Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

For the 20th anniversary of the Festival of Faiths this week, a variety of events over several days will focus on arguably Kentucky’s greatest faith icon: Thomas Merton. “Sacred Journeys and the Legacy of Thomas Merton” celebrates what would have been Merton’s 100th birthday.

The poet, hermit, activist, artist and interfaith pioneer was drawn to Catholicism as an adult and spent most of his life as a monk at Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Ky.

The festival will feature music, spoken-word poetry, film, theater, photography and dialogue with internationally renowned spiritual leaders, teachers and practitioners. 

Notable speakers include Brother Paul Quenon, a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani who studied for two years as a Novice under Thomas Merton; and Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Roman Catholic archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, who has played a major role in interfaith dialogues in Africa.

There will be a “Ted talk”-style event where faith leaders share stories of their personal sacred journeys. There will be a jazz concert and another night of music curated by Louisville Orchestra director Teddy Abrams.

The opening interfaith prayer service will be on Tuesday, May 12, at 5:30 p.m., at the Cathedral of the Assumption. The prayer service is free, family-friendly, and open to the public.

Most other events for the festival, which runs May 12-17, will be held at Actors Theatre. Unfortunately, there will be no reprisal of “The Glory of the World” by Charles Mee, the astounding play celebrating Merton that rocked this year’s Humana Festival of New American Plays.

Tickets and schedules are available online at