Students explore literature on spiriuality and solitude in new TWU retreat course

Langley, British Columbia—Lynn Szabo, an English professor at Trinity Western University, is giving students the chance to exchange their fast-paced lives for a week of intense study and solitude in a peaceful mountain location. Szabo will launch a new English course exploring American monk and renowned scholar Thomas Merton’s writings on spirituality and solitude. In a setting reflective of the monastic life led by Merton, Szabo will teach the course at Hill Haven Retreat Centre on Sumas Mountain just outside of Abbotsford, from August 13-17.

“Merton was a prolific writer,” says Szabo, an internationally recognized Merton scholar who has studied his works for over a decade. “He used the discipline of silence to approach God and to allow God to approach him.”

Szabo’s expertise, coupled with the quiet mountain setting, has resulted in an overwhelming student response to the new course that is filled to capacity for this August.

“Students are very attracted to Merton’s honesty,” says Szabo. “They are taken by his beautiful use of the English language and his commitment to knowing and experiencing God.”

As part of the course, students will experience the quiet solitude Merton writes of, in addition to opportunities to study his work independently in the tranquil setting. While studying Merton’s literary themes and techniques, students will explore questions his writing raises about the purpose of human existence, the quest for meaning and the relation of human beings to the natural world and society.

“Merton is one of the foremost spiritual thinkers of twentieth century,” says Szabo. “Though he lived a seemingly solitary existence as a monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, he has had a dynamic impact on American culture through his writings.”

For the past 6 years, Szabo has travelled to Kentucky to explore Merton’s writings at Bellarmine College where his papers are housed, as well as at the Abbey of Gethsemani where Merton spent 26 years until his death in 1968. She has published and given papers on Merton around North America, most recently presenting at the International Merton Conference in Louisville, Kentucky this June. She is currently working on a book exploring significant poetry from his collection of more than 2,500 poems.

“I’m not approaching this only as an academic. My studies of Merton’s work are a part of who I am and a part of my faith perspective,” says Szabo of the scholar who has written numerous books on spiritual formation and the discipline of the Christian life. “Studying Merton has given me opportunities for dialogue with scholars in both religious and literary circles.”

Szabo will travel to Merton’s childhood home in Prades, France next May to participate in teaching a course on Merton’s works for Simon Fraser University’s Humanities Pilgrimage Program. She plans to continue offering the Thomas Merton retreat course as part of Trinity Western University’s summer studies programs.

The community will have an opportunity to meet Lynn Szabo at “An Evening of Thomas Merton,” at Whitby’s Book Store and Coffee House on Marine Drive in White Rock, where she will lead a discussion for longtime readers and newcomers to Merton. The event will take place in late October. For more information on this or upcoming International Thomas Merton Society events in B.C., contact Judith Hardcastle at 660-2546 or visit the Merton Chapter web site at

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a privately funded Christian liberal arts university enrolling 2,850 students this year. With a broad-based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 34 major areas ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 12 graduate degrees including counselling psychology, theology and administrative leadership.

Last Updated: 2012-08-21
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