Julie Vickery contemplates how encounters with God in nature may aid a person's spiritual growth.
Before considering how encounters with God in nature can help us grow in the spiritual life, there are some things about these natural experiences of God that Catholics should know: first, all human beings are capable of encountering God in nature (See Catechism of the Catholic Church 50).
Secondly, these encounters are possible because we are created "in the image of God" (CCC 36); Genesis 1:27).
Third, "by natural reason man can know God with certainty, on the basis of His works (CCC 50).
Fourth, "[man) alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God's own life" (CCC 356).
The fifth thing important to know about encounters with God in nature is the reality that, by grace, man is called to offer his Creator "a response of faith and love that no other creature can give" (CCC 357).
Finally, there is a common understanding among scholars and others involved in spiritual direction that God reveals Himself to us in a way that feels personal. For example: a single person, who enjoyed an active life before the current restrictions brought on by Covid-19, sits in her home, when she becomes aware of the birdsong filling the morning air and floating through an open window. Captivated by the various sounds of the birds, she suddenly realizes she is not alone. God is present with her. Feeling the Creator's consoling presence, she responds with faith and praise.
Hopefully, an actual encounter with God in nature would not end with a spontaneous response to His initiating call for relationship but would lead, instead, to actions that aid the spiritual life.
Five possibilities are suggested below.
- Form a habit of daily prayer that can be easily kept — for example, commit to praying at least a decade of the Rosary every day.
- Reserve a place in your home where you can have private time with God — tell Him how you feel and then wait and listen for His answer.
- Follow God's command, "Be still and confess that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). Moments of stillness are a must for growing in the spiritual life — which is to say, growing in love with God.
- Enthrone the Sacred Heart in your home.
- Use the memory of your encounter with God in nature as a starting point for a reflective response to His initiating call. Follow the general steps for theological reflection, substituting a photo or other object for the written passage. Begin by choose a starting point: for example, a passage from the Bible. Then:
- Read the text, identify the central point (the heart of the matter)
- Reflect (have an awareness of the emotions that have arisen) and select a single image from your thoughts.
- Draw parallels with the image that are taken from your personal experiences, from Scripture, Church teaching, or the lives of the saints.
- Identify what you can take away from your reflection: insights that can be applied to daily living in the presence of God.
Copyright 2020 Julie Vickery
Image: Jacques LeHenaff (2018), Unsplash
About the Author
Julie Vickery is a wife and mother of two grown children. She has a Master of Arts degree in Sacred Theology and enjoys continuing her studies online. Other favorite pastimes include reading and writing nonfiction, gardening, walking and taking part in local and online inter-faith discussion groups.