In Search of a Just Society; Inspiration from Thomas Merton

Each month, the Center for Spirituality co-hosts a webinar series with the International Thomas Merton Society (ITMS), an organization dedicated to the exploration of the scholar and theologian’s life and work through programming, research, and teaching. 

From the cover of The Root of War is Fear: Thomas
Merton’s Advice to Peacemakers
by Jim Forest

Drawing an audience from across the country and world, each Tuesdays with Merton session begins with a presentation by a guest lecturer who has a special affinity to Merton. The presentations are as unique as the presenter—some full of humor and vivid imagination, others are full of lush metaphors and quiet reflections. Each guest lecturer shares stories with the audience and reflects on how the words and actions of Merton have impacted their lives. 

The collaboration with Saint Mary’s College began in 2021. Fr. Daniel P. Horan, OFM, director of the Center for Spirituality, is a well-known Merton scholar who has served several terms on the

ITMS board of directors, and currently serves on the steering committee for the Tuesdays with Merton program. The program began a year earlier on a trial basis, but needed a long-term and sustainable home. 

It was fortuitous that Horan was named director of the Center for Spirituality at this key time in the development of the Tuesdays with Merton program. Given the Center for Spirituality’s mission and history, the collaboration between the ITMS and the Center for Spirituality was a natural fit. 

“Part of the founding vision of the Center for Spirituality in 1984 was for it to serve as a bridge between the College and the wider community in providing resources for both the academic study and practice of spirituality,” Horan said. “These webinars provide just that to a global audience, while also building a lasting partnership between Saint Mary’s College and the ITMS. In fact, Saint Mary’s will be hosting the next ITMS biennial conference on our campus in June 2023.”

Recently, guest lecturers have included actor and educator Douglas Hertler, who created and is currently performing a one-man play titled “Merton and Me: A Living Trinity,” and Kathleen Tarr, an author who spoke about her book We Are All Poets Here: Thomas Merton’s 1968 Journey to Alaska.

Horan explained that the selection of each speaker by the steering committee seeks to offer variety and diversity in presenter and style. “It has been a priority of the steering committee to provide a range of presentations, from more traditional academic lectures to interviews and conversations with authors, to more creative performances like Doug Hertler’s recent presentation.” 

“The key thread is that all the presenters approach the life, writings, and legacy of Thomas Merton from a unique perspective, offering insights for modern spiritual seekers,” Horan added.

On February 8, professor Steven Millies will present “Our Crisis of Authority and Thomas Merton.” Millies will discuss how the polarizing conflicts that divide the Catholic Church and social life are widely recognized, but poorly understood. In his presentation, he will explore the crisis of authority as we now experience it in 2022, and we will look to Merton for wisdom about how we can resolve the crisis.

“Dr. Millies is an expert in the relationship between politics and religion in the United States, and he is someone who knows Merton’s work well,” Horan said. “Viewers can expect an engaging and timely presentation by someone who will speak to some of the key issues of our day and how Merton might help us think through them.” 

Recordings of previous webinars are available on the Tuesdays with Merton YouTube Channel within a few days of their broadcast. To learn more, or to join future Tuesdays with Merton webinars, click here

Back to Stories