Thomas Merton and the Society

The Chalice of Repose Project established a charter membership of the International Thomas Merton Society in September of 2008.

The two primary educational programs at Chalice (Contemplative Musicianship and Music-Thanatology) are vitalized through interreligious dialogue because the students who enroll here represent spiritual diversity. Our students identify themselves as Jewish, Christian and Buddhist. Until his sudden death in 1968, Merton’s spiritual journey certainly led the way in interfaith and inter-religious dialogue between East and West.

Merton’s writings are thus incorporated into both curricula, (as are others articulating interreligious dialogue) and we consider it an honor to support continued Merton scholarship and publishing by our charter membership.

We encourage you to visit the ITMS online; perhaps you too will want to become an individual member or attend one of the annual conferences.

Here is a little bit of information about Merton and also the society, ITMS, taken verbatim from their site at

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has sold over one million copies and has been translated into over fifteen languages. He wrote over sixty other books and hundreds of poems and articles on topics ranging from monastic spirituality to civil rights, nonviolence, and the nuclear arms race.

Thomas Merton was born in Prades, France. His New Zealand-born father, Owen Merton, and his American-born mother, Ruth Jenkins, were both artists. They had met at painting school in Paris, were married at St. Anne’s Church, Soho, London and returned to the France where Thomas Merton was born on January 31st, 1915.

After a rambunctious youth and adolescence, Merton converted to Roman Catholicism whilst at Columbia University and on December 10th, 1941 he entered the Abbey of Gethsemani, a community of monks belonging to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists), the most ascetic Roman Catholic monastic order.

The twenty-seven years he spent in Gethsemani brought about profound changes in his self-understanding. This ongoing conversion impelled him into the political arena, where he became, according to Daniel Berrigan, the conscience of the peace movement of the 1960’s. Referring to race and peace as the two most urgent issues of our time, Merton was a strong supporter of the nonviolent civil rights movement, which he called “certainly the greatest example of Christian faith in action in the social history of the United States.” For his social activism Merton endured severe criticism, from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who assailed his political writings as unbecoming of a monk.

During his last years, he became deeply interested in Asian religions, particularly Zen Buddhism, and in promoting East-West dialogue. After several meetings with Merton during the American monk’s trip to the Far East in 1968, the Dalai Lama praised him as having a more profound understanding of Buddhism than any other Christian he had known. It was during a trip to a conference on East-West monastic dialogue in a village close to Bangkok that Merton died in December of 1968. The date of his transitus generally marks the twenty-seventh anniversary of his entrance into Gethsemani.

Here is information about ITMS, the society:

The ITMS came into being in 1987 to promote a greater knowledge of the life and writings of Thomas Merton, one of the most influential religious figures of our time. The Society sponsors biennial conferences devoted to Merton and his work and supports the writing of general-interest and scholarly books and articles about Merton. In addition the ITMS awards regular grants to researchers and scholarships to youth. It encourages a variety of activities such as Merton retreats. Local Chapters and Affiliates of the ITMS across the world reflect a wide range of personal interest and approaches to Thomas Merton.


  • To encourage research, study and reading of the works of Thomas Merton.
  • To promote the writing of both scholarly and popular books and articles about Merton.
  • To assist members in exploring the unique spiritual journey of Thomas Merton through shared insights.
  • To promote recognition of Thomas Merton as a spiritual theologian, a social critic, a catalyst for inter-religious dialogue, and as an important American literary figure.
  • To encourage and assist in the formation of local and regional chapters of the ITMS.
  • To promote communication among members through biennial general meetings, special meetings and various publications.
  • To assist in the designing of graduate and undergraduate courses on Thomas Merton in various disciplines of study.

Last Updated January 7, 2022.

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