Seeing the beauty in nature is the first step in taking action to protect it. Our planet needs all the love, prayer, and protection it can get. Celebrate creation this 50th Earth Day by sending positive energy and intention into the universe through some creative and prayerful practices including contemplative photography, nature meditation, Visio Divina, Soul Collage® and Lectio Divina. There are many ways to pray!
Let me seek, then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is in all. — Thomas Merton, Thoughts In Solitude
Practice contemplative photography
Contemplative photography is a prayerful practice of seeing with new eyes. With camera in hand, I have learned to slow down, be more aware of details, be less goal-oriented and more process-oriented, to enjoy the beauty of simple things, and take more time to appreciate the surprises of a new country road or the change of seasons. This sense of adventure brings a deep joy in capturing a scene that will never quite be that same way again. It is when silence, solitude, creativity, and nature collide into an oneness that can only be received, not pursued.
The great Catholic writer Ernesto Cardenal in Abide in Love observes: “Everything in nature has a trademark, God’s trademark: the stripes on a shell and the stripes on a zebra; the grain of the wood and the veins of the dry leaf; the markings on the dragonfly’s wings and the pattern of stars on a photographic plate; the panther’s coat and the epidermal cells of the lily petal; the structure of atoms and galaxies. All bear God’s fingerprints.”
Go for a walk and look for God’s trademarks. Better still, use a camera to document evidence of God’s fingerprints in nature. Source: Earth Day: 12 Spiritual Practices to Honor the Earth
Praying with Art—Visio Divina
Visio Divina is like Lectio Divina, but instead of using the words from a page of Scripture to pray with, you use an icon, a sacred image, a work of art, or even a sunrise or sunset. “The Flowers Are Burning… Oceans A Rising: An Art and Climate Justice Exhibition” was to have taken place at Holy Wisdom Monastery, a Benedictine monastery in Madison, Wisconsin, to celebrate the 50th Earth Day. Due to the global pandemic of COVID-19, the poignant collection of eco-inspired watercolors painted collaboratively by artists, Helen Klebesadel and Mary Kay Neumann, will instead be offered digitally.
“Using their artworks as a source of strength in the face of adversity, they call upon the power of beauty and love to guide us towards taking action to protect what we love and care deeply about…The artists believe deeply that humans must embrace the reality that we are all connected to nature…that what happens in the Ocean, on Earth or to any life forms above and below the water, is happening to us as well. Everything is related and we can no longer go forward believing in the superiority of human life over all other life, if we are to survive. The artists sense of urgency is born out of their love of the natural world and the desire to protect and preserve what is left before it is too late.” Source: Warning Signs—A Powerful Earth Day Exhibit Goes Digital.
Pray with the image and poem “Burned By The Fire We Make: The Flowers Are Burning Series”
“And when Man gained dominion
Over land and the oceans
He began to harm the planet
With his asphalt and his toxins
And to lay the forest bare
And to poison even the air
And he killed every beast
And taught the seas how to bleed
Burned by the fire we make,
What a shame.
Then the winds gave in
And the rain knew no season
And the sun came to beat
On a land of sand and diseases
And when God looked down
On the earth and saw it was broken
Then the tears of God fell down
Through a hole in the ozone
Burned by the fire we make
What a shame.
This is the nature of the human race
To kill off anything that gets in our way
Poor Mother Earth we disfigured her face
Man is the maker of his own disgrace
Burned by the fire we make
What a shame.”
– Lyrics by Adrian Belew, “Burned by the Fire We Make” Used by permission of Adrian Belew
Consider: What do YOU love in nature that needs protecting? What are you moved to DO about it? Are you familiar with political candidates who are climate-conscious? More on Praying with the Arts.
Be Creative with SoulCollage®
Create a card that represents the environment and/or how you feel about how humans interact with the environment. You may take the prompt in whatever direction you choose. Or use the card Earth Gratitude to write your own poem or “I am one who” statement.
I am one who believes in the Divine birthing of our planet and the life-force that is poured out for us by our mere existence in this dynamic, evolving, growing, breathing earth home.
I am one who exists as part of this environment, receiving the mysterious flow of energy and outpouring of nourishment with open hands. I bow my head at the splendor of shades and shapes, the rebirth of nature through the sacred spirals of the seasons, the purpose and patterns that are sometimes evident and always sought after. The waters of life flow through us—cleansing, renewing, blessing us with existence. Nature gives to us without hesitation.
I am one who receives with awe.
After you create a card, feel free to share in the comments section or email a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org with a few sentences that explain what your card means to you.
Practice Lectio Divina
On this 50th Earth Day and the fifth anniversary of the encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home”, Pope Francis dedicated his teaching to a reflection on “the human and Christian responsibility to care for the Earth, humanity’s common home.” As the Book of Genesis relates, he said, “we live in this common home as one human family in biodiversity with God’s other creatures,” and God has called on humanity to care for and respect his creation.
“Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.” –Pope Francis
“In today’s celebration of Earth Day, we are called to renew our sense of sacred respect for the Earth, for it is not just our home but also God’s home. This should make us all the more aware that we stand on holy ground!” Pope Francis said.
An “ecological conversion,” which stems from a loving and respectful contemplation of the Earth’s beauty and leads to concrete action, is needed, he said. Source: On 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Pope Francis calls for ‘ecological conversion’
Practice Lectio Divina with Laudato Si or the following prayer by Pope Francis:
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.
Happy 50th Earth Day!
May your day, month, and lifetime be filled with gratitude for the earth!
© Jodi Blazek Gehr