As a kid raised in a large family with what he calls “healthy neglect,” the late Passionist Fr. Thomas Berry roamed the woods and fields around his home in Greensboro, N.C. At the age of 11, he said, his sense of “the natural world in its numinous presence” came to him when he discovered a new meadow on the edge of town.
“The field was covered with white lilies rising above the thick grass. A magic moment, this experience gave to my life something that seems to explain my thinking at a more profound level than almost any other experience I can remember.”
It was not only the lilies, he said. “It was the singing of the crickets and the woodlands in the distance and the clouds in the clear sky. … This early experience has remained with me ever since as the basic determinant of my sense of reality and values. Whatever fosters this meadow is good. What does harm to this meadow is not good.”
By extension, he said, “a good economic, or political, or educational system is one that would preserve that meadow and a good religion would reveal the deeper experience of that meadow and how it came into being.”