 or e-mail  elizabethlesley@hotmail.com

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On January 10-12, 2003, a retreat entitled “Walking in Balance: Merton’s Contemplation in Action” will be held at Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside, CA.  Retreat directors will be Fr. Robert Hale, OSBCam, and Dorothy Hulburt.  The retreat is being organized by the San Diego Chapter of the ITMS.  For further information contact Pat Hulburt, 2727 De Anza Rd., San Diego, CA 92109; phone: 858-490-0507; email: patriciahulburt@aol.com.

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On January 10-12, 2003, Fr. Patrick Collins will direct a retreat on Thomas Merton at the Vallombrosa Retreat House, Menlo Park, CA; for further information contact Fr. Collins at pcollins@sirus.com.

Chapter News

The Atlanta Chapter of the ITMS formed in February 2001 following the conference “Thomas Merton and Buddhism: A Continuing Conversation,” sponsored by the Aquinas Center of Theology at Emory University.  Recent activities of the Atlanta Chapter include a retreat at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, GA, as well as involvement with the “Dialogues with Silence” conference (with Jonathan Montaldo) held in January 2002 at Emory University. The group, which meets on the last Saturday of each month, is currently discussing Merton’s The Sign of Jonas.  The chapter is planning a retreat for December 2002.  The Atlanta Chapter is minimally supported by the Aquinas Center of Theology.  For further information contact Glenn Crider at wcrider@emory.edu or Millicent Hollins at mphollins@hotmail.com, or the Aquinas Center of Theology at Emory University, 1703 Clifton Road, Suite F-5, Atlanta, Ga 30322; phone: 404-727-8860.

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Recent presentations at the meetings of the British Columbia Chapter of the ITMS include “Thomas Merton’s American Prophecy” with Robert Inchausti in April; “The Seven Storey Mountain as Modern Spiritual Autobiography” with David Leigh, SJ in May; “Holy Wisdom: Merton and Hagia Sophia” with Susan McCaslin in June, preceded by the chapter’s annual  “ITMS Decadent Dessert Party.”  Future events include “Dialogues with Silence,” readings by Jonathan Montaldo with musical accompaniment on piano and flute at the September meeting; a fall retreat with Fr. George Kilcourse on October 19, and a presentation by Fr. Kilcourse on October 21; a presentation by Shiella Fodchuk at the November meeting, a retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani with Johathan Montaldo, January 2-6, 2003; a presentation by J. S. Porter at the January meeting; and a series of events with Fr. Basil Pennington, OCSO February 13-15, 2003. For further information contact Judith Hardcastle, 705-700 Chilco Street, Vancouver, BC V6G-2R1; phone: 604-669-2546; email: judithhardcastle@telus.net.

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At the May meeting of the Cincinnati Chapter of the ITMS, Rose Bianchi, Sr. Mary Komar and Tony Russo led a discussion on Merton’s poetry.  The June meeting also focused on this topic.  At the July meeting, the group viewed and discussed Rev. George Kilcourse’s video presentation on “Merton’s Vision of the Vocation of the USA”; the meeting also featured a presentation by Ms. Renae Waples, Council Member of the First United Church of Christ, where the chapter meets, explaining the creation of a Meditation Garden at the Church.  The chapter has contributed donations for four stones inscribed with Merton quotations for the Meditation Garden.  Gary Sabourin spoke at the August meeting on “Merton and Witness regarding War and Social Justice.” On August 2 the chapter sponsored a Day of Reflection with Fr. Patrick Collins at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity in Delhi on the topic “Contemplative Living”; twenty-five people attended the day.  The September meeting will feature a presentation by psychologist and former monk Paschal Baute on “Merton’s Failure to Love.”  For further information contact Tony Russo, 8087 Bridgetown Road, Cleves, Ohio 45002; phone: 513-941-5219; email: trusso@fuse.net.

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On September 21, the Manhattan Chapter of the ITMS will sponsor a talk by Sidney Griffith of the Catholic University of America on “Thomas Merton and Sufism: Thomas Merton and the Christian Dialogue with Islam” at Corpus Christi Church.  On November 22-23, the chapter will sponsor the first annual retreat commemorating the anniversary of Merton’s baptism at Corpus Christi, with Fr. Dan Riley OFM of St Bonaventure University as retreat master; the topic is “Praying  Merton’s Christology.”  For further information contact Corpus Christi Church – ITMS Chapter, 529 West 121 Street, New York, NY 10027; or e-mail: b.fitch.fairaday@Juno.com.

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At the November, 2001  meeting of the Massachusetts Chapter of the ITMS, Bill Biddle presented a workshop on his book When Prophecy Still Had a Voice. At the March 2002 meeting Bob Waldron gave a presentation on three of Merton’s Eighteen Poems.  For further information contact Edward J. Farley, 18 Daniels Street, Lowell, MA 01852; email:  edfarleyitms@msn.com.

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The Thomas Merton Society of Michiana (Michigan/Indiana) sponsored a presentation at its November meeting by Jim Forest entitled “Thomas Merton’s Advice to Peace Activists,” as well as a weekend retreat with Jim Forest on “Christianity from the Bottom Up: Climbing the Ladder of the Beatitudes.”   For further information contact Jan Jenkins, 3621 Sullivan Court South Bend, IN 46614; email: jj11jj@earthlink.net.

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The Mississippi Chapter of the ITMS sponsored a retreat April 26-27, 2002 entitled “Dialogues with Silence: Thomas Merton’s Way of Meditating,” directed by Jonathan Montaldo, at Camp Lake Stephens, Oxford MS.  For further information contact Rev. John Staggs, 1604 Jefferson Street, Oxford, MS 38655.

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The ITMS Chapter of greater Washington, DC, hosted a presentation by ITMS President Jonathan Montaldo on April 20 at St. Anselm’s Abbey School entitled “Spirituality in the Journals of Thomas Merton.”  The next scheduled chapter-sponsored lecture will feature former ITMS President, Rev. James Conner, OCSO, in October.  The chapter has also formed a Merton Discussion Group, which has now met twice at St. Anselm’s Abbey.  For further information, contact Mary K. Stanford, 5953 Searl Terrace, Bethseda, MD 20816; phone: 301-320-4778.

    Send all Merton-related news to:
    Pat O’Connell
    Box 3219
    Gannon University,  Erie,  PA 16541
    Email:
oconnell001@gannon.edu

Copyright (c) The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. All rights reserved.