“The Heavens are telling the glory of God, and all creation is shouting for joy. Come, dance in the forest, come play in the field, and sing, sing to the Glory of the Lord.” In the middle of summer vacation, I think of this refrain from the musical setting of Marty Haugen’s version of “Canticle of the Sun” written by St. Francis.
Most of us will spend time outside this summer, perhaps playing or watching sports or taking time to walk outside. Our state of Indiana is blessed with many beautiful state parks for camping, hiking, enjoying the beach on Lake Michigan and just enjoying nature. In Indianapolis, we have many city parks, and Eagle Creek Park — one of the largest city parks in the country. Of course, many may be taking vacations to the ocean or mountains as well. You also may tend your gardens as you care for flower beds and vegetable gardens. This season moves us to engage with God’s creation.
St. Francis wrote his beautiful “Canticle of Praise” to God in such a way that celebrates how all is connected to God. All creation, including us, glorifies God. As creatures who are created by God, we have a relationship with the rest of God’s creation. In fact, in Genesis we are given the gift and responsibility to “cultivate and care for” (Gen 2:15) God’s creation. In his encyclical Laudato si’, Pope Francis reminds us, “All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents” (Laudato si’, #14).
What are some ways that we can care for creation? I have some simple suggestions. First, do not litter but instead place all trash in trash containers. I have noticed increasingly more trash on the roadsides around Indianapolis. When I was a child there was a public service campaign to inform us to quit polluting. If hiking trails in nature, stay on the trails and carry out any trash that you come across. Try to reduce our use of disposable containers or bottles and instead use reusable containers and refillable water bottles. Recycle everything that is recyclable. If you are the last one to leave a room, turn off all the lights. Maybe use less air conditioning when a space is not being used. Plant some perennial grasses and flowers in our yards that grow back every year and that do not need to be cut regularly. If you see animals in nature, enjoy watching them but do not disturb them. These are just a few of many possibilities. Consider reading Laudato si’ to better inform yourself of our Church’s teaching on our collective responsibility to care for the environment. You can find it for free on the Vatican website in the language of your preference: https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals.index.html. We are called to become good stewards of God’s creation as its entrusted caretakers.
Nature can fill our souls with an incredible sense of awe of God. May this summer season of spending some time outside renew us and fill our souls with a deep gratitude for our amazing God who made heaven and earth. May our hearts, our minds, and our mouths “sing, sing to the Glory of the Lord” (Haugen, “Canticle of the Sun,” #677, Ritual Song, GIA 2016).
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Rev. John P. McCaslin