Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

To celebrate the 100th birthday of famous writer, activist and converted Catholic monk Thomas Merton, the Center for Interfaith Relations is hosting a special event at the Brown Theatre on Jan. 31.

The event will feature a premiere screening of the documentary “The Many Storeys and Last Days of Thomas Merton” by Louisville native Morgan Atkinson. In addition, the focus of the 2015 Festival of Faiths will be announced.

The theme for the Festival of Faith will be “Sacred Journeys and the Legacy of Thomas Merton.’ According to the news release, “‘Sacred Journeys’ will be an exploration of spiritual practice and human transformation, as well as a tribute to the poet, hermit, activist, artist and interfaith pioneer whose life continues to inspire generations.” It will be held May 12-17 at Actors Theatre of Louisville and chaired by Owsley Brown III.

In 1915, Merton was born in France to an American mother and New Zealander father. He studied English at Columbia University in New York and shortly after graduation he converted to Catholicism after years of being drawn toward the religion. Two years later he attended “Holy Week” at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Ky. The following winter he was accepted into the Abbey.

Throughout his life he studied and wrote about Eastern religions and Catholicism. He met with the Dalai Lama three times and was especially interested in a Japanese form of Buddhism, Zen. Merton is widely regarded as a pioneering interfaith activist.

He died under mysterious circumstances in Thailand, 27 years to the day after his 1941 entrance into the Abbey.

The royalties from Merton’s writing go to support the Abbey, and Bellarmine University has established an archive at the Thomas Merton Center on campus.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer will kick off the free event at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Brown Theatre. Seating is limited. Please RSVP at [email protected].