Archive for the Thomas Merton Category

Thomas Merton Conference at St. Bonaventure

Posted in Thomas Merton with tags , , , , , on April 11, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

merton-conferenceThere are only a few days remaining to take advantage of the discounted ‘early bird’ registration for the summer conference on Thomas Merton at St. Bonaventure University (prices go up after April 15). The conference, titled “Merton as Model and Mirror: Coming Home and Going Forth,” is scheduled to take place from June 19-22 and “will celebrate the relationship between St. Bonaventure University and Merton in anticipation of Merton’s 100th birthday in 2015.” This is one of the first of what will likely be many varying celebrations around the United States and world commemorating the Merton Centenary in 2015.

There are many reasons why you should consider coming to this conference, especially if you live in New York, PA, Ohio, or Ontario, Canada, for whom it would be just a couple hours by car. For starters, St. Bonaventure University was the last place that Merton lived and worked — he taught in the English department there before entering the monastery — and it is a place where his discernment to religious life blossomed into what would become his true vocation. SBU in June is absolutely breathtaking, located in Western New York amid the Allegheny Mountains and beside the river. Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and his journals from this time portray his experience walking the campus thinking, working, praying, and discerning. Also, there are opportunities to go out and actually visit the cabin in which he, Robert Lax, and their friends spent two summers writing, talking, drinking, and the like — you’ve likely read about the importance of that place in The Seven Storey Mountain too. You can follow in his footsteps. All this having only to do with the campus itself!

Additionally, and I’m of course biased here, there is a whole host of amazing speakers lined up. For the keynote addresses you have some very familiar names:

    • Dom John Eudes Bamberger, O.C.S.O., Fourth Abbot of the Abbey of Genesee;
    • Christine Bochen, Ph.D., professor of religious studies and the William H. Shannon Chair in Catholic Studies at Nazareth College;
    • Fr. Daniel Horan, O.F.M.,  America magazine columnist, author, St. Bonaventure alumnus, and doctoral student in systematic theology at Boston College ;
    • Michael Higgins, Ph.D., professor of religious studies and vice president for mission and Catholic identity at Sacred Heart University.

There will also be a number of excellent ‘break out’ or ‘concurrent’ sessions that include some other important folks from the world of Merton scholarship.

For a little overview of Merton’s time in Western New York and its significance, take a look at a 2013 feature article in The Buffalo NewsShadow of a Soul: Thomas Merton’s Spiritual Path Wound Through Bonaventure Campus.”

Check it out and consider coming, it will be a Merton experience of a lifetime! Visit: http://sbu.edu/about-sbu/news-events/events/thomas-merton-conference

Thomas Merton on Ash Wednesday

Posted in Thomas Merton, Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 5, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

“Even the darkest moments of the liturgy are filled with joy, and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the lenten fast, is a day of happiness, a Christian feast.”

In 1958 Thomas Merton wrote an essay titled, “Ash Wednesday,” which offers a reflection on the relationship between penance and joy found in the celebration of the beginning of Lent and the marking of our foreheads with ashes. Instead of me rambling on and on here today, I thought it would be good to share more from Merton himself. You can read the entire essay in Seasons of Celebration (FSG 1965), 113-124.

“Ash Wednesday is for people who know that it means for their soul to be logged with these icy waters: all of us are such people, if only we can realize it.

“There is confidence everywhere in Ash Wednesday, yet that does not mean unmixed and untroubled security. The confidence of the Christian is always a confidence in spite of darkness and risk, in the presence of peril, with every evidence of possible disaster…

“Once again, Lent is not just a time for squaring conscious accounts: but for realizing what we had perhaps not seen before. The light of Lent is given us to help us with this realization.

“Nevertheless, the liturgy of Ash Wednesday is not focussed on the sinfulness of the penitent but on the mercy of God. The question of sinfulness is raised precisely because this is a day of mercy, and the just do not need a savior.”

Happy 99th Birthday to Thomas Merton!

Posted in Thomas Merton with tags , , , on January 31, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Today marks the 99th birthday of the late Trappist monk and spiritual writer, Thomas Merton. Today also begins the year-long Merton Centenary countdown.

This is the beginning of the entry in Merton’s journal from January 31, 1968, the last birthday he would celebrate on this earth.

Clear, thin new moon appearing and disappearing between slow slate blue clouds – and the living black skeletons of the trees against the evening sky. More artillery than usual whumping at [Fort] Knox. It is my fifty-third birthday.

He spent the day, admittedly not working, but enjoying the unusual springlike afternoon around the monastery and near the pond. How will you celebrate Merton’s Birthday?

Photo: Merton Legacy Trust

45th Anniversary of Thomas Merton’s Death

Posted in Thomas Merton, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on December 10, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

merton“[Merton] had died sometime before 3 p.m. Bangkok time. A telegram was sent that night to [the Abbey of] Gethsemani. Crossing the International Date Line, it arrived some fourteen hours after his death, at 10 a.m. on December 10, at the monastery. The tenth of December, 1968, was, to the day, the twenty-seventh anniversary of Thomas Merton’s arrival at the Monastery of Our Lady of Gethsemani” – Michael Mott, The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton.

On the morning of the day that Thomas Merton died in Bangkok, Merton delivered the talk “Marxism and Monastic Perspectives.” The last thing he said publicly that day was in conclusion: “I will conclude on that note. I believe the plan is to have all the questions for this morning’s lectures this evening at the panel. So I will disappear.” And disappear he did. We never know when such throw-away phrases will come to bear a retrospectively clairvoyant status.

We remember a Trappist monk, an amazing writer, a dedicated proponent of peace and nonviolence, a leader in interreligious dialogue, a committed fighter for social justice, a prophet, a brother, a friend, a companion, and someone who continues to influence the world for better. While not yet canonized, he is — as are all the baptized — a member of the communion of saints. May he intercede for us as his work and life continue to inspire others for years to come.

Thomas Merton, ora pro nobis!

Photo: Thomas Merton Center

Thomas Merton and the Feast of the Portiuncula

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, Thomas Merton with tags , , , , on August 2, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Today, August 2, is the Franciscan Feast of the Portiuncula, the “mother church” of the Franciscan Order. This little church in the valley outside the city of Assisi was one of the most important places for St. Francis during his own lifetime. In the early sources we read that this was the only place that the friars were permitted (if not commanded) to keep. It remains an important pilgrimage site in the Franciscan family. I had the great fortune to visit the the Portiuncula chapel (Portiuncula means “little portion”), while in Assisi in 2004. While it was at one time a freed-standing church, today it stands within a large basilica that was built over the tiny little church. On this day when we remember the place of this church, Our Lady of the Angels — it’s official name, I thought it would be nice to share what Thomas Merton, the 20th-Century Trappist Monk and Author, said about the Portiuncula and the feast itself in his journal.

The Porticuncula always brings me great blessings – and that is the Franciscan side, which continues to grow also…The feast brings graces of contemplation and spiritual joy, because every church becomes that tiny little church that St. Francis loved above all others and everyone in the world can share the bliss of his sanctity. (August 2, 1948)

May you have a blessed day and remember your Franciscan sisters and brothers in your prayers! Peace and all Good!

This post was originally published to DatingGod.org on August 2, 2011. I will be away until August 12, so regular posting of articles on DatingGod.org will be suspended. See you when I return!

The Kind of Writer Thomas Merton Was

Posted in Thomas Merton with tags , , , on June 20, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

“There are people who write and there are real writers, who have to write, no matter what the obstacles and how seemingly interminable the list of rejections. Tom was one of the latter.” — Naomi Burton Stone, the literary agent and friend of Thomas Merton, in her memoir.

Merton at the Intersection of Before and After Liberation Theology

Posted in Social Justice, Thomas Merton, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on June 18, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

bible-640Although he died in December 1968, at around the same time that Liberation Theology was coming into existence in an explicit way but before it would be widely known inside and outside of the North American academy, Thomas Merton anticipated similar strands of the Truth of Revelation, which forms the core of Liberation Theology. In his little book, Opening The Bible, Merton highlights the scriptural foundations for theology and action in the world. It is striking how prescient his thought is, how compatible it is with the work of the Latin American theologians at that time and afterward.

We must never overlook the fact that the message of the Bible is above all a message preached to the poor, the burdened, the oppressed, the underprivileged. There is no need to remind the reader ho Marx capitalized on the fact. But Marx assumed that the Bible was essentially a deliberate fraud on the part of a ruling class to deceive the poor and make them accept their lot by means of a mystification. This is not the place to spell out apologetic arguments against the Marxian contention that religion is the “opium of the people,” when in fact we are also aware that even the revolutionary eschatology of Marx himself can be shown to be largely based on a biblical pattern. For precisely one of the central messages of the Bible is that the ultimate meaning of [humanity's] existence on earth is to be found in history, and that the human race is moving toward a final accounting in which history itself will see that the injustice of oppressors will be punished and those they oppressed will receive their just reward.

The Bible also points out that [humanity] is to act as God’s collaborator in setting up a definitive kingdom of justice and peace.

Here Merton anticipates the development of various forms of political theology — particularly that of the apocalyptic — and echoes some of his contemporaries in terms of the historicity of Christian theology, especially a theology of Revelation. It really makes me wonder where his thought would have gone if he lived another ten, twenty, thirty years or more.

Photo: File

Dispatches from the ITMS 2013: Part Two

Posted in America Magazine, Thomas Merton with tags , , , , on June 17, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

SophiaThe thirteenth general meeting of the International Thomas Merton Society (ITMS) concluded Sunday morning with the celebration of the Eucharist at which John Eudes Bamberger, OCSO, presided and preached. Preaching on the readings for the day, Bamberger encouraged the congregation of ITMS participants and attendees to seek the place of God within us. Drawing on the imagery of a nucleus that holds a cell together, Bamberger explained the significance for identifying one’s true self – the way of life exemplified by St. Paul’s statement about how it is “Christ who lives in me” from the second reading – and then living in such a way that one’s actions reflect that true self and its authentic values.

The previous day began with a plenary session focused on Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen. The panel session included those who knew both spiritual writers personally as well as those who have worked on biographies of Nouwen. The rest of the day included concurrent paper sessions on themes such as Merton’s spirituality of the inner life, Merton’s poetry, the influence of the Carmelite tradition on Merton’s thought, Merton and young people, Merton as an intellectual critic, among others. Additionally, there were concurrent workshops that invited participant reflection on pedagogical themes for teaching Merton, approaches to prayer, and discussions about Merton’s writing.

The highlight of Saturday was the final plenary session and keynote address delivered by Ron Rolheiser, OMI, a theologian, best-selling author on spirituality, and current president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. Perhaps best known for his 1999 book, The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality, Rolheiser spoke on the topic: “Merton, Solitude, and Difficulties in Being Present in the Now.”

“We live in a culture which is a conspiracy against solitude,” Rolheiser began. “We try to be attentive to everything,” he added, “I’m not sure that we’re attentive to anything.” Rolheiser’s point, one generally accepted by all who are scholars and or practioners of a spiritual tradition, is that our hurried, over-stimulated, and typically hectic lifestyle is not conducive to developing a practice of prayer and solitude.

Rolheiser defined solitude as “being inside the present moment” and aesthetic such that “we’re able to give the world the gaze of admiration.” Some of the cultural factors that “conspire” against solitude stem from our misunderstanding of solitude as something we can simply “turn on or off” as we please and as “something that we can do and continue living the way we’re already living” as opposed to something we do that changes us and our practices.

The plenary lecture, which was co-sponsored by Sacred Heart University and open to the public, drew a large audience.

With the close of the 2013 conference, Merton scholars and enthusiasts alike are looking forward to June 4-7, 2015 for the next ITMS general meeting, which will take place at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY, and celebrate the centenary of Thomas Merton.

This post was concurrently published at America Magazine.

Dispatches from the ITMS 2013: Part One

Posted in Thomas Merton with tags , , , on June 14, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

BMuN0hoCcAAXshG.jpg-largeLast week I wrote about what gives theologians hope. Today, I share about a theologian who gaves me hope this morning.

Christopher Pramuk, a theologian at Xavier University, delivered the opening plenary address on the second day of the International Thomas Merton Society (ITMS) conference. The gathering, which is being held at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT, consists of more-than 250 Merton scholars and enthusiasts who come together to share research and celebrate the life and work of one of the Twentieth Century’s most famous spiritual figures.

In addition to being a well-respected systematic theologian and Merton scholar, Pramuk is a fellow member of the ITMS Board of Directors and was recently re-elected by the Society for a second two-year term. The author of several books, including the award-winning Sophia: The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton (2009) and Hope Sings, So Beautiful: Graced Encounters Across the Color Line (2013), Pramuk brought together two of his primary theological and personal interests – as represented by the respective subjects of these two texts – in his deeply moving plenary address.

Early in his address, which was titled “‘She Cannot Be a Prisoner’: The Lure of Wisdom as Bearer of Hope,” Pramuk said: “Hope is the capacity to imagine again.” In what followed, a deeply poetic, theologically rich, and vulnerably personal reflection on Merton, Sophia, sin and suffering, and hope unfolded.

Centered on Merton’s famous prose poem, “Hagia Sophia,” as its starting point and connecting thread, Pramuk’s address drew the packed room of people into his welcoming and humble presentation, which concluded with an audience member rising to request two minutes of silence to let the profundity of what was shared sink in.

About the poem and its significance for us today, Pramuk said: “Merton is not just painting pretty pictures in ‘Hagia Sophia’…he seeks to articulate a Divine presence worthy of our hope,” adding that it was also a mode of presence faithful to the tradition.

In addition to Merton, who was a constant companion along this theological pilgrimage, Pramuk drew from the wisdom and insight of such diverse theologians as Rowan Williams and Melissa Raphael. He referenced Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who said of Merton that what made the Trappist monk so significant wasn’t his “originality,” but the exact opposite. Not that he sought to be fashionable, creative, or innovative, but that in reading Merton the reader was drawn to look at what Merton was ultimately looking at: God.

The second section of Pramuk’s paper was dedicated to following the former head of the Anglican Communion’s insight – engaging the question of finding wisdom, hope, and God in our day alongside our Jewish brothers and sisters, a faith community important to Merton.

Here he cited Etty Hillisum, suggesting that the theological question after the Shoah or Holocaust was not simply, “Where is God?” but “Who is God in the unfolding of the Shoah. In addition to Hillisum, Pramuk drew heavily from the powerful theological wisdom of Raphael, the author of The Female Face of God in Auschwitz: A Jewish Feminist Theology of the Holocaust (2003). In challenging typical theodicy, Raphael argues that in post-Shoah theology, the patriarchal God is in fact accused for not being patriarchal enough. The question about omnipotence can lead us to miss the point, to miss God.

Pramuk concluded his talk with a personal story about the birth and adoption of one of his sons, who was born in Haiti. For more, one can see his latest book Hope Sings, So Beautiful.

Pramuk’s presentation was absolutely captivating and represented the best in both honest personal reflection and theological scholarship. He certainly gave me hope, something that was echoed throughout the day by others in attendance.

The rest of the day included several concurrent paper sessions dealing with topics including Merton’s poetry, Interreligious dialogue, Merton and peacemaking, Vatican II, and pedagogical insights and teaching Merton in the classroom today. The historical theologian Elizabeth Dreyer, of Fairfield University, delivered the afternoon plenary address. Tonight’s events include a musical celebration with Deanna Witkowski, a jazz musician from New York. Highlights tomorrow include a morning panel on “Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen” and a public keynote lecture by Ron Rolheiser, OMI.

This post was concurrently published at America Magazine.

Photo: Dan Horan, OFM

Merton Week Begins Today!

Posted in Thomas Merton with tags , , , , on June 13, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

merton_painting_webOn this, the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua, there is another reason to celebrate — the opening of the 2013 International Thomas Merton Society (ITMS) conference, held this year at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. Every two years the ITMS hosts an international meeting at a university somewhere in the United States, which gathers Merton scholars and enthusiasts from around the world. It is an event that I always look forward to attending. For the last three conferences, I’ve been fortunate to present papers on various aspects of my research on Merton and in relationship to the year’s conference theme. In addition to the sharing of scholarship and the celebration of the life and work of this great thinker, writer, and prophetic voice in the 20th Century Church, the ITMS conference is a wonderful time for friends to meet up from around the country and world.

This year there will likewise be a host of academic papers, workshops, and plenary sessions. Among the plenary speakers this year are Elizabeth Dreyer, Christopher Pramuk, and Ronald Rolheiser, OMI. A full conference schedule is available online here. I will try to post some “Dispatches from ITMS 2013″ here at DatingGod.org as time accords, but will certainly keep everyone up-to-date by way of twitter (@DanHoranOFM) and you can follow tweets from the conference with the hashtag (#Merton2013).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 626 other followers

%d bloggers like this: