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Liturgical Press

Monastic Ecological Wisdom

A Living Tradition

Samuel Torvend

Monastic Ecological Wisdom SEE INSIDE
Monastic Ecological Wisdom

ISBN: 9780814667972, 6797

Details: 176 pgs, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 3/8
Publication Date: 11/01/2023
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Can early medieval monasteries serve as a model of sustainable development and environmental conservation in today’s world? Inspired by Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Sí and Benedictine communities around the world whose shared monastic values inform ecological practice, Monastic Ecological Wisdom uncovers the hidden story of early Christian and monastic care for the earth.

In Monastic Ecological Wisdom, Samuel Torvend shows how it is possible that medieval monastic values and practices could assist in the careful conservation of what we claim is God’s first gift, God’s first gesture of grace: the earth and all that dwells with it. By reflecting on an ecological reading of New Testament texts, the Rule of St. Benedict, and early monastic engagement with the natural world as seen in the life of St. Benedict, such practices can serve thoughtful Christians today who care deeply about living in harmony with the earth and all who call it home.

Samuel Torvend, PhD, is a priest, emeritus professor of religion, Benedictine oblate, and instructor in diaconal formation in western Washington. He is a member of the ecology and liturgy seminar of the North American Academy of Liturgy, and the author of Still Hungry at the Feast: Eucharistic Justice in the Midst of Affliction published by Liturgical Press. His books, articles, and lectures focus on liturgy and social ethics.

ISBN: 9780814667972, 6797

Details: 176 pgs, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 3/8
Publication Date: 11/01/2023


"In his impressively researched Monastic Ecological Wisdom, Samuel Torvend sifts through scholarly literature on environmental history, church history, and biographies/hagiographies of Benedict of Nursia in order to demonstrate the values that are timely in our current ecological distress—values such as attention to local ecology, friendship with other creatures, humility, and simplicity—are in fact hallmarks of Benedictine spirituality. Readers of all kinds will come away from this book with renewed appreciation for the deep resonances between Christian discipleship and responsible care for the Earth. Monastic Ecological Wisdom is well-suited for use in classrooms, parish discussion groups, and individual reading."
Timothy Brunk, Associate Professor of Theology, Villanova University

“This is a book of insights and connections, many of which may surprise you. Torvend reveals parallels between the destructive patterns of the Roman Empire in the time of Jesus and our contemporary ecological and social crises. He proposes St. Benedict’s monastic approach to life and the natural world as an antidote to the sins of the past and the present: a wisdom that sought a pattern of interaction with the environment that was sustainable for centuries, respecting the land and all creatures as God’s creation and God’s possession. The Gospels proclaimed a revolutionary message against the idolatry and rapaciousness of the Roman Empire, a message that still challenges similar forces today. We need an alternative way of life to confront our sins against creation. Benedict and Torvend show us the way.”
Fr. Lawrence E. Mick, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and author of Liturgy and Ecology in Dialogue

"It can be tempting to think that current experiences of climatic change, environmental degradation, and institutional corruption are so unique that we have nothing to learn from the past. But such thinking is impossible after you read Samuel Torvend’s Monastic Ecological Wisdom and immerse yourself into the deep and sustainable wisdom of ancient and medieval Christian communities. This important book richly explores environmental practices and structures of Benedictine life, the roots of those practices in the Christian tradition, and the possibilities for contemporary Christian faith based in justice and the land."
Kevin J. O’Brien, author of The Violence of Climate Change

Monastic Ecological Wisdom tells us the inspiring story of how the life of Saint Benedict influenced the way he would see God’s creation as a way of encounter with the divine. Samuel Torvend speaks to the present historical situation in a way that sees the riches of Saint Benedict’s 1,500-year-old Rule as relevant to our present situation. The connections between Saint Benedict’s Rule and Laudato Sí, as presented here, inspire a careful reading of both these early and contemporary documents.”
Abbot Primate Gregory Polan, OSB, Badia Sant’Anselmo, Rome, Italy

"The book is a thoughtful effort to respond to the challenge and insight of Laudato Sí with the riches of the Benedictine tradition and the spirituality of the Rule of Benedict. It is a work that will surely encourage many, including me, to harvest its insights and to continue to respond to the needs of the poor and the environment."
John Klassen, OSB, Saint John's University, Collegeville, Minnesota

"Oblate Torvend has written an exquisite history of Benedict's care for the environment which he tried to instill in his followers. Benedict's teachings echo Pope Francis' incisive Laudato Si."
Laura Swan, OSB, St. Placid Priory, Lacey, Washington

"As the world continues to be shaken by continuing climate change and environmental devastation, this book offers a bit of hope that those who read it will take its contents to heart and begin the long process of correcting the mistakes of centuries, allowing a viable future for generations to come."
Today's American Catholic

"It is especially beneficial for monastics today to read and reflect on how our personal and communal practices promote the careful conservation of God's gift of creation for all."

"Monastic Ecological Wisdom provides those new to the study of monastic history with a helpful overview of the Benedictine tradition's commitment to ecological values past and present."
Catholic Books Review