Some years ago, a retreat director, in fact Sr. Melannie Svoboda, SND,introduced me to a children’s book entitled Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth. I got a copy after the retreat and pull it out from time to time. It includes passages about how nature prays:
…trees reach for heaven in prayer,
…rocks are still, silent and enduring,
…streams reflect God’s beauty, join other streams in community, laugh and dance and leap through the air,
…winds whisper and sigh in prayer to God
Such reflections help to ground my faith in the goodness of the world.
But sometimes when I see trees lashed by fierce storms, rocks become molten lava paths of destruction, waters rush along stealing homes and irreplaceable mementos, landslides wash away whole neighborhoods, or violent winds leave behind a path of sorrow and ruin, I wonder what has become of those peaceful prayers.
Is nature trying to get our attention? Are these events messengers sent by God to remind us that we must learn to live in harmony with nature, though it is beyond the control that we seem to have over so many other things in life? Do they model for us the way we cry out to God in times of danger and turmoil?
Yet even after the worst events, a silence, a peacefulness returns. Out of destruction often come new life, new memories, new relationships. The story never ends with death, but with Resurrection. As the Grandad in the book says, “Each living thing gives its life to the beauty of all life, and that gift is its prayer.” (p. 12)
May the One whom” even wind and sea obey” (Mark 4:41) draw us into an ever-deepening relationship with God, each other and the cosmos around us.
Reference: Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth, by Douglas Wood, illustrated by P. J. Lynch, Candlewick Press, Cambridge, MA, 1999.
Sister Emilia Castelletti, SND is a theology teacher at Notre Dame Cathedral Latin High School in Chardon, OH.