Rediscovering Nature

Connect! Sunday Reflection: Rediscovering NatureFor Sunday, April 29, 2018
Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 9:26-31
1 John 3:18-24
John 15:1-8

Several months ago, I watched the documentary, “Back to Eden,” which is the story of a Los Angeles lawyer turned hobby gardener in Washington. In the documentary, he explained how he came to a biblical understanding and practical appreciation of how nature is the Lord’s garden that reflects His glory.

Then I read Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si,” and was amazed at his articulation of responsible stewardship of the environment. Afterwards, when I would find myself praying the Divine Office, the psalms that talk about nature resonated in my heart in a new way. I was beginning to see how nature itself is designed according God’s plan … just like you and me. And just as I have begun to recognize God’s work in creation, I have begun to understand Him better as well. St. Francis of Assisi understood this; his renowned joy in the things of nature and his love of nature stems from his all-embracing love of God.

Maybe the message for us from this well-known passage is this: “We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature.” (Pope Francis, LS, 44). He continues, “When media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely and to love generously.” (LS 47). Wait, what? Being techy can be an obstacle to real wisdom and edifying generosity? When I’m honest with myself, I’d have to say that my obsession with things techy has at times closed me off from other people and nature itself. It sounds ludicrous to admit to myself that I have a worldview governed by the digitized information that I access immediately from the palm of my hand … but maybe, I’m not the only one in this situation.

Since “Back to Eden” and Laudato Si, I decided to give something new a try. As the weather has permitted in recent weeks, I have dedicated some energy towards updating the sad-looking area surrounding the hermitage where I live. It had been neglected for a few years. All I had was some motivation, so I started, not with a preconceived plan in my head of what I wanted the end result to be, but rather with an openness to follow where spontaneous inspirations led. It was a most enjoyable process of cooperating with nature, not manipulating it, towards designing a garden. As one who normally works at a computer screen, it was such a life-giving experience to stand outside my hermitage and to start envisioning what could be. Then, with some elbow grease and a cool evening breeze, I started to move rocks — big and small — and haul several loads of mulch over to my place. I’m happy to say that the beds are ready for planting in a few weeks.

Try it sometime for yourself! Block off a couple of hours in your schedule to get out into nature: plant a garden, go for a bike ride, visit a local garden nursery or greenhouse, have a picnic on your hike, take the boat out and go fishing, enjoy an evening bonfire and listen to the chirping birds around you (can you identify any of them?). Do something outside of the humdrum routine, and leave your cell phone behind! The point isn’t the activity itself; the point is connecting with the God-designed nature around us that we usually take for granted. Just as grapes come alive when they are well tended, maybe our life can come alive when it is well tended in all its facets. And as we do so, hopefully with more frequency than the past, we will rediscover the richness of nature because of how it fits within the entirety of God’s design. (cf LS 86)

Br. John Marmion Villa, M. Div.

PRAYER

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor and all blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.
Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.
Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
Mother Earth
who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace, By You Most High, they will be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.

Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon of St. Francis of Assisi

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One Response to “Rediscovering Nature”

  1. Carolyn Riddle (Mary Frances Cabrini, BSCD) on

    Br. John, I am elated that you are discovering the joys of gardening. “Laudato Si” is so simple and profound — beautiful, true and good. Imagine if the whole world lived that way. I have been a gardener all my life. There is something about smelling the herbs, admiring the beauty of blossoms and colorful flowers and the rich tapestry of the more subtle colors of foliage. Instead of “Shades of Grey” there should be a video called “Shades of Green.” I hope with the new monastic vocations, the vegetable garden can also be reinvigorated at LP. I have fond memories (from before the fire) of going out with Sr. Juliana and some of the domestic sisters to pick lettuce, green beans and tomatoes, then coming into the kitchen to wash and spin lettuce. Salad tastes better with giggles! Now I live in a town house, but I still have a few containers of herbs and a small area in front of my door with flowers and native shrubs to attract birds and butterflies. Hope to see in New Orleans. Maybe I’ll have a chance to share some pictures with you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Please post some pictures of your new garden; not all techy is bad. Balance in all things, and peace and all good!