Spring Hill College to host Summer Colloquium on Spirituality

Thu, 05/13/2010 (All day)

May 13, 2010

MOBILE, Ala. – “Thomas Merton and Interreligious Friendship” is the featured topic for this year’s Summer Colloquium on Spirituality offered by the Spring Hill College theology department June 6-8, 2010. Sessions are held from 7 to 9 p.m. nightly in Byrne Memorial Hall on campus.

During the Colloquium a visiting team of Merton scholars will explore the topic of interreligious friendship and its modern beginnings by examining the life and writings of Thomas Merton. Merton, who became known around the world for the story of his own conversion and his discovery of the power of contemplative prayer in the modern world, is considered by many to be the pioneer of interreligious friendship and dialogue. His dedication to Christian contemplation also led him to dialogue with other faiths. Each Merton scholar will examine different aspects of Merton’s practice, values and beliefs.

The colloquium schedule and speakers are:

Sunday, June 6: Dr. Victor Kramer will present “Thomas Merton’s ‘Hidden’ Agenda in Interfaith Dialogue.” Kramer is a published author, retreat director, speaker and teacher. He is an internationally known Merton scholar, and served as editor of the first 20 volumes of the Merton Annual. Kramer is the former Director of the Aquinas Center of Theology at Emory University and a Research Scholar at the Institute for Ecumenical & Cultural Research at St. John’s University. His presentation will explore Merton’s gifts as an intellectual and Christian “seeker” that led him to an increasing openness to other traditions in his own personal quest for God.

Monday, June 7: Dr. David King will present “Thomas Merton and Ecumenism.” King is an associate professor of English and Film Studies at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, lecturer and widely published author on Catholic writers, filmmakers and artists. His interests include the sacramental aspects of film and literature and his presentation will examine Merton’s legacy in terms of how his work allows other Christians to see the benefits of ancient Catholic traditions, such as community and vocation, liturgy and contemplative prayer.

Tuesday, June 8: Dr. Sidney Griffith will present “Thomas Merton: Pioneer of Interreligious Dialogue.” Griffith is a professor in the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. His publications focus on the history of Muslim-Christian relations, especially in the early Islamic period. Griffith will discuss Merton’s personal contacts with people from other religious traditions, where the focus was not so much on theological issues, but on practical matters such as spiritual exercises and religious consciousness.

Robert Grip, news anchor at WALA-TV in Mobile and an adjunct faculty member in communications at Spring Hill, is also the current president of the International Thomas Merton Society (ITMS). He will give a special welcome and introduction to the Merton Society and the Colloquium at the opening session on Sunday, June 6.

Thomas Merton, who became an American Trappist monk, was born in France, educated in the U.S., France and the U.K. He authored more than 70 books, 2000 poems and numerous letters, essays, reviews and numerous letters. His interests in peace, justice and ecumenism led him to correspond with people of different faiths around the world, especially during the later years of his life. Books written during this period indicate that he found Eastern religions, with their contemplative traditions, particularly interesting. Merton’s study of Buddhism led him to the conclusion that the Church had to recognize and take other religions of the world seriously. While touring Asia in 1968 he met the Dalai Lama in India who became a major influence on his writings and who found a new appreciation for Christianity, thanks to his friendship with Merton.

The cost to attend is $75 for all three lectures or $30 per lecture. To register or for more information, call  (251) 380-4458 or e-mail theology@shc.edu.