When was the last time you stood in awe at the beauty of creation?
This is a question we should all ponder as we celebrate the September 1 “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.” This past Sunday Pope Francis reminded Roman Catholics about the day by saying; “[on Thursday] we will celebrate the Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, together with our Orthodox brothers and other churches. It will be an occasion to reinforce our common efforts to protect life, respecting the environment and nature.” He said last year when he established the annual celebration, “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”
Our sense of wonder with creation greatly impacts how we view the natural world around us and whether we are enamored or annoyed by it. Unfortunately in the past 200 years we have chosen to neglect our essential vocation of earthly stewardship because we have viewed creation as an obstacle instead of a beauty to behold.
The created world “gets in the way” of our modern comforts and must be “subdued.” This results in urban planning that completely destroys the local environment and paves the way for an artificial landscape devoid of any natural life.
This viewpoint has also labeled unborn children as “burdens” instead of “gifts of God,” resulting in a complete disregard for life in all stages.
It appears as if we have lost our awe and wonder with creation that would temper modern desires for progress.
As an experiment, make it a point this next month to awaken an appreciation of our “common home” by setting aside time to visit places of natural beauty. When you are there, remind yourself that God has given this amazing vista to you and has asked you to be an attentive steward of it.
To give you a head start, here are five activities to plan out that will help reignite a healthy sense of wonder with the world God has given us.
1. Go Stargazing in a “Dark Sky” Area
According to recent studies, “a new atlas of the night sky across the entire globe shows that more than 80 percent of the planet’s land areas—and 99 percent of the population of the United States and Europe—live under skies so blotted with man-made light that the Milky Way has become virtually invisible.” This means that the typical individual in the United States only sees a small portion of the number of stars in the sky.
Going out your front door and looking up at the night sky leaves most people unimpressed. All they see is a yellow haze that blots out all but a few stars.
2. Visit a State Park
Each state has a number of local places that are inspiring to visit. There is often a state park close by and easy enough to locate. If you need some help finding one, check out www.stateparks.com.
3. Visit a National Park
This year marks the centennial of the National Parks Service, whose mission is to preserve “unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.”
These include some of the most popular and awe-inspiring vistas in the United States, such as Yosemite National Park. However, there are typically one or two National Parks in each state. Check out the one nearest you.
4. Start a Nature Journal
A healthy activity that will assist in your general amazement of the natural world is to take along a journal to write and draw what you see. This allows you to look at the minute details of the world that God created and see the complexity of nature.
Nature journaling has been an activity many have engaged in over the decades and helps you develop a relationship with creation.
5. Watch National Geographic’s “In the Womb”
Last, but not least, foster a renewed sense of wonder at the miracle of a child. National Geographic has an excellent documentary called “In the Womb,” which uses the latest technology to chronicle the development of a child from conception until birth.
After watching it, you will discover the amazing stages of a child and how God truly “knits us” in our mother’s womb.