The LA Religious Ed Congress is not only a great place to hear fascinating speakers (the most popular for the past few years seems to be Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., the former master general of the Dominicans, an unassuming and friendly man ho draws huge crowds with his talks on spirituality) but also discovering new ways, new ideas, and new tools for evangelization. Last night someone told me about a brand-new website called The brainchild of a former accounting exec, who retired at a relatively early age, the site, launched today at Congress, will gather together film and audio clips that might otherwise have been lost. The founder of the site, Fred Fosnacht, was inspired to launch the site when he realized that several audio recordings of Thomas Merton were being preserved only on cassette tapes. Given the difficulty of purchasing cassette players today, Fosnacht worried about the accessibility of our 20th-century Catholic heritage -- some of which had been recorded on reel-to-reel tapes, cassette tapes and videos. The web seemed an obvious place to place some of this valuable content. But besides what you might call the "archival" material, the company also has plans to make available content from publishers, authors and even content uploaded by viewers monitored of course by a board of overseers, one of whom is a bishop.) Today at Congress marks the official launch of the site, which already includes several rare audio recordings of Thomas Merton, on prayer and on the concept of the "true self." Future plans call for video and audio of some of the events of and participants in the Second Vatican Council. (For myself I’m hoping they find some great footage of the opening ceremonies, or perhaps John XXIII’s opening address.) In the meantime, check it out and see what you think. And maybe here Thomas Merton’s voice for the first time in your life! James Martin, S.J. in Los Angeles
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