Good Zeal

Love of Earth

View of Earth from spaceI dearly love to travel and to watch movies. Although I have had the opportunity to visit the Northwest, the Gulf Coast, the Midwest, British Victoria, the Caribbean, and Italy (my favorite pilgrimage), my life as a monastic does not allow me just to embark on a new adventure anytime I feel like it. To compensate for this desire, I read travel memoirs and watch the Travel Channel. A few years ago, I took a breathtaking journey of Mother Earth as I watched the movie EARTH (Disney Nature Films). I have come to love nature films, but this movie was by far one of the most spell bounding portraits of nature I have ever witnessed. It gifted me with such “landscapes of spectacular beauty” that I will probably never have the opportunity to visit. From the frigid Arctic to the Kalahari Desert, from the tropical rain forests to the vast blue oceans, the photography experience was a gift from God. Time- captured budding forth of flowers, mushrooms, and leaves spoke of vigilance to me− if only I could be present to see a bud open its face to the sun. The film depicts the migration of polar bears, elephants, and whales journeying thousands of miles in search of food and water for their family. Besides the long journey, they must endure the threat of predatory creatures who are also struggling to survive. The aspects of global warming threaten the livelihood of the living creatures of our planet. But the creatures of the earth persevere even in the dryness of the desert and the turbulence of the ocean.

As I watched this earth’s journey, I thought of the Genesis story− God’s creation of the heavens and the earth, night and day, sky, water, vegetation, plants, trees, swarms of living creatures, birds of the sky, great sea monsters, cattle and creeping things, wild animals, and male and female. God saw that the gift of all creation was good. And so, should I! How could one watch this film and not feel grateful? How could one watch it and not reverence the earth? How could one watch it and not realize its message of God’s presence and beauty all around and at every moment?

This journey around the world is still with me. I have watched it several times, and I believe it will be a keeper− a meditation I will use when I feel the dryness of the desert and need a pick-me-upper on my daily journey through life.

On this the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi and the closing of the 2023 Season of Creation, I spent time pondering the words of Pope Francis in his encyclical letter Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home. Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human. Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason”.[19] His response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists. His disciple Saint Bonaventure tells us that, “from a reflection on the primary source of all things, filled with even more abundant piety, he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’”.[20]

What is more, St. Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. [21]

I am most grateful for our Sisters who follow the example of St. Francis as they lovingly care for our grounds to create a true oasis of peace for our common home and a sacred haven of beauty for all who enter our sacred space.

By Sister Priscilla Cohen, OSB

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