Thomas Merton Today


On Thursday, Oct. 26, the second Killeen Chair lecture of the semester occurred. The Killeen Chair series in this year welcomes students to join today’s theologians, philosophers and authors as they speak about their exploration through experiences that essentially transformed their way of thinking and knowing all together.

The Oct. 26 lecture was hosted by Reverend Daniel P. Horan, O.F.M.. In it, he explored the life of famous American Catholic writer, theologian, and Trappist monk Thomas Merton. Reverend Horan is a Franciscan Friar from Holy Name Province of New York and is the professor of systematic theology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. He has written several books including the award winning “The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton: A New Look at the Spiritual Influence on his Life, Thought, and Writing.” Along with several books, Reverend Horan has also written upwards of 120 well-received academic articles and often takes on the role of retreat leader and lecturer around North America and Europe.

Reverend Horan’s Killeen Lecture, entitled “Racism, White Privilege, and Thomas Merton on Transformative Spirituality and Justice,” dove into the life and work of the monk and mystic Thomas Merton, best known for his writings on spiritual living and ongoing conversion. In his lecture, Reverend Horan took on the job of revealing the often forgotten topic of the monk’s writings on structural racism and white supremacy. The lecture was designed to explore the distinctive contributions that Merton made to Christian spirituality from the perspective of his writings on racism and white privilege.

Originally set to take place in the Fort Howard Theatre of the Bemis International Center, the event was moved to Old Saint Joseph’s Church due to the speculated turnout. Old Saint Joseph’s Church was almost filled to the brim with eager spectators, ranging from Saint Norbert professors to students and staff members.

Reverend Horan was introduced by Dr. Karen Park and Dr. Paul Wadell, both of the theology/religious studies department. Both professors took time to praise Reverend Horan for his extensive work on Merton. The lecture was split into three parts, all of which included reflection on the writings and works of Merton. Horan concluded with a question and answer section.

The first part of Reverend Horan’s lecture was called “Thomas Merton, Structural Racism and White Privilege.” Horan spoke about such ideas as Merton’s intense reading habits and his increasing popularity. Horan noted the fact that Merton became increasingly involved in the issues of the outside world even as he increasingly became eremitic, or hermit-like. On the topic of racism, Horan distinguished the fact that racism is only one side of the social injustice coin. He noted that Merton noticed his own complicity in racism.

On the next topic, titled “Merton and Interest Convergence theory,” Horan spoke about the fact that Merton was for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but was against the fact that people would congratulate themselves immediately after its passage. Horan also talked about Merton’s involvement in Dr. Derrick Bells’ Interest Convergence Theory. This theory states that white people will support racial justice only when they understand and see that there is something in it for themselves, when there is a “convergence” between the interests of white people and racial justice.

The third, and final topic, was titled “Toward a Transformative Spirituality.” In this section of the lecture, Horan commented on Merton’s thoughts about the fact that white society has sinned in many ways. Horan wrapped up this section and his lecture by quoting Merton: “I confess that I have no right whatever to get in his way, and that as a Christian I owe him support, not in his ranks but in my own, among the whites who refuse to trust him or hear him and who want to destroy him.”

The Killeen Chair lectures offer insightful information on the topics of theology and philosophy. Killeen Chair lectures are offered twice a semester and welcome students of all majors along with all other members of the SNC community to join in the thought-provoking topics. If you are interested in learning more about future Killeen Chair events, visit


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