Jonathan Montaldo Presents Ave Maria Press Webinar in Celebration of Thomas Merton’s Centenary

Jonathan Webinar PhotoThe Ave Maria Press Webinar

featuring Jonathan Montaldo, presented live on

January 27th,


While you can no longer see Montaldo live (Martha Stewart might remark, “And that’s a good thing.”), the Power Point Presentation with Montaldo’s commentary is being received favorably.

Learning Wisdom in the School of Your Own Life: Thomas Merton’s Practice for Contemplative Prayer
Presented by Jonathan Montaldo, creator of the ten-volume series for small group dialogue, Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton
Date: January 27, 2015
Time: 3 p.m.–4 p.m. EST

In anticipation of Thomas Merton’s 100th birthday celebration, author and Merton expert, Jonathan Montaldo, provided parish ministers with a unique perspective on contemplative prayer and demonstrated how we can integrate it into our lives or the lives of the people theyserve.

Thomas Merton taught his novices a way of praying that would allow them to enter the school of wisdom provided by their most personal experiences. He taught a perspective for contemplative prayer through which his students could meditate upon a divine providence at work in all their significant relationships with persons, books, art, and everything they loved.

In this webinar, Montaldo examined three key texts from Merton’s journals that feature the monk’s understanding of the value of his relationships with others as guidance for creating his own destiny to love and seek God. This teaching could instigate a new way of meditation as a practice for parish ministers and those they guide in spiritual formation.


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Joshua Stone & Jonathan Montaldo in Performance to Celebrate Thomas Merton’s Centenary (1915-2015)

Joshua Stone and Jonathan Montaldo will present an evening of music and the words of Thomas Merton at Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT on Thursday, December 11, 2014 and at Kripalu Yoga Center, in Stockbridge, MA on Saturday, December 13, 2014.

For further information on the work and music of Joshua Stone see

Wisdom House - Into the Mystic - fnl - jpgMerton Announcement & Poster - WH Edit - fnl - jpg

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An Old Dog’s New Stretch: Jonathan Montaldo at Kripalu Yoga Center on December 5-7, 2014


Jonathan Montaldo will offer a retreat/workshop on the contemplative poetry of Mary Oliver and Thomas Merton entitled “Choosing to Love the World” at the Kripalu Yoga Center in western Massachusetts, December 5-7, 2014.

In her poem “Messenger” Mary Oliver confessed “My vocation is to love the world.” Her poetry mentors joy and courage in her reader to savor our porousness to Nature’s matrix of inter-being creativity. Thomas Merton’s equally productive life at Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky produced a legacy of journals, poetry and poetic prose on “contemplative living” that mentors our being  “fully awake and alive” in the world.  The spiritual disciplines of silence, deep listening and Henry David Thoreau’s “sauntering” highlight this weekend gathering so as to make us receptive to what Merton called “the speech a day makes.”

This program includes facilitated inter-personal reflection on specific poems as meditations that invite us to enter the wisdom school of our everyday lives. Simple and brief yoga poses by a trained yoga teacher will help us to stretch and be more present to our being together. General familiarity with the lives and work of Mary Oliver and Thomas Merton is encouraged.

Required texts:  Mary Oliver, “New and Selected Poems, Volume One” (Beacon Press) and Thomas Merton, “The Intimate Merton” (Harper Collins).

Recommended texts:  Mary Oliver, “New and Selected Poems, Volume Two” (Beacon Press) and “In The Dark Before Dawn: New Selected Poems of Thomas Merton” edited by Lynn R. Szabo with a Preface by Kathleen Norris (New Directions Press).

To prepare for this weekend Jonathan is studying (and recommending for participants’ future reading) other texts that will enhance his leadership during the weekend: Henry Bugbee’s  “The Inward Morning”; Edward F. Mooney’s “Lost Intimacy in American Thought: Recovering Personal Philosophy from Thoreau to Cavell” and “Wilderness and the Heart: Henry Bugbee’s Philosophy of Place, Presence, and Memory”;  Bruce Wilshire’s “Wild Hunger: The Primal Roots of Modern Addiction” and “The Primal Roots of American Philosophy: Pragmatism, Phenomenology, and Native American Thought;” Hwa Yol Jung’s “Prolegomena to a Carnal Hermeneutics;” and “The Quotable Thoreau” edited by Jeffery S. Cramer.

morning pilgrimageIn spite of his preparation so as to be a more responsible facilitator for workshop participants, this won’t be an academic weekend. All participants will co-produce and co-facilitate the inter- and intra-personal re-discovery of our porous mind-body selves, or, in more primal terms, we shall help one another come to, return more happily to, our senses.



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Jonathan Montaldo Participates in “Francis Week” at St. Bonaventure University in Olean, New York

October 4 is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Bonaventure University in Olean, New York mounts an annual “Francis Week” of speakers and activities of student service to honor the Saint’s anniversary of his death.

Montaldo in OakhamAt 11:30 AM on October 2, 2014 the Thursday Forum will feature speaker Jonathan Montaldo. He will talk with St. Bonaventure faculty and staff about the relationship of St. Francis and Thomas Merton in the University Club. Questions will be taken after the lecture.

Montaldo will then be the featured speaker for this year’s Fr. Jerome Kelly Lecture at 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, in the Quick Regas Center for the Arts. The title of the lecture is “Learning Wisdom in the School of Your Own Life: Lessons in Praying, Loving & Living from St. Francis and Thomas Merton.” The talk will dive into Francis and Merton’s life events and personal relationships as they may mentor us to “enter the school of our own lives.”

For more information on the “Francis Week” celebrations visit


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Jonathan Montaldo to Present Retreat with Sisters of Mercy in Sea Isle City, New Jersey

On October 10-12, 2014 I shall present a retreat in collaboration with and sponsored by Sisters of Mercy at their retreat house in Sea Isle City, New Jersey. The retreat is entitled “Entering the School of Your Experience: Thomas Merton’s Legacy for Contemplative Living.”

Here is the link to the Retreat Brochure with  registration information:

Thomas Merton Retreat 10-10 to 10-12-14

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Jonathan Montaldo Interviewed on Franciscan Media

Franciscan MediaCelebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Thomas Merton

Join Franciscan Media and Judy Zarick as we welcome author and speaker Jonathan Montaldo to our studio on Thursday, June 5 at 3:00 p.m. ET. 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Merton. Montaldo will share the plans underway to recognize the unique and significant contributions of Merton to the contemplative tradition and practice. Viewer questions are encouraged via the chat area and will be answered by Jonathan Montaldo as time allows.

This thirty-minute interview is archived on Go to “Online Events,” then register, and you can view the interview.

For further information on the Meeting and Conference of the International Thomas Merton Society at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Thomas Merton Center, in June, 2015, a celebration of  Merton’s centenary, visit

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All Saints Day 2012 in Santiago de Compostela

I walked with my friends into Santiago de Compostela, mind clear and heart content, but without elation. I could not conjure any of the two months of walking as I entered the Square in front of the Cathedral of Saint James. Mindful of “all my relations”, I attended the noon Pilgrims’ Mass. The journey ended on Monday, October 29th and I dutifully picked up my “compostella” at the Pilgrims’ Office, the certificate that certifies my pilgrimage to Santiago from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port in France.

Jon CathedralI end this cycle of podcasts with a poem, “Ithaca”, by the Greek poet Constantine Cafavy. In Homer’s Odyssey “Ithaca” was the island home to which Odysseus struggled to return, through many adventures, after his participation in the Trojan War. Here is Cavafy’s poem followed by a podcast of my reading it, then adding a “riff” of my own on his last stanza.

Grateful for everything in the past, I wait in hope for what is to come. Even though I left home alone for Santiago seven months ago to travel through Portugal, England, Italy, Switzerland and now Spain, many have departed with me “in the spirit” and have been my companions through my travels.

Our destinies are one. I don’t know how this can be true on a macro-level, how my destiny is one with everyone in the world, but I am certain how it is true that I share the same destiny with the entire network of my intimates–with all my personal relations. I know that I am, through the network of us, participating in creating the world with  and for those I know best.


As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like them on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon – you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbours you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfumes of every kind –
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.








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From Camino de Santiago: Jim Gravois Podcast on "The Spirit of the Camino"

A couple of days ago I was thinking about the “Spirit of the Camino,” which probably has as many interpretations as there are pilgrims. I decided to do an audio reflection on this topic on Wednesday in Melide, and then I changed it a bit and recorded an extra treatment, while I was walking along the Camino yesterday (25 Oct.), headed toward Arzua, Spain. Hope you enjoy the sound of my feet slapping their way to Santiago. —Jim Gravois

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From El Camino de Santiago: The Consoling Fragrance of Galician Cow Shit

As we walked out of Villafranca de Bierzo, the river flowing with force past us on our left, we had no notion of the beauty that awaited us, nor did we realize the hard climb up and forward we would have to make into Galicia. Galicia is said to be one of the most economically challenged regions of Spain, but its beauty is incomparable, except perhaps to Ireland. Galicia is a Celtic land made green by constant rain.

Breaking up the climb between Villafranca and O Cebriero, Jim and I stopped over-night in the small village of Portella. It was here that I would encounter the milk cows of Galicia. The cows of Portella were more numerous than its human residents. They daily parade through the narrow streets from milking barns to feeding barns, goaded on by dogs and usually a woman with a stick. Pilgrims encountering the daily ritual passage of Portella’s cows must step aside and let them pass. I have now had this experience of Galician parading cows many times. If I had held out my arms, I could have touched these huge animals. When they looked into my eyes, as many of them did, I wanted to embrace them.

It was in Portella that I remembered my nose’s affinity for cow shit and the smell of the barns where cows are milked or bedded down. My yen for the odors of cow barns is perhaps a legacy of my mother’s grandparents and great-grandparents, who were dairy farmers in New Orleans, who continued the traditional work of the Deffes clan out of Alsace-Lorraine. I have not paid enough attention to my mother’s family, but have always more gravitated toward my Montaldo-Paretti roots. The Parettis were green grocers in New Orleans’ French market. The Montaldos managed gambling houses and my grandfather, Charles, managed a saloon in the French Quarter. I have more thought of myself as Italian rather than as my mother’s blend of French (Deffes), Spanish (Gomez) and German (Schindler). My great-niece, Cali, has traced the Deffes clan back to Jews living in Germany in the 1600s. Being in Galicia and bewitched once again by the aromas of dairy cows, my mother’s family is finally claiming its due in me.

Whatever the source, I have always liked the smell of cows and their shit. I remember visiting Bellefontaine Abbey in France, the motherhouse of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, where my cousin is a monk. On the first morning after my arrival at Bellefontaine, I attended Lauds and Eucharist in the twelfth-century abbey church. When Mass had ended, I walked out of the church and got a whiff of cow shit from the monastic barn. I thought back then how wonderful it was that these French monks had built their church so close to the cow barn. Psalmody and a cow barn harmonize with one another—the heights of singing for God linked to one of our souls’ basic elements.

Cistercian abbeys in America no longer have cow barns. No matter how reasonable it is that American Cistercians no longer drink the milk of their own cows, nor enjoy a daily dose of the aroma of their shit, something essential to their monasticism might now have gone missing. Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, once a working farm, no longer has an animal on its property under the care of its monks. No matter how foolish it might seem, given the inexorable decrease of their numbers, perhaps it’s time for Gethsemani to bring back the cow shit. Monks might need to be farmers again.

The fragrance of Galician cows brings me back down-to-earth from flights of fancy I am entertaining as I walk El Camino. Before I open my mouth publicly again, orally or in writing, I’m now vowing to pause a moment and recall the odor of cow barns. Perhaps I should spend a little of my social security money to have a perfumer concoct a fragrance of cow barn odors that I could lightly touch behind my ears before addressing an audience. I could call it Montaldo’s Cologne de Bouse de Vache. If it could be made cheaply enough, in addition to storing it in beautiful bottles for my own use, I could send Vatican City 500 bottles for future use in consistories that raise men to the rank of Cardinal. My gift would designate that each new Cardinal receive a bottle of Bouse de Vache in a crimson-silk lined box, bearing their coats-of-arms, along with a note: “A gift for your wise use as you become a Prince of the Holy Roman Church”.

Holding the sole patent on Cologne deBouse de Vache, I would exercise my prejudice to insure that no woman ever received a bottle, no matter how high the station to which she rose. Women already have a natural facility for smelling bullshit whenever its equivalent in speech reaches their mouths or their ears.

Walking through Galicia, I have meditated on these things. It’s a crazy notion—bottling the essence of cow barn. However, I might do a video for You-Tube in which I explain my idea. It might go viral enough that it would become a meme widely used by anyone finding themselves trapped in an audience with a pompous speaker (someone like me).  In such a situation and without much thought, a person would turn and whisper to another sitting in an adjacent chair, “If only he had remembered to wear Montaldo’s Cologne de Bouse de Vache!”

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From El Camino de Santiago: A New Blog and Podcast from Jim Gravois in O Cebreiro in Galicia

I am writing a few words today in O Cebreiro, one of the highest points along the Camino, and certainly one of the most beautiful. When the weather is clear, as it was yesterday upon our arrival here, the views of the surrounding green hills and mountains are spectacular. The sunset yesterday was something to behold. Today it is windy, foggy, rainy, and chilly. I am reminded of the power of Nature, especially in high places. Will we even see the sun at all today? The Camino contains so many metaphors for life: its challenges, its disappointments, its surprising rewards. As we approach the final stage of this grand adventure, I offer some audio reflections on what the Camino may mean for the rest of my life. —Jim Gravois

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