It was my pleasure this past week to participate in the “Festival of Faiths” in Louisville, Kentucky.  This annual event has been going on for 26 years and the theme for 2022 was “Sacred Stories: Contemplation and Connection.”

Matthew Fox onstage at the Festival of Faiths with the Four Element puppet family. Photo by Douglass Beechwood, used with permission. To see a recording of Matthew’s presentation on spiritual practices, click HERE.

Many and diverse spiritual teachers, scientists, politicians and activists spoke and dialogued.  Rituals from various traditions of 45 minutes each were practiced each morning.

I was invited to share a workshop on “Significant Stories for Our Times” and to lead a morning ritual and also a brief ritual to close the event.  It was my first in-person gig in three years, thanks to covid.

The presenters and topics treated can be found on www.FESTIVALofFAITHS.org.

Louisville holds special meaning to me because it is the field of Thomas Merton and his monastery.  Several times I have been invited to speak by the Thomas Merton Center there including on the centennial of Merton’s birthday.  It was from that talk that I birthed my book on Merton, A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey.

Frida Kahlo as Our Lady of Guadalupe, Rachel Carson, Rosa Parks as the Black Madonna, and Elizabeth Cody Stanton as St. Hildegard of Bingen at the 2014 Cosmic Mass at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco. Photo by Mary Plaster, used with permission.

Louisville is also significant for me because we have long had a very active creation spirituality group there with lively leadership from Mark Steiner, founder of Cultivating Connections and creation spirituality community builder.

In Mark’s garage the last nine years has been housed a wonderful family of four puppets—Earth, Air, Fire, Water—created by Mary Plaster, a puppet-making artist who lives in Duluth, Minnesota and is a graduate of our University of Creation Spirituality.  

She has also created giant puppets of Mahatma Gandhi, MLK, Jr., Rosa Parks, Hildegard of Bingen and other notables that have all made appearances at our Cosmic Masses over the years.    

I asked Mark to bring the four puppet beings to the events I led.  A “Festival” on Sacred Stories should include such visitors as these to celebrate the most sacred story of all–our creation story.  The original blessing of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit is the primary sacred story, as Thomas Berry insists.  

Matthew Fox with Mark A. Steiner of Cultivating Connections and Peacecasters, Louisville Earth Walk, the Kentucky Youth Climate Strike, and Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice, at the Festival of Faiths. Used with permission.

A high point for me was the final panel that consisted of eight activists, many of them young, who have helped gather Louisvillians in response to the marches and troubles that occurred due to the Breonna Taylor murder by police in 2020.. 

As an elder, I was deeply moved by the candor, wisdom and honest interaction of these leaders, all of whom were younger than myself.  It gave me hope that the upcoming generations are stepping up to the plate in the midst of our many moral and spiritual and political struggles we face as a species.  I found truth-telling and courage—big hearts—busy at work, thus fulfilling the best definition of hope I know, “hope is a verb with the sleeves rolled up.”

Thank you to all who make the “Festival of Faiths” possible.


See Matthew Fox, A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey.  

And Fox, Christian Mystics, pp. 359, 361, 365.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: The four element puppets at the Festival of Faiths were created by mixed-media artist Mary Plaster for the 2013 Unitarian Universalist General Assembly. They debuted at the Energy for Change Rally, where the puppet often identified as the Sun represented solar energy, the puppet identified as Water represented hydra-energy, the puppet identified as Earth represented geo-thermal energy, and the puppet identified as Air represented wind energy.

Queries for Contemplation

How does it feel to you to hear about a “Festival of Faiths” as distinct from a “Competition of Faiths” or “an Intellectual Comparison of Faiths” or a “Rivalry of Faiths” or a “Symposium on Faiths”? 


Recommended Reading

A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey

In A Way to God, Fox explores Merton’s pioneering work in interfaith, his essential teachings on mixing contemplation and action, and how the vision of Meister Eckhart profoundly influenced Merton in what Fox calls his Creation Spirituality journey.
“This wise and marvelous book will profoundly inspire all those who love Merton and want to know him more deeply.” — Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism

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6 thoughts on “A Festival of Faiths: Sacred Stories”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today you share what a pleasure it was this past week to participate in the “Festival of Faiths” in Louisville, Kentucky. This annual event has been going on for 26 years and this years’ theme was “Sacred Stories: Contemplation and Connection.” You tell us that this was your first in-person event in three years, because of the pandemic. You also share that Louisville holds special meaning for you because it was the place of Thomas Merton and his monastery. In fact, you were invited to speak there on the centennial of Merton’s birth, and it was from that talk that you birthed your book on Merton, A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey. You say that as an elder, you were deeply moved by the candor, wisdom and honest interaction of these leaders, all of whom were younger than yourself. This you say, gave you hope for you could see that the upcoming generations are stepping up to the plate in the midst of our many moral, spiritual, and political struggles we face as a specie. You ask us, “How does it feel to you to hear about a ‘Festival of Faiths’?” For me, because my Creation Spirituality Community, “Spiritwind,” aims to reflect the ideas of your book, One River, Many Wells, I feel that we have a Festival of Faith every week–although I’m sure on a much smaller scale. But our goal is the dream of “Deep Ecumenism.”

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    It never ceases to surprise me the way in which Spirit moves, creating little synchronisties, in providing insightful wisdom to my often paradoxal questions that I find myself wrestling with. Today’s video clip of The Festival of Faiths was one such wonderful moment. The question I had been struggling with was how does one’s imagination support the truth of reality? How does one discern the difference between imagination and illusion in relationship to the truth of reality? And lastly how does one trust intuitively one’s imagination to lead them to this truth of reality? The Spirit answered these perplexing questions for me, through the beauty of today’s DM, and the included video and talk Mathew gave during The Festival of Faiths. Thank you so very much to all whom were apart of creating today’s DM. I can’t tell you how much this has meant to me, and how profoundly moved I am to take that leap of faith of trusting my imagination to lead me into the wisdom of the truth of reality.

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    The Festival of Faiths must have been a beautiful event, and I’m glad it’s held yearly. I’m glad that at least one presenter was an Indigenous representative. Recently at the COPS international climate summit event in Egypt, environmental and justice Indigenous representatives from around the world apparently had to work very hard to attend and be heard. The Indigenous peoples and their lands have been exploited the last 500yrs. around the world since the imperial colonial powers started expanding, and modern capitalist industrial societies began their further exploitation since at least the early 20th century. Now, many people are finally realizing that modern Western industrial ‘civilization’ has mainly contributed to our climate/environmental catastrophe with the destruction of Mother Nature’s earth, air, waters, and thousands of species, and risking the survival of our own human species. Many people are also finally realizing that Indigenous peoples around the world with their spiritual and sustainable ways of living with Mother Earth and Her creatures as sacred have a lot to teach our modern Western industrial capitalist ‘civilization’; hopefully, it’s not too late. May God’s Loving~Wisdom~Healing~ Compassionate~Creative~Transformative Spirit within and among us have Mercy on us….
    ????

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    Louisville’s festival as well as Indianapolis’s (theirs is 10 years old) inspired an interfaith coalition in Cincinnati create a Festival of Faiths 5 years ago was. (The woman who pitched the idea to the group had recently visited Thomas Merton’s monastery.) Our steering committee comprises various Christians, Muslims Jews, Sikhs, Baha’is, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Buddhists and faith-based organizations. We’ve formed close bonds of friendships working together. The steering committee began meeting in 2-2018 and held the first festival 4 months later, with little advertising, when schools were out & families were on vacation. Still, between 2K-3K people showed up. The spirit was so strong, no one wanted to leave! That fall we started Sacred Connections, where each month a different faith community hosts something for us at their place of worship so we could continue our spiritual high while learning about each other. Then we started A Mighty Stream, which focuses on racial justice and Faith Communities Go Green to help congregations become more environmentally aware. (website is EquaSion.org and there’s a FB page). For 2 years during Covid we held a week of sessions online for prayers & meditations, storytelling and more. This year we continued some programs online for the week leading up to the festival. We strive to keep focused on spirit rather than intellect since many groups do the latter very well but few actually demonstrate how spirit connects us all.

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