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How a healthy appreciation of nature can lead us to God

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St. Bonaventure believed that the world around us could help us draw closer to God.

Even though we pass by nature and the natural world constantly, we don’t always stop to appreciate its beauty or the presence of God within it.

St. Bonaventure writes in The Journey of the Mind into God, “as far as the mirror of sensible things is concerned, we contemplate God not only through them, but also in them, in as far as God is in them through his essence, power, and presence—and this way of reflecting is higher than the previous one. For this reason contemplation of this sort comes second, as the second step of contemplation, by which we ought to be led to the contemplation of God in all those creatures that enter into our mind through the bodily senses.”

The Franciscan saint follows in the footsteps of St. Francis by recognizing the presence of God in nature and how the created world inevitably leads us back to the one who created it.

He continues, “we can conclude that all creatures in this world of sensible realities lead the spirit of the contemplative and wise person to the eternal God. Indeed, creatures are shadows, echoes, and pictures of that first, most powerful, most wise and best Principle, of that eternal source, light, and fullness; of that efficient, prototypical and ordering Art. They are vestiges, images, and spectacles offered to us so that we could contemplate God.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church echoes these thoughts, explaining, “The beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator and ought to inspire the respect and submission of man’s intellect and will.”

This is something Pope Francis has emphasized in his encyclical Laudato si’, urging Christians everywhere to take care of creation as a faithful stewards, seeing within it the beauty of God.

Read more: What does Laudato Si’ look like in action?

Above all, it’s important to see creation not as a thing to “master” but as a gift from God for our well-being. When we are able to appreciate nature and see in it the presence of God, our soul is led to praise God and we are more willing to protect it from devastation.

Nature has the mark of the Creator stamped within it. It’s up to us to stop and see it within God’s marvelous plan for humanity.

Read more: Surprised by nature: Seeing God’s glory in His creatures

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