The American Monastic Newsletter

Volume 38, Nr. 1, February 2008               Richardton, ND 58652

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ABA Convention Honors Merton Legacy

The 2008 convention of the American Benedictine Academy is drawing near, and the event promises to be an inspiring gathering of ABA members and others with an interest in Benedictine spirituality. The meeting, to be held August 7-10 at Sacred Heart Monastery / Mount Marty College in Yankton, SD, will have as its theme "Monastic Spirituality: Expanding Merton's Vision."

Oblates Dewey Weiss Kramer, PhD, and Victor Kramer, PhD, will be presenting as a duo on the first night of the convention. They have titled their presentation, "Living the Rule Today: Merton's Response to Benedict's Obedience as the Paradox of Freedom." Dewey has taught at Marquette University, Agnes Scott College, and is professor emerita of German and Humanities at DeKalb College. She has taught, lectured, and written on German literature, medieval women religious, Benedictine/Cistercian monasticism, and Thomas Merton. Her husband, Victor, emeritus professor of English at Georgia State University, Atlanta, served as founding and continuing editor of The Merton Annual. He has published extensively in the areas of American studies and spirituality.

The next morning, Dr. Beverly Lanzetta will speak on "Mystical Union in the Global Community: Thomas Merton's Radical Interiority." The speaker holds a doctorate in historical theology and spirituality from Fordham University, with concentrations in medieval mysticism, women's spirituality, and contemporary religious thought. She notes that, "It is increasingly clear that Thomas Merton was in pursuit of not only a reformed, contemporary monasticism, but also a radical path of interiority. Rooted in solitude and silence, he recognized that the salvation of the planet could begin with the unification within oneself of all forms of 'otherness' and thus help heal the divisions of the world."

Friday afternoon's presenter will be Dr. Kathleen Deignan, CND, PhD, on "Eco-Monasticism: Thomas Merton's Vision and Challenge." Sister Kathleen, professor of religious studies and founder of the Iona Spirituality Institute at Iona College, has taught and written extensively on the legacy and challenge of Merton's spirituality and is on the board of the International Thomas Merton Society. Merton studies have "drawn her down paths in Christian and Buddhist spirituality and social and ecological justice concerns."

The photography of Thomas Merton will be featured in a traveling exhibit entitled "A Hidden Wholeness," to be displayed in the art gallery of Mount Marty College. A presentation on it will be given by Dr. Paul M. Pearson, director and archivist at the Thomas Merton Center, and he will be present throughout the convention to engage the participants in various ways.

Sidney H. Griffith, professor of Syriac Patristics and Christian Arabic at the Catholic University of America, is Saturday's speaker. The title for his presentation, "'Sharing the Experience of the Divine Light': Thomas Merton's Path to Interreligious Understanding," begins with a phrase that is a quotation from one of Merton's letters to his Pakistani Muslim correspondent, Abdul Aziz. Dr. Griffith brings his perspective from extensive study of early Christian, Byzantine, Jewish and Muslim spiritualities, and history.

A unique feature this year will be an afternoon session of "circle conversations." Participants will have an opportunity to dialogue in small groups with the presenter of their choice to delve more into the topics of the speeches. There will also be opportunities, as at past conventions, for attendees to dialogue with others around special interests. There will be meetings for archivists, those interested in monastic research and visual artists.

The convention also includes a business meeting of the ABA at which new board members will be elected, awards will be given and other activities of the ABA will be highlighted. This newsletter includes membership and registration information, as well as more details about the art show and award competitions.

In order to vote, and to receive a discounted attendance fee, one must be a member of the Academy, but the conference is open to all. It draws a great variety of Benedictines, Cistercians, oblates, lay scholars and others, and gives a rare opportunity for all many people from across the country to learn, share, and celebrate. Planners hope that the topic of Thomas Merton, who enjoys great popularity outside monastic communities, will result in an even greater diversity of participants, furthering the ABA's goal to foster monastic thought both within and outside the monastery.

In addition to the registration form included with this issue, more information and electronic registration are available at


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