17 - 29 JULY 2015 - 10.00 TO 17.30 DAILY

On the centenary of his birth, there is a celebration of the intriguing and complex life of Thomas Merton at St Michael's Church in Discoed. The exhibition explores some of the many facets of the poet-monk through paintings, photographs and text plus an afternoon of talks on Saturday 25th July.

The exhibition consists of paintings by Charles MacCarthy and Robert Wright inspired by the life and work of Thomas Merton. Also in the exhibition will be Thomas Merton's photographs and a display illustrating some of the many aspects of his life.  

Friday 24th July 7:30pm at St Andrew's Hall in Presteigne:  Two films of Merton’s life “The Journey of Thomas Merton” and “The Last Days of Thomas Merton” Tickets £5 on the door.

Saturday 25th July from 2:30pm at St Michael's,  an afternoon of talks:

Esther de Waal on Merton and the Arts
Michael Woodward on the Life of Merton
Charles MacCarthy - Contemplations on the photographs of Thomas Merton
Thomas Merton in his own voice - Recordings
Suggested donation on the door of £10 

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

Thomas Merton was one of the most influential American Catholic writers of the twentieth century. A sometimes controversial figure who was a campaigner for social justice and vehemently against the war in Vietnam and the nuclear arms race, he was also a contemplative whose interest and understanding of Eastern Mysticism led him to form deep friendships with people like the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hahn, D.T. Suzuki and many others. His autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain, written in the first years of his life as a Trappist monk, at the Abbey of Gethsemane, brought him to international prominence but his later writings show a profound development in his journey of faith with much greater openness to events in the world and to other religions, Zen Buddhism in particular. He spent the last five years of his life living as a hermit in the woods near the monastery. During his lifetime he published over sixty books as well as hundreds of articles and introductions to other people's books. He also wrote a great deal of poetry, and during the last decade of his life he took photographs and made abstract "calligraphies ". The many volumes of his correspondence and all of his journals have appeared since his death as well as a profusion of books about him.

In 1968 he was allowed to travel to Bangkok for a conference on East- West monastic dialogue, taking in many other places and remarkable people on the way. He died by accidental electrocution while in Bangkok.

The artists

Charles MacCarthy - painter
In 2014 Charles MacCarthy was invited to be one of two artists in residence at a conference of the Thomas Merton Society of Great Britain and Ireland held at Oakham School where Merton had been a pupil in the 1930's. For a long time MacCarthy had been an admirer of Merton's photography finding affinities with his own work . He explains that it was not a question of taking one of the images and running with it but rather using Merton's photographs as a visual, non-intellectual way of approaching his thought.
 “The slow process of painting allowed me to contemplate each photographic image, giving me some insight into his prayerful way of working. The series was always about exploring Thomas Merton more deeply.”
When MacCarthy showed the paintings at Oakham they were seen by Paul Pearson, Director of the Merton Centre in Louisville, Kentucky and by Christine Bochen, past president of the International Thomas Merton Society who invited him to show the paintings as part of the centenary conference in June 2015 at the Merton Centre, Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. This series of paintings will now be displayed at St Michael’s Church from 16 -29 July.

Robert Wright - Priest-painter                          
Robert Wright is an Anglican priest who seeks to explore spirituality through the medium of abstract paintings. He began painting abstract paintings in 1998.  His work for the Merton exhibition presents in radically non-figurative terms nine abstract paintings in which he attempts to deal with perplexing and elusive dimensions such as emotions, nuances and matters of the heart. 
Wright states, “The paintings ask you first of all for a reaction: does the painting present shapes, textures, colours that stimulate and satisfy? Only once the authority of the picture has been established can its hints, its evocations – memories, feelings, insights, challenges, affirmations – be explored. And in the mystery of that process I hope that the viewer will gain ‘A Taste of Merton’ “

The speakers (Saturday 25th July)

Esther De Waal has written many books on Benedictine, and Celtic spirituality and On Thomas Merton as well as lecturing widely on these subjects.
Michael Woodward is a poet, teacher, founder of the Three Peaks Press and an authority on Merton.

St Michael's Church, Discoed

The modest 'Shepherd’s' church of St Michael in Discoed (Old English 'dic' and 'cot' a cottage by Offa’s Dyke), on the border between Powys and Herefordshire, acts as a both a spiritual and artistic hub to the community. This chapel of ease for St Andrew’s, Presteigne, is medieval, with 'admirably restrained' Victorian modifications. The circular site, the spectacular ancient yew tree, and the spring by the churchyard gate, suggest that the sanctity of this place has been respected for much longer. It remains a haven of rare tranquillity and natural beauty (with at least thirty-two species of wild flowers) set in unspoilt Welsh Marches border countryside.

The Friends of St Michael’s

St Michael’s Church is inseparable from the 5,000 year old yew tree that presides over this ancient circular site. The yew is largely self re-generating, but the church – the centre of our tiny community – is not.

The Friends of St Michael’s, under President Edward Storey and with Patrons, Professor David Bellamy, Dr Ronald Blythe and David Wheeler, was formed to raise the funds for the repair, renovation and development of our much loved church. As a daughter church of St Andrew’s, Presteigne, it was unrealistic to believe that the use of the church for services would justify the expense that would be needed to achieve these aims. A parallel commitment was therefore made to use the building for as wide a range of arts events as possible.

The essential repairs to the fabric of the church, (for the time-being!) are now complete, an efficient modern heating system has been installed, the paths have been relayed and the interior adapted to a much wider range of uses.

We are proud of the wide range of events that have been put on at St Michael’s over the last few years including concerts, literary events and art and ceramic exhibitions. The Friends have probably raised some £150,000 since their formation but more importantly they have created a strong and committed group of local enthusiasts backed up by a wider group of supporters across the country. While the Friends still need to raise funds for the long-term future of St Michael’s we are also ready to help other causes.



Leave Presteigne heading west on the B4356. After 1 mile take minor road (straight on) signposted Cascob. Continue for 1 mile. Church approach is up on left after Discoed sign. 



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