Thomas Merton at Gethsemane | Courtesy of Frazier History Museum
Thomas Merton at Gethsemane | Courtesy of Ralph Eugene Meatyard/Frazier History Museum

In its latest exhibit, the Frazier History Museum is paying tribute to Kentucky’s most famous monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton. A ceremony on Saturday, Jan. 30, will honor Merton’s legacy and officially open “Thomas Merton: A Familiar Stranger” with spoken reflections by Mayor Greg Fischer, Paul Pearson of the Thomas Merton Center, Bellarmine president Joseph J. McGowan, the Rev. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and many more.

Merton's clothing has never before been on display. | Courtesy of Frazier History Museum
Merton’s clothing has never before been on display. | Courtesy of Frazier History Museum

The extensive exhibit will feature never-before-seen photographs by Courier-Journal photographers; Merton’s original manuscripts; letters and essays; artifacts and personal clothing; and correspondence between Merton and Coretta Scott King, with voice recordings of Merton speaking about Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.

Merton (1915-1968) wrote more than 70 books of poetry, personal journals, collections of letters, social criticism and writings on peace, justice and the unity of Christian churches. Even Pope Francis name-dropped Merton in his address to Congress last year, crediting him as one of four Americans who had a profound influence on him.

Attendees also will learn more about Merton’s 27 years as a Trappist Monk at Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey near Bardstown, and find out more about his epiphany, documented on a plaque at Fourth and Walnut streets in Louisville, where he redefined his focus on social justice issues.

He wrote that day:

“I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers … There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

The exhibit is a partnership between the Frazier History Museum and the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. It continues through May 29. The Thomas Merton Centennial Celebration event on Saturday, Jan. 30, is free and runs from 3-5 p.m. Reservations are recommended by emailing [email protected].

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Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."