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by Ann Marie Deer Owens | Nov. 13, 2015, 5:07 PM
Jazz and poetry performances, a photography exhibition, and a workshop on contemplative leadership are all part of a Vanderbilt University centenary celebration of the legacy of Thomas Merton.
Merton, a Catholic monk, author, artist and teacher, was born in 1915 in Prades, France. He became Roman Catholic while attending Columbia University. In 1941 he entered the Abbey of Gethsemani, a community of monks belonging to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists). It was there that Merton became a writer of international renown through such books as New Seeds of Contemplation, a devotional classic.
Merton became a strong supporter of the 1960s peace movement and the nonviolent civil rights movement. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has sold more than 1 million copies. During the last years of his life, Merton studied Asian religions, especially Zen Buddhism, and promoted East–West dialogue.
The idea for a Merton commemorative began with a conversation between Mark Forrester, university chaplain and director of religious life, and Dave Perkins, associate director of the Religion in the Arts and Contemporary Culture program. They discovered a mutual interest in Merton, as he had influenced both of their religious and intellectual lives.
“With a belief that Merton’s influence is wide and his voice still relevant, we made plans to commemorate him in 2015, his centenary year,” Perkins said. “Merton’s love of the arts is the inspiration for the Vanderbilt events.”
The following events are scheduled:
The Thomas Merton Centenary Celebration is co-sponsored by the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life, Religion in the Arts and Contemporary Culture, Center for Contemplative Justice, Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership in the Professions, and Project Dialogue.
Ann Marie Deer Owens, (615) 322-NEWS
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