Merton’s Urbane Spirituality

Kathleen Deignan, CND is Professor of Religious Studies at Iona College in New Rochelle, NY and director of the Iona Spirituality Institute. A member of the board of The International Thomas Merton Society, and composer in residence with Schola Ministries, her books include Thomas Merton’s Writings on Nature and Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours. (She also has the voice of an angel, but I digress…)

She will be presenting a paper at the ITMS General Meeting in Chicago titled, Cosmopolitan: Thomas Merton’s Urbane Spirituality. Here is how she describes it:

In the Janus soul of Thomas Merton, the silent, solitary Desert Father’s other half was an articulate and urbane master whose cultivated voice sought dialogue with the cultural creatives of his day. A spiritual patron of both arts and letters, Merton was a worldly mystic who felt his true vocation was to be a spiritual companion to intellectuals, poets, and culture critics whom he recognized as “the frequency holders” and evolvers of the age.”

His mentor and inspiration for this ministry was the second century master, Clement of Alexandria, “who was no Desert Father,” and whose own practice of urbane spirituality inspired Merton’s easy movement among the world’s intellectual elites, as he learned to “love them all in Christ”.

In a close reading of Merton’s monograph, Clement of Alexandria: Selections from The Protreptikos, I will explore the way Merton’s salute to Clement gives insight into his own urbane spirit, and how he followed in Clement’s lineage of truly “sophisticated” Christian masters: lovers of wisdom and of the world.


About doyoureadthomasmerton

Bob Grip was the Program Chair of the International Thomas Merton Society General Meeting at Sacred Heart University in 2013.
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