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Thomas Merton's Gethsemani

Thomas Merton's Gethsemani: Landscapes of Paradise

Foreword by PATRICK HART
Photographs by HARRY L. HINKLE
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Thomas Merton's Gethsemani
    Book Description:

    For twenty-seven years, renowned and beloved monk Thomas Merton (1915-1968) belonged to Our Lady of Gethsemani, a Trappist monastery established in 1848 amid the hills and valleys near Bardstown, Kentucky. InThomas Merton's Gethsemani, dramatic black-and-white photographs by Harry L. Hinkle and artful text by Merton scholar Monica Weis converge in a unique experience for lovers of Merton.

    Hinkle was allowed unprecedented access to many areas inside the monastery and on its grounds that are generally restricted. His photographs invite the reader to experience the various knobs, lakes, woods, and hermitages Merton sought out for times of solitude and contemplation and for reading and writing. These unique images, each accompanied by a passage from Merton's writings, evoke personal reflection and a deeper understanding of how and why Merton came to recognize himself as a part of his Kentucky landscape.

    Woven throughout the book, Weis's text explores Merton's fascination with nature not only at Gethsemani, but during his early childhood, throughout his spiritual conversion to Roman Catholicism, and while a member of the Trappist community. She examines how Merton's lifelong interaction with nature subtly revealed and informed his profound spiritual experiences and his writing about contemplation.Thomas Merton's Gethsemanireplicates Merton's path on his solitary hikes in the woods and conveys the wonder of the landscapes that inspired him.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5745-0
    Subjects: History, Religion, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    Patrick Hart

    IN RECENT YEARS, when the abbot or one of the monks of Gethseniani would be introduced to His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, the latter usually responded, “Oh, Gethseniani, that is Thomas Merton’s monastery.” The abbot or monk would hesitatingly agree that, after a manner of speaking, GethsenianiwasThomas Merton’s monastic home. It might be more accurate to say that the young, orphaned Tom Merton found his first real home at Gethseniani. The title of this handsome volume unambiguously reflects the reality that Merton found Gethseniani an earthly paradise, situated as it was in the midst of the knob...

    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Harry L. Hinkle
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. INTRODUCTION The Landscape of His Divinely Appointed Place
    (pp. 1-16)

    YOU HAVE OPENED A BEAUTIFUL BOOK with many windows. This stunning collaboration of photographs and text offers vistas of reflection upon a landscape in Nelson County, Kentucky, long bound over for holiness through prayer since 1848, when French Trappists journeyed across seas to cultivate a small portion of American farmland as their place for an “ultimate meeting with God.” By the sweat of their labor, the tears of their prayers, and their silences from the world’s ten thousand things, these French monks baptized their “divinely appointed” site the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani.

    In April 1941 twenty-six-year-old Thomas Merton...

  8. CHAPTER ONE Discovering the Earthly Paradise
    (pp. 17-36)

    HOLY WEEK 1941. A time for savoring the great mystery of our redemption—a time of excitement and unknown horizons for the recently converted Thomas Merton. While teaching literature at Saint Bonaventure College in upstate New York, Merton had adopted the habit of meditating in the nearby pastures and reciting the Divine Office by himself. Yet he was still restless and unsatisfied. At the urging of Dan Walsh, his former teacher and mentor, Merton arranged to make a retreat at Gethsemani, a little-known Trappist monastery in the wilds of central Kentucky. Perhaps there his heart would find some answers and...

  9. CHAPTER 2 Finding a Home in Nature
    (pp. 37-72)

    AFTER MERTON ENTERED THE MONASTERY at Gethsemani, the external terrain continued to attract and shape his imagination. He was often assigned to work in the fields, cutting corn or hay. There he exulted in the changing light behind the Kentucky knobs that dotted the horizon, writing poems (“Trappists, Working”) about the “holy sonnets” sung by the monks’ saws as they felled trees in the upland (CP 96). Within the monastery cloister he discovered favorite gardens and walkways that inspired him to prayerful reflection. But there were intellectual and spiritual landscapes to be explored as well.

    Merton’s early monastic training exposed...

  10. CHAPTER 3 Seeing Paradise with the Heart
    (pp. 73-112)

    IT IS SAFE TO SAY that the more silence and solitude Merton experienced, the more he craved. Prayer, etched deeply into his daily routine, was inscribed in the innermost recesses of his heart. In the mid 1950s Merton found quiet moments in a derelict trailer in the woods where he could listen to the wind in the trees and the creatures stirring nearby. In this rusted metal chapel, which he regarded as an entrance to paradise, Merton heard the Holy One calling him “friend” and “son.” He felt the sleeping seed of prayer awaken. So powerful were these periods of...

  11. CHAPTER 4 Becoming One with the Sky through Prayer
    (pp. 113-134)

    MERTON’S INTERACTION with the knobs, valleys, fields, and woods around the monastery and, later, his solitude in the hermitage constantly revealed to him the contours of his inner geography. Sometimes Merton’s observations of the weather, wind, or woods flowed naturally into formal prayer or contemplative reflection; sometimes his formal prayer and meditation burst into praise of the sacramental goodness of life around him; and sometimes his experience of outer and inner landscapes merged in an intense experience of communion.

    Merton was adept at finding God in nature, knowing that “All nature is meant to make us think of paradise. Woods,...

  12. CHAPTER 5 Discovering Compassion in the Wilderness
    (pp. 135-148)

    ONCE MERTON DISCOVERED the depths of contemplation and allowed his awareness of the world around him to mingle with his desire for and experience of God, his sense of compassion and justice blossomed into new fruitfulness. His twenty-seven years in the monastery had not shut him off from human society; rather, Merton became even more alert to our imperfect world and the ways in which human society oppresses people and misuses the natural environment. The period spanning the late 1950s and early 1960s became Merton’s “turning toward the world,” during which he spoke out eloquently and prophetically against ethnic and...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 149-154)
    (pp. 155-158)