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The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton$
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Monica Weis

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780813130040

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813130040.001.0001

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Learning to See

Learning to See

Becoming Awake

(p.22) Chapter 2 Learning to See
The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton

SSJ Monica Weis

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter examines Thomas Merton's early life, looking for examples of seeds: influences and patterns that contributed to his predisposition for ecological thinking. It specifically concentrates on Merton's gift of awareness and sense of place—from his infant days in Prades, France, to his entrance into the Trappist monastery in Kentucky and the turning point of June 27, 1949, when the abbot permitted Merton to pray beyond the confines of the monastery cloister. Three French landscapes in particular—Prades, Saint-Antonin, Murat—as well as the city of Rome show how vulnerable Merton was to the influence of geography and how deeply these places contributed in later years to his love of wilderness and his evolving ecological consciousness. Generally, June 27, 1949, represents the abbot's wise recognition of Merton's need to be in nature, his recognition of the potential for deeper prayer that contact with the wilderness can stimulate, and an official invitation to savor a new awareness of both outer and inner landscapes.

Keywords:   Thomas Merton, Prades, Saint-Antonin, Murat, Rome, ecological consciousness, nature, prayer

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