James Martin, S.J.September 03, 2019
Photo by Jake Ingle on Unsplash 

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What’s your experience of praying with nature? In New York City, where I live, there aren’t as many opportunities as I would like. A few years ago, I was with my then ten-year-old nephew Matthew at his house in suburbs near New York. Near his house is a little pond that we like to walk around and explore. It was the fall and I was pointing out all the colorful leaves, all the reds and oranges and yellows. “You really like coming here, Uncle Jim,” he said. “That’s because there’s no nature where you live!” Now of course, Central Park is only a few blocks away from my house, but otherwise he was right. When I look out of my bedroom window I see several bricks walls and a little sliver of sky. Being in nature—by the seashore, in the mountains, next to a lake, in a park, or even in your own backyard, can be a wonderful invitation to pray. There is something inherently calming about nature, as if God is inviting you through the natural world to relax, to settle down, to compose yourself. Perhaps this is because in nature we come face to face with God’s creation. It’s not a movie or a painting or a church hymn, made by a human being, that is moving us, it’s something that God himself—or herself—created. So it’s less “mediated.”

There is the feeling of awe that you get when you see the vastness of the ocean, the limitless number of stars, or the ever changing cloud patterns. It reminds us of the mysterious beauty of the Creator. So however you do it, and whenever you do it, this week you might take time to encounter God in the natural world, wherever you live.

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