Title

Contemplation and the suffering earth: Thomas merton, pope francis, and the next generation

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-1-2018

Abstract

During his address to the US Congress in 2015, Pope Francis lifted up the Trappist monk and famed spiritual writer Thomas Merton as one of four "great" Americans who "offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality" that is life-giving and brings hope. Drawing from Merton and gesturing to Pope Francis's 2015 encyclical Laudato Si', the author explores the epistemological roots of the environmental crisis, arguing that while intellectual conversion to the crisis is crucial, Merton's witness suggests a deeper kind of transformation is required. Reading Merton schools the imagination in the way of wisdom, or sapientia, a contemplative disposition that senses its kinship with Earth through the eyes of the heart, illuminating what Pope Francis has called "an integral ecology." The author considers the impact of two major influences on Merton's thought: The Russian Wisdom school of theology, or sophiology, and French theologian Jacques Ellul, whose 1964 book "The Technological Society" raises prescient questions about the role of technology in education and spiritual formation. Arguing that our present crisis is both technological and spiritual, epistemological and metaphysical, the author foregrounds Merton's contributions to a sapiential theology and theopoetics while asking how the sciences and humanities might work together more intentionally toward the transformation of the personal and collective human heart.

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