Wednesday, September 06, 2006

This just in . . .

. . . and we hope it is not too late.

Walt Chura will lead Thomas Merton in the Mountains, the 11th Annual Contemplative Retreat at Pyramid Life Center in Paradox, New York, September 8-10, 2006. The all inclusive cost is $120 per person.

For information about registration or accommodations, call 518-585-7545, e-mail or visit

The retreat is co-sponsored by the International Thomas Merton Society (ITMS) and the Thomas Merton Society of the Capital Region. Walt is the past Chair of the Retreats Committee of the ITMS and Coordinator of the TMSCR, past Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Francis Chapel in Albany and has taught at Siena College and the College of St. Rose. He also is part of the Emmaus House/Albany Catholic Worker extended community and a Secular Franciscan.

While the weekend will include talks on Merton’s contemplative spirituality and peacemaking and intervals of common prayer, Walt says he will be guided by Merton’s proposal for a good retreat of leaving you extended silent periods without organized activity . . . and more time simply to get oneself back into one’s right mind . . . even for those who find silence and solitude oppressive: there is a certain value in just disciplining oneself to be ˜empty and to spend time doing nothing . . .

By coincidence, we also just learned of a column about Merton by John Dear, a Jesuit priest and peace activist whose book, The Sound of Listening: A Retreat Journal from Thomas Merton's Hermitage was republished this week by Wipf and Stock publishers. The column is available here from National Catholic Reporter.

Merton based his life on prayer, contemplation and mysticism. But here he turned down a counterintuitive avenue. He practiced contemplation not to turn an escapist's eye toward wars and dominations and imperial aggrandizements, but to discover the path toward communing with the living God and loving one another in peace.

Which is to say, Merton invites us to become contemplatives, mystics of nonviolence. Contemplation, meditation, adoration and communion take us into the presence of the God of peace. They teach us of the nonviolence of Jesus. In other words, the spiritual life begins with contemplative nonviolence. God disarms our hearts of inner violence and transforms us into people of Gospel nonviolence. We learn to let go of violence and resentments. Merton took this work very seriously, and wants us to do the same.

Then God sends us on a mission of disarming love. We grant clemency and forgiveness to everyone. We move from anger, revenge and violence to compassion, mercy and nonviolence. We radiate personally the peace we seek politically. "What is important in nonviolence is the contemplative truth that is not seen," Merton writes. "The radical truth of reality is that we are all one." Merton spent his life looking for that radical truth, and invites us to do likewise, despite the world's blindness.

Merton shows us a thing or two more. By his example we learn that we should be students and teachers of nonviolence. Merton was a great teacher. But more, he was the eternal student. He constantly studied, learned, searched in every intellectual byway for the truth of nonviolence.