Tuesdays with Merton Podcast podcast

Judith Valente - Why We Still Read and Need Thomas Merton: A Personal Journey

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In a 1966 Commonweal article, Merton describes a time when “almost nothing is really predictable … almost everything public is patently phony, and in which there is at the same time an immense ground of personal authenticity that is right there and so obvious that … most cannot even believe that it is there." Is there a more apt description of the situation we face today? How then can we fashion a personal response to the "new normal" that is unfolding? With Merton as our navigator, is there a way to discover clarity, meaning, authenticity, and, yes, even beauty in these confounding times?

Judith Valente first began reading Thomas Merton shortly before beginning her career in journalism at the age of 21 at The Washington Post. She subsequently worked for The Wall Street Journal and was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in journalism. She then covered religion as an on-air correspondent for PBS. She is the author of two collections of poetry and several spirituality titles, including How to Live: What The Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community and The Art of Pausing, which she coauthored with Brother Paul Quenon.

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    Doug Hertler - Merton, You and Me: The Reality of Life in the Paschal Mystery

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    Paul Pearson - ”I love beer, and, by that very fact, the world.” The Humor (and Humanity) of Thomas Merton

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    Over the years many of Thomas Merton’s visitors and friends commented on his sense of humour. With the seriousness of his writings this humour can all too easily be overlooked. This presentation will explore Merton’s sense of humour from his pre-monastic cartoons, through his correspondence, journal entries and recordings, to the stories told by his friends and brothers. Merton’s sense of humor was a way for him to critique the world, humorously warning readers of our propensity to “wear our mitres even to bed” and reminding them of his own need for beer! Paul M. Pearson is Director of the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky and Chief of Research for the Merton Legacy Trust. He is Resident Secretary of the International Thomas Merton Society and served as President for the 10th administration. Paul is a founding member of the Thomas Merton Society of Great Britain and Ireland. He edited Seeking Paradise: Thomas Merton and the Shakers, A Meeting of Angels: The Correspondence of Thomas Merton with Edward Deming and Faith Andrews, Thomas Merton on Christian Contemplation and, most recently, Beholding Paradise: The Photographs of Thomas Merton.
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    Kathleen Tarr - From the Inner Frontier to the Last Frontier: Thomas Merton‘s Alaska Journey

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    Thomas Merton's journey to Alaska, a sojourn of seventeen days, has been rendered mostly as a "blip" within his remarkable biography. Yet the mysterious frontier suddenly surfaced to captivate him. Though short in duration, Merton's experience of the vast terrain, along with the talks he gave, were profound in spiritual insights. This presentation will explore that untold story, along with visual images of the places Merton experienced and photographic images taken by Merton himself. Kathleen Tarr, longtime Alaskan, lives and writes under the Chugach Mountains in Anchorage. She is the founder of the Alaska Chapter of the ITMS and author of We Are All Poets Here: Thomas Merton’s Journey to Alaska – A Shared Story about Spiritual Seeking (2018). Her essays have appeared in We Are Already One: Thomas Merton’s Message of Hope (2015) and Merton & Indigenous Wisdom (2019). She is a member of the ITMS board of directors, PEN America, and the Alaska Historical Society. She draws inspiration from contemplating the spiritual geography of mountains.
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    BONUS episode: Scott Russell Sanders - Reading Merton in the Rain

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    BONUS episode: Andrew Prevot—”Contemplation in Times of Crisis”

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    This is a Tuesdays with Merton bonus episode from the archives of the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. In June of 2021, Andrew Prevot, associate professor of Theology at Boston College, presented a plenary address to the 17th General Meeting of the International Thomas Merton Society. His address was titled "Contemplation in Times of Crisis."   Andrew L. Prevot, associate professor of theology at Boston College, writes and teaches at the intersection of spiritual, mystical, systematic, and liberation theologies; phenomenology; and continental philosophies of religion. Recent publications include, Theology and Race: Black and Womanist Traditions in the United States, Thinking Prayer: Theology and Spirituality Amid the Crises of Modernity, Anti-Blackness and Christian Ethics edited with Vincent W. Lloyd, and “Ignacio Ellacuría and Enrique Dussel: On the Contributions of Phenomenology to Liberation Theology” which appeared in A Grammar of Justice: The Legacy of Ignacio Ellacuría, edited by. J. Matthew Ashley and Kevin Burke. He earned his B.A. from Colorado College and his Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame. "Contemplation in Times of Crisis" explores two themes in Merton's writings: (i) Merton's belief that the great social and political crises of this world begin deep inside each of us and, therefore, require some sort of contemplative remedy and (ii) Merton's sober recognition that, if understood and practiced in certain problematic ways, contemplation can fail to yield the transformative results we want from it and, in fact, make us complicit in violence. Prevot clarifies the conditions under which Merton suggests contemplation can help, rather than hinder, our navigation of contemporary crises such as anti-black racism and ecological devastation.
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    Sophfronia Scott -The Radio of Nature: Merton‘s Tuning Into God Outdoors

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    Judith Valente - Why We Still Read and Need Thomas Merton: A Personal Journey

    1:02:09

    In a 1966 Commonweal article, Merton describes a time when “almost nothing is really predictable … almost everything public is patently phony, and in which there is at the same time an immense ground of personal authenticity that is right there and so obvious that … most cannot even believe that it is there." Is there a more apt description of the situation we face today? How then can we fashion a personal response to the "new normal" that is unfolding? With Merton as our navigator, is there a way to discover clarity, meaning, authenticity, and, yes, even beauty in these confounding times? Judith Valente first began reading Thomas Merton shortly before beginning her career in journalism at the age of 21 at The Washington Post. She subsequently worked for The Wall Street Journal and was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in journalism. She then covered religion as an on-air correspondent for PBS. She is the author of two collections of poetry and several spirituality titles, including How to Live: What The Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community and The Art of Pausing, which she coauthored with Brother Paul Quenon.
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    BONUS epidode: David Golemboski—"Absurdity and Imagination in a Time of Upheaval"

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    This is a Tuesdays with Merton Bonus Episode from the Archives of the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. The following lecture was the ITMS Presidential Address of David Golemboski delivered for the 17th General Meeting of the International Thomas Merton Society, presented June 26, 2021. David Golemboski is an Assistant Professor of Government & International Relations at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he writes and teaches on politics, law, and religion. His writing has appeared in academic journals such as Political Research Quarterly and Law & Philosophy, as well as in popular journals such as Commonweal and America. His work on Merton has appeared in the Merton Annual, the Merton Seasonal, and the Merton Journal. David holds an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School and a Ph.D. from Georgetown University. He is a former Daggy Scholar and the current President of the International Thomas Merton Society. David lives in Sioux Falls with his wife and twin daughters.
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    Lynn R. Szabo - Poetry as Spiritual Direction with Thomas Merton and Denise Levertov

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    As participating readers of his powerful gift for spiritual direction, even in absentia and posthumously present, already know from their experience of his writings, the most significant forces in Thomas Merton’s own spiritual formation came from his reading and pursuing of intersections and convergences with those whose influence shaped his ever-organic selfhood and its transcendence. In many ways profound and providential resonances, his “double image,” Denise Levertov, like Merton, creates poetry which serves as spiritual direction. Their friendship creates a pas de deux for those inclined to join in “the general dance” of the Spirit in the cosmos. Lynn R. Szabo is a devoted scholar of the poet, mystic, and political activist Thomas Merton. She is the editor of the first comprehensive selection of his poetry, In the Dark Before Dawn: New Selected Poems of Thomas Merton (New Directions, 2005), and is Professor Emerita of English Literature, Trinity Western University, near Vancouver. In her retirement, Lynn serves as a spiritual director, a mentor to writers and young professors, and a facilitator of study groups for the National Council of Jewish Women. Her decades of studying poetry, especially Merton’s, are one of the pleasures not interrupted by her more recent life as a wheelchair navigator!
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    Jim Forest - An Army that Sheds No Blood: Thomas Merton’s Response to War

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    Clement of Alexandria, in his Protreptikos (Greek for “persuasion”), defined the Church as “an army that sheds no blood.” This phrase struck Thomas Merton with special force. It greatly distressed him that so many of his Christian contemporaries were advocates of war and even saw nuclear weapons as enjoying God’s blessing. This session will discuss Merton’s engagement in peacemaking and his close ties with Dorothy Day and others who were at war with war. Jim Forest has spent a lifetime in the cause of peace and reconciliation. Among his personal acquaintances were some of the great peacemakers of our time, including Thomas Merton, Daniel Berrigan, Henri Nouwen, and Thich Nhat Hanh. He worked with Dorothy Day at the Catholic Worker in New York and then went on to play a key role in mobilizing religious protest against the Vietnam War and served a year in prison for his role in destroying draft records in Milwaukee. He is the author of over a dozen books on spirituality and peacemaking, including The Root of War is Fear: Thomas Merton's Advice to Peacemakers.

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