The Thomas Merton Society

of Great Britain & Ireland

Since 1993, The Thomas Merton Society of Great Britain & Ireland has been at the forefront of exploring the life & writings of Merton and his impact on the contemporary world, with conferences, retreats and the publication of the Merton Journal.

Dates for your Diary

Since we were  unable to hold our residential conference this year,
we have put in place a series of Zoom meetings with
some of the participants. All are welcome to join us.

Merton on Thursday

All meetings 19.00 - 20.30 (UK time)

featuring

5th May - William Horan and Paul Pynkoski *

7th July - James Cronin and Bernadette McNary-Zak 

James Cronin - Can we trust Thomas Merton as a commentator on war and peace?

Bernadette McNary-Zak & Swasti Bhattacharyya - Merton's resonance with Vinoba:
Hope found in a transformative interfaith encounter.

4th August - Gordon Oyer and Peter Ellis

1st September - Chris Pramuk and Sophfronia Scott

6th October - Gary Hall and Fiona Gardner

* Recording of talks available now on Youtube

Thomas Merton Society Reading Group

First meeting Thursday 16 June, 19.00hrs GMT.

The first session of the new Thomas Merton Society Reading Group
will be based on Merton's essay, 'Day of a Stranger'.

In this essay, worked up from a journal entry of May 1965, Merton offers us an account of his day in the hermitage. The essay is included in The Thomas Merton Reader and in Thomas Merton, Selected Essays, ed. Patrick O'Connell. It was originally published in The Hudson Review in 1967. The essay can be accessed from their archive on-line here: Day of a Stranger

In describing himself as a stranger, one asks the question, 'From whom is Merton estranged?'
The world? His own self? Plenty of food for thought.

We will all come together for a Zoom meeting on Thurs, 16 June at 7pm GMT to discuss our thoughts.

We plan to set up a whatsapp discussion group (@tmsreadinggroup) to share ideas and observations.

If you would like to join the reading group please email: tmsreadinggroup@thomasmertonsociety.org.uk

Blessed are the Peacemakers

 

Within the space of 10 days, the world has lost two remarkable peacemakers, both of whom were friends of Thomas Merton and who were fellow strivers for peace in our world for more than half a century.

Jim Forest
&
Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Jim Forest was born in 1941. He entered the US Navy, but was discharged as a conscientious objector in 1961. He joined the Catholic Worker movement, working alongside Dorothy Day. He published articles by Thomas Merton and visited him at Gethsemani. Thus began a friendship and a large exchange of letters. After Merton's death he worked tirelessly to promote the cause of peace, carrying forward Merton's legacy until his death on 13 Jan 2022. He wrote many books including biographies of Dorothy Day and Daniel Berrigan, as well as books on Thich Nhat Hanh and Thomas Merton.
A good friend and supporter of our Society, he spoke at our meeting in Edinburgh in 2018 commemorating the 50 years since Merton's death. He spoke movingly of his friendship with Merton, saying, with a tear in his eye, 'I miss him still.'

 
 

Thich Nhat Hanh was a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet and peacemaker, who was forced to flee his own country during the Vietnam War. He lived in a monastic community in France known as Plum Village. Throughout his life he lectured, taught and wrote many books that deal with Buddhism and with peace. Merton was very impressed by the writings of this young monk. Nhat Hahn visited Merton at Gethsemani in May 1966. After the visit Merton wrote an article called 'Nhat Hahn is My Brother':

'He is more my brother than many who are nearer to me by race and nationality, bacause he and I see things in exactly the same way. . . We are both monks, and we have lived the monastic life about the same number of years. We are both poets, existentialists. I have far more in common with Nhat Hahn than I have with many Americans, and I do not hesitate to say it.'

 

Oakham Residential Conference 2022

Where is Our Hope?

At an extraordinary meeting of the TMS-GBI committee on January 3rd, it was unanimously decided, due to all the uncertainties surrounding the on-going coronavirus pandemic, to cancel the 2022 conference.

You will appreciate that the decision was made with great sadness and only after some considerable discussion. The very low number of reservations (largely because of the uncertainty), alongside challenges to do with travel, testing, international flights, residential accommodation bookings, etc, all meant that a conference at a residential school was not feasible.

More positively, and with a view to the future, we are to meet again as a committee in the middle of January. This meeting will be finalising alternative arrangements in order that we can facilitate gatherings (e.g. zoom seminars, reading group, meetings later in the year). We hope that those who were to speak at the conference will be able to share their work with us, and to that end, speakers are to be contacted individually.

We hope to increase the number of virtual gatherings at the same time and to consider actual gatherings later this year. We would very much like to thank all those who have been preparing to contribute to the conference, whether through writing papers or in the preparation for workshops. 

With all good wishes Maureen Pickering, Chair, TMS-GBI

Dates for your diary

Coronavirus Pandemic

Although for many, self-isolation means a radical change in their circumstances, Merton saw that the frenetic pace of our modern society "isolates a man in the worst way, separates him from reality in a way that is almost painless." As he wrote in 'Solitude is not separation' in New Seeds of Contemplation, "The constant din of empty words and machine noises, the endless booming of loudspeakers end by making true communication and true communion almost impossible. Each individual in the mass is insulated by thick layers of insensibility." Self-isolation gives us all a chance to slow down, to take stock, to examine our motives and values, to rediscover our shared humanity amid all the pain and heartache of this crisis.

Complete text of 'Solitude is not Separation' - used with permission of the Merton Legacy Trust

On-line resources for exploring the
life, work and legacy of Thomas Merton

Video clips:

The conclusion of Merton's final lecture delivered in Bangkok on the day he died
Where to begin with Thomas Merton? - A brief guide by Dan Horan OFM
Fr Mathew Kelty on Thomas Merton     Part 1     Part 2
Thomas Merton's Prayer - with a commentary by James Finley

Audio resources:

Recordings of Merton's lectures to his novices are available to download at Learn25. This company has taken over the distribution of the recordings previously issued by Nowyouknowmedia.com.

Encountering Silence has many podcasts available by such writers and teachers as Cynthia Bourgeault, Martin Laird, Richard Rohr, James Finley and Br Paul Quenon - the last two knew Merton personally. These talks offer insights into many of the themes explored by Merton including silence and contemplation.

Turning to the Mystics, a series of podcasts by James Finley which take us deep to the heart of Merton's insights on the true self.

Blogs: Many blogs post articles and features relating to Thomas Merton's work and legacy, including those by Fiona Gardner & Jim Forest.
(For any suggestions for blogs to be included here, email: website@thomasmertonsociety.org.uk)

The written word:

Merton wrote more than 50 books during his time as a Trappist monk, mostly on spirituality and social justice, along with many essays, reviews, volumes of poetry as well as extensive personal journals. A select bibliography

Links to related websites of interest:

Wikipedia article on Thomas Merton
The Thomas Merton Centre at Bellarmine University and The International Thomas Merton Society

Social Media

 The Society has a Twitter account with regular Merton quotes: @Thomas MertonGBI
The Thomas Merton Center in Louisville's Twitter account: @MertonCenter

         The Merton Collection


Over the years the Society has built up a comprehensive collection of books, journals and volumes of letters by Merton along with a wide range of critical commentaries on Merton's work as well as recordings of talks and conferences given by Merton. In recent years the collection has been housed at St Michael's Priory, Willen outside Milton Keynes. Following the Priory's closure in 2019, the collection has been moved to Turvey Abbey - though access at present to the collection is not possible.

         Details about the Collection         

Selected Recent Publications



Our Centenary Edition of The Merton Journal, Universal Vision, is an enlarged volume of 200 pages with contributors from across Europe. It explores Merton's profound legacy in a unique collection of essays and meditations; and it also includes some of Merton's own newly-discovered student articles from his time at Cambridge University in 1933-34.  

All members receive copies of the Journal. Further copies are available for £8.99 +P&P. Contact centenary.edition@thomasmertonsociety.org.uk for further details.

 

 Shaped by the End You Live For:
Thomas Merton's Monastic Spirituality

Bonnie Thurston
22 April 2020

Publisher's Details     Amazon Link

 

 Guard the Human Image
for it is the Image of God

eds. Gary Hall & Detlev Cuntz
1 August 2019

Publisher's Details     Amazon Link

       

We Are All Poets Here

Kathleen Tarr
27 January 2018

Publisher's Details     Amazon Link

 

 Writing Staight with Crooked Lines:
A Memoir

Jim Forest
15 April 2020

Publisher's Details     Amazon Link

Further recent publications can be found under the 'Publications' tab