The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University

ITMS 17TH General Meeting

June 23 - 26, 2021

1pm, 4pm, & 8pm (US Eastern Time) each day
Online Conference

(logo by Cassidy Hall)

“Thou inward Stranger / Whom I have never seen”

Thomas Merton, “Stranger” (The Strange Islands, 1957)


In the 1940s, Thomas Merton began the interior journey in search of God through the contemplative monastic life. In response to a question from a student at St. Mary’s College in 1948, Merton wrote What Is Contemplation?, which was first published by Saint Mary’s College president Sr. Madeleva Wolff, a pioneer in women’s graduate theological education. In monastic life, Merton became a self-designated “stranger” to the values of contemporary society. He later discovered through his revelation in downtown Louisville that, though he should be alienated from oppressive systems, on the human level “There are no strangers!” Merton the mystic transcends the seeming contradiction of retreat from the world and love of humanity. Just as in Louisville he found he could “not be alien” to all the people “shining like the sun,” he wrote that in his hermitage and among the trees, “here I am not alien.” In Merton’s concern for human rights, and as a monk devoted to the charism of hospitality, in what ways did this person of privilege demonstrate how to be an ally, through self-identification with the outsider, to those externally labeled “the alien” and “the stranger”?

◀◀◀◀ Click here for a playlist of selected videos recorded at the conference. ▶▶▶▶

Conference Highlights Registration Information Conference Timetable Student Scholarships

Plenary Speakers

Marie Dennis

Carrie Newcomer

Parker Palmer

Andrew Prevot

Bonnie Thurston

Presidential Address
David W. L. Golemboski
"Absurdity and Imagination in a Time of Upheaval"

Concurrent Session Papers:
Guide to Concurrent Sessions

Emerging Scholars - Emilie Grosvenor, R. Zachary Karanovich, Matthew Reid, William Simpson, and Ethan Strouse / William Apel - The Strangest of the Strangers: Merton and the Hibakusha, Survivors of the A-Bomb / Kathleen Baker - These Thickets of Symbols: A Place to Search for the Stranger / Alda Balthrop-Lewis - Why Merton took Arendt’s Defense of the Active Life as a Defense of the Contemplative Life / Elizabeth Burkemper - Countering "Strangerness" in Late Capitalism / Mary Frances Coady - "Bring Tom to Us!": Merton and the Trappist Renewal from Penitential to Contemplative / Ellyn Crutcher - The "Houses of Prayer" Concept from Vision to Reality / Christopher Fici - A Circle Whose Circumference Is Nowhere And Whose Center Is Everywhere: The Regenerative Ecological Vision of Thomas Merton / Marjorie Gourlay - Merton and the Refugee: Exploring a Contemplative Approach towards Hospitality to the Perceived “Other”- Syrians in Scotland / Gary Hall - The Particularity of Strangers and the Practice of Availability: In Memory of Herman Hanekamp / Fred Herron - Are We There Yet? Thomas Merton as Experience, Text and Event / Daniel Horan - From Stranger to ‘Sister’ and ‘Mother’: Insights from Thomas Merton’s Relationship with Naomi Burton Stone / Alan Kolp - A Transforming Moment: A Comparison of Thomas Merton and Illia Delio’s Pivotal Experience and Its Dynamic Implications / Dominiek Lootens - Byzantium, Paris and Louisville: Thomas Merton, Natural Contemplation and Orthodox Pastoral Theology / Glenn Loughrey - Merton and the Aboriginal Ways of Seeing / Jamal Lyksett - "The Knight of Faith and Solitude: Thomas Merton’s Reading of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling" / Gray Matthews - Unmasking the Contemplative / Anthony Nuccio - The Importance of Contemplation in a Broken World: Jägerstätter and Merton as Strangers in the "Post-Christian" World / Patrick O'Connell - Merton’s Strange Archipelago: Poetic Responses to a Prosaic Journey / David Odorisio - "Yes to Everyone": Thomas Merton’s Radical Ecumenism and Inter-Monastic Mysticism / Gordon Oyer - Imperfect Knowing: Merton's Inward Stranger in Letters with Blacks / Paul Pearson - "To Be Known As You Are": Thomas Merton and the Countercultural Call of St. Benedict’s 12 Steps of Humility / Michael Plekon - Merton: Stranger or One at Home—A Paradox and Image of Faithful Living / Christopher Pramuk - She Who Dwells Among Us: Merton and Melissa Raphael on Theology After, and In, Auschwitz / Stephanie Redekop - Obliged to Speak: Thomas Merton’s Literary Essays and 1960s Crisis Discourse / Jim Robinson - The "Age of the Rosemarys": Thomas Merton’s Engagement with Rosemary Radford Ruether and Rosemary Haughton / Kathleen Tarr - On the Necessity of Pilgrimage and Traveling with the Inward Stranger / Dung Tran and Michael Carey - Strangers and Aliens No Longer: The Experience of Monastic Hospitality and Community in a Hybrid Graduate Leadership Education Course / Robert Whalen - Noir, Hip, Beat, Cool – Thomas Merton as Outsider / P.E. Wilson - When Solitude becomes Overcrowded


Workshops, Guided Prayer & Special Presentations:
Guide to Concurrent Sessions

Christine Bochen - Awakening in the Dark: Reading "Day of a Stranger" / Jacqueline Chew and Jonathan Montaldo - "We Are Already One": Musical Meditation and Wisdom of Thomas Merton / Douglas Hertler - Merton and Me, Haunted By Intimacy: Friendship, Freedom, and the Fire of God's Love / Aaron Kerr and Emily Muntean - Placing Merton in Ministry and Teaching with Undergraduates / Carol Lenox - Are We Strangers to the Birds? / Thomas Malewitz - Secret Path – Using Poetry as a Catalyst for Reconciliation in Response to National Tragedy / Eric Martin - "The Moon is Shining and the Wheels are Turning": Listening to Merton’s Jazz Meditation Today / Paul Pynkoski - Merton as Stranger: Witness, Poetry and Protest / Jennifer Trently - Visio Divina: Using Merton’s Art to Reflect on Stranger / Judy Valente and Paul Quenon - Thomas Merton and the Art of Letter-Writing


Program Committee

Mark C. Meade, Louisville, KY (Chair)

David W. L. Golemboski, Sioux Falls, SD

Julianne Wallace, Birmingham, AL

David Orberson, New Albany, IN

Judith Valente, Normal, IL

Daniel P. Horan, OFM, Chicago, IL

Jonathan Montaldo, Mantua, NJ

Christopher Pramuk, Denver, CO

Cassidy Hall, Indianapolis, IN