Father Dan Riley, OFM, reports that he and a small group of others from different faith traditions have been discussing the establishment of a new center dedicated to Lax and Merton and committed to civil dialogue in an increasingly uncivil age. The center would probably be housed at the Mt. Irenaeus Fransciscan Mountain Community Father Dan founded near St. Bonaventure University many years ago. Here’s the community’s description of its location:
Mt. Irenaeus rests on nearly 400 acres of beautiful land in the Allegheny hills of Southwestern New York State, with seven cabins, large community House of Peace, Holy Peace Chapel, 10 miles of trails, labyrinth garden, reflective pond and other sacred outdoor spaces for contemplation.”
One possible design for the center is an octagon, to reflect that shape’s importance in several traditions. The building would also incorporate some parts of the Marcus cottage where Lax, Merton and their friends gathered during college summers, writing, making music, and practicing debating important matters in community.
Riley and others have been trying for years to find a way to move the Marcus cottage from the hills above Olean down near campus. Unfortunately, the cottage hasn’t been maintained, so it isn’t feasible (or cost-effective) to move the whole thing. Instead, they’ve secured pieces of the cottage to put in the center: the mantel over the living room fireplace and the sailing ship model above it, as well as the doors and hinges from the bedrooms Lax and Merton slept in. An expert is looking at the cottage to see if other parts are salvageable too.
According to Father Dan, the center would be a place outside the Mt. Irenaeus Franciscan structures where people from different backgrounds could talk about issues of any kind, whether they came out of a faith tradition or not. But it would be “a mystical place, not just dialogic,” he says. Its core value would come from the root of the word “conversation,” which means not just talking but turning or changing together.
If you’re interested in being connected to the project or just knowing more about it, you can write to the Mt. Ireneaus office coordinator, Michelle Marcellin, at firstname.lastname@example.org.