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February 5, 2002


LA CROSSE, Wis.—Thomas Merton's writings about faith and his personal journey of discovery continue to inspire individuals more than 30 years after his death.

Just what is it about the teachings of this American writer and Trappist monk that still resonate with people today? Find out when Merton scholar and author Jonathan Montaldo discusses "The Spirituality of Thomas Merton" at 7:30 p.m. in the San Damiano Chapel at Viterbo University on Friday, Feb. 22. Through Merton's journals, Montaldo will explore Merton's personal sense of diminishment and spiritual poverty that turned into universal compassion.

On Saturday, Feb. 23, Montaldo will also lead a Merton Retreat for area Catholic workers. The retreat, held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Viterbo's San Damiano Chapel, will provide a spiritual context for contemplative social action. Through presentations, prayer, and discussion, the retreat will focus on "His Neighbor's Voice: Merton Listening to God and the Church" in the morning, while the afternoon will concentrate on "Awakening to Kindness in Sorrow's Face." A light lunch will be served and Earl Madary, a religious studies professor at Viterbo, will provide musical interludes throughout the day. In addition, Madary, along with Richard Berendes and fellow religious studies Professor Tom Thibodeau, will present "Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day: The Marriage of Contemplation and Action, A Call to Radical Hospitality." This talk will also be presented by the three at the fourth general meeting of the Thomas Merton Society in England this April.

After leaving a promising literary career in New York to become a monk with Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Trappist, Ky., Merton (1915-1968) dedicated his life to sharing his poetry, letters, journals, and his thoughts on peace, social justice, and ecumenism. The author of more than 70 books, Merton penned New Seeds of Contemplation, No Man is an Island, Courage for Truth, Dancing in the Water of Life, and The Seven Storey Mountain, which remains in print after more than 50 years.

Montaldo received his undergraduate degree in English from Louisiana State University and his master's in theology and literature from the Institute of the Liberal Arts at Emory University. He is the editor of Entering the Silence (volume 2 of the Merton Journals) and co-editor of The Intimate Merton: His Life from His Journals, which is being  translated into Spanish, Portugese, German, French, Italian, Korean, Polish, Chinese, and Swedish.  He recently published Dialogues with Silence: Thomas Merton’s Prayers & Drawings.

From 1998-2001, he served as the director of the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University, the official repository of Merton’s legacy, and was resident secretary for the International Thomas Merton Society. He was elected the Society’s president for 2001-03. A national speaker, he delivered an address on Merton at the Parliament of World Religions in Cape Town, South Africa. His 2000-01 retreat schedule took him to British Columbia, California, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Illinois.

"The Spirituality of Thomas Merton" is part of the St. Rose Lecture Series at Viterbo University. It is free and open to the public but a goodwill offering will be accepted at the event. For more information on the lecture, contact Tom Thibodeau at 608-796-3705 or email

The Merton Retreat is also free and is open to those desiring to work for social change based on Catholic social teachings. A goodwill offering will be accepted at the event. For more information on the Merton Retreat, contact Richard Berendes at 608-791-9447, berendes.richard@mayo.eduor Earl Madary at 608-796-3407 or

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