After last week’s post on Thomas Merton’s poem “O Sweet Irrational Worship,” I was contacted by the organizers of a Merton conference, “Coming home and going forth: Merton as mirror and model,” to be held June 19-22 on the grounds of Saint Bonaventure University, in Olean, NY, where Merton briefly taught before entering the Trappist monastery outside Louisville, Kentucky.
The paragraphs below are taken from the conference’s official press release. Sarah DiPofi of the Travers Collins public relations firm was kind enough to bring the conference to my attention.
The life of beloved Catholic contemplative, poet, and Trappist monk Thomas Merton will be the focus of the summer 2014 conference “Coming home and going forth: Merton as mirror and model.”
The three-day event at St. Bonaventure University will celebrate the relationship between St. Bonaventure University and Merton in anticipation of Merton’s 100th birthday in 2015. Speakers include America magazine columnist Fr. Dan Horan, O.F.M. For schedule and registration information, visit http://www.sbu.edu/merton.
While Merton’s time in Western New York was brief, his experiences at St. Bonaventure, from the time that his friend Robert Lax brought him to Olean to his days in Devereux Hall, were influential in his life’s journey.
Merton’s autobiography “The Seven Storey Mountain,” regarded as one of the 100 best non-fiction books of the 20th Century, reflects on his time at St. Bonaventure University.
Through keynote speakers, worship experiences and tours, the conference will explore the relationships Merton had with the people and places of St. Bonaventure.
In addition to Father Horan, renowned Merton scholars on the schedule include William H. Shannon Chair in Catholic Studies (Nazareth College) Christine Bochen and professor of religious studies and vice president for mission and Catholic identity at Sacred Heart University Michael Higgins.
St. Bonaventure University President, Sr. Margaret Carney, O.S.F., S.T.D., said the conference will appeal to both those who have studied the life and perspectives of Merton and those on a spiritual journey of any kind: “Merton’s time at Bonaventure can be both a mirror and a model for those of us who strive to find a spiritual home in our own lives.”
Conference coordinator Julianne Wallace says the conference theme harkens to Merton’s calling to religious life: “Merton’s spiritual home was the Abbey of Gethsemani, the bells of which called him to pursue monastic life. We echo that call with this conference invitation to gather current and future Merton enthusiasts to continue to learn from and build upon the tremendous spiritual and intellectual gifts he gave the world.” Wallace is the director of faith formation, worship and ministry at St. Bonaventure.
Visit www.sbu.edu/merton for the schedule of events, speaker biographies, and conference registration information. Follow the conference preparations and latest news on Twitter using #MertonMirrorandModel.
The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. The University is establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition. Our students are becoming extraordinary.
I hope some of you will be able to attend. It sounds like a fascinating event!