“God also works incessantly from outside himself in the creation and preservation of this great universe, in the movements of the heavens, in the influences of the stars, in the productions of land and sea, in the nature of the atmosphere, in the regulation of the seasons, and in all that beautiful order we observe in nature, which would be destroyed and return to nothingness if God was not constantly guiding it.” Vincent de Paul (CCD 9: 384). Love of Work, 28 November, 1649.
Recently, several DePaul colleagues have shared with me about the joy they feel when they are in the natural world. A sense of awe, a feeling of pleasure, a wave of gratitude that may be found “in that beautiful order we observe in nature,” as Vincent de Paul once wrote. Although his defining years were spent within cosmopolitan Paris, Vincent was forever shaped by his childhood in the bucolic countryside of Gascony. He learned early the handiwork of God that is evident in creation. Hundreds of years later, in our own urban setting of Chicago, we know to take a stroll around the block or a turn in a park or just to look above the buildings towards the sky can bring a quiet moment’s peace and perhaps even surprise us with something unexpected and beautiful.
Today, in the midst of a global pandemic, spending time outside, in reflection, may not only be helpful for our physical health, it may also provide respite and a new perspective for our spirits. A reminder that while we are only a small part of a larger whole, we are not alone. In these late days of summer, as we prepare for the beginning of a most anticipated, and uncertain, school year, it seems an even greater imperative for us to experience the balm of creation. Not only for the benefit it promises to the body and to the soul, but also for the possibility of glimpsing the hand of God at work in our midst.
Where are places in nature you can go to and feel inspired or at peace? How can you enjoy these days of the summer season in ways that you know will bring you joy?
We know not everyone has reasonable access to the natural world or a healthy environment. How might you be able to contribute to the beauty and sustainability of the earth for all its inhabitants?
Reflection by: Tom Judge, Chaplain, Mission and Ministry