The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton
Nature was always vital in Thomas Merton’s life, from the long hours he spent as a child watching his father paint landscapes in the fresh air, to his final years of solitude in the hermitage at Our Lady of Gethsemani, where he contemplated and wrote about the beauty of his surroundings. Throughout his life, Merton’s study of the natural world shaped his spirituality in profound ways, and he was one of the first writers to raise concern about ecological issues that have become critical in recent years.
In The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton, author Monica Weis suggests that Merton’s interest in nature, which developed significantly during his years at the Abbey of Gethsemani, laid the foundation for his growing environmental consciousness. Tracing Merton’s awareness of the natural world from his childhood to the final years of his life, Weis explores his deepening sense of place and desire for solitude, his love and responsibility for all living things, and his evolving ecological awareness.
Monica Weis, a Sister of St. Joseph, is professor of English at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York. She is the author of Thomas Merton’s Gethsemani: Landscapes of Paradise, a nonfiction finalist in the 2005 Kentucky Literary Awards. She lives in Rochester, New York.
"Readers of Thomas Merton's writings are certainly all too aware of his frequent and detailed reference to nature especially in his journal writings. This book is in the first scholarly study of Merton's writings on nature, and Weis does a masterful job of situating them within trends seen in other nature writers and poets, making connections across literary and theological boundaries and demonstrating Merton's evolving ecological consciousness at the very beginnings of the ecological movement. It is a groundbreaking book."—Dr. Paul M. Pearson, Director and Archivist, Thomas Merton Center, Bellarmine University
“Thomas Merton saw the hidden praise of God in the world of nature but understood that to sense that presence required a contemplative and poetic eye. Merton had both the eye and the poetic vocabulary as Monica Weis shows in this sensitive and perceptive study.”--Lawrence S. Cunningham, John A. O'Brien Professor of Theology, The University of Notre Dame
“In this wise and luminous book, Monica Weis shares the fruits of her research in a comprehensive synthesis filled with vivid details from Merton’s journals, poetry and other writings. In prose both lyrical and logical, Weis traces Merton’s appreciation and affinity for nature from his early life in France through his final years in his hermitage. She shows that protecting the natural world was an integral part of Merton’s social consciousness, and the challenge of his environmental vision is as powerful and as pertinent in today’s world of ecological crisis as it was during Merton’s own lifetime.”--Patrick F. O’Connell, Editor: The Merton Seasonal
“Making use of both primary and secondary sources, Monica Weis explores the amazing growth of Thomas Merton’s ecological consciousness, especially during his 27 years as a monk of Gethsemani in Kentucky. This well-written survey of Merton’s appreciation of the natural environment is a welcome addition to a more complete understanding of Thomas Merton’s enormous legacy.”--Br. Patrick Hart, OCSO, was Thomas Merton’s last secretary, and since his death has edited many books by and about Merton
"...a masterful book, sure to be a rock-solid point of departure for any further forays into this very important topic."--The Southern Register
"The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton. . . shows how the writings of one profound man continue to challenge us to see with new eyes."--Rochester Catholic Courier
"Monica Weis's delightful The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton is a superb guide to the ecological themes of Merton's life and writings."--Christian Century
"'The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton' explores the powerful influence of nature on Merton's spiritual development and ecological consciousness, specifically illuminating his journey from mere delight in nature to a committed responsibility for its welfare -- a movement that placed him ahead of his time on environmental issues and unique in his approach to our relationship with nature." -- Appalachian News-Express
"With her special inroads into his life and his writings, for Merton was a writer long before he was a monk, [Weis] has produced this well researched book giving insight into Merton's love of nature and the natural world." -- Homestead.org
"The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton . . . draws masterfully upon . . . personal correspondence and private note keeping to show how Merton's enjoyment of nature grew into a deeply spiritual experience, eventually becoming inextricably part of his monastic prayer life and propelling him to unite his voice with those speaking out against abuse of the earth." -- The Southern Register
"This book carefully chronicles his environmental development, sets it in the context of all his work, and will be a helpful aid for individuals."--Choice
"A very welcome addition to the Merton library...Monica Weis deserves the accolades that come with making a meaningful contribution to the body of Merton scholarship."--The Merton Journal
"Monica Weis, a Sister of St. Joseph, explains how Merton evolved from a nature enthusiast...to one of the world's most respected ecological stewards."--The Courier Journal
"This well-written survey of Merton's appreciation of the natural environment is a welcome addition to the scholarship pursuing a more complete understanding of his enormous legacy."--Cistercian Studies Quarterly
"Reminds all of us that authentic 'private' spiritual/religious convictions have profound public, social implications. Beautifully produced and illustrated, engagingly written, Weis's work makes an important contribution to the study of literature and the environment in the twenty-first century."--Isle