Caring for creation as a family
As March came in like a lion and is, hopefully, going out like a lamb, we are finally coming out of the bleak midwinter and looking toward the spring!
Coinciding with the new life gifted us by Christ which we celebrate in Easter, the spring brings to new life a special beauty of nature as God’s Creation awakens in vibrancy and joy. The natural world is surely a wonder, and not only for the beauty we can perceive in its sights and sounds and scents, but for the balm it provides the soul.
We know we are a special part of God’s creation when we sense how our souls harmonize with nature, and the benefits of experiencing the natural world are even well-documented by the sciences.
Maybe one of the best aspects of the natural world is its vastness. We can all, undoubtedly, not only connect with some part of nature, but we can care for God’s creation too. In fact, we are called to do so. We are privileged to be stewards of the world God gifted us, and caring for it is not only a special responsibility, but an experience which enriches our lives and our faith.
Here are some practical ways your family can care for God’s creation as we head into spring:
Creating a Mary Garden is a beautiful way to bring together our Catholic faith traditions and caring for God’s natural world. Mary Gardens typically include flowers and plants that have some connection with the Blessed Mother, and often feature a statue of Mary. You can find a lot of helpful resources online to help you get started. Catholic Icing offers a great introduction at www.catholicicing.com/how-to-start-a-mary-garden-at-home/
Caring for animals
There are many ways you can help care for animals in your community. Supporting your local shelter in their work to help the homeless pets is one. Check out the website of your local shelter for a wish list you might contribute to or look into fostering a cat or a dog, kitten or puppy. Many shelters also have ways you can help from home.
Give each child an opportunity to care for creation
Even the smallest child can help care for the gift of nature. Purchase a small indoor plant for a child as an opportunity to learn to nurture life. Also, as those of us without a green thumb know, there are several varieties of hardy plants that are very forgiving, so you can get some good advice at a nursery or by doing research online.
Ideas from the Laudato Sí Movement
Laudato Sí is an encyclical letter promulgated by Pope Francis in which he addresses how we are called to care for creation. The Laudato Sí Movement works to fulfill these ideals, and offers 52 ways to care for creation at their website –https://laudatosimovement.org/news/52-ways-to-care-for-creation-en-news/
Appreciating nature as a family
One of the most effective ways to instill a love and appreciation for God’s creation, and a desire to care for it, is to simply be in its majestic presence. Take a hike together, find a place with great bike trails, go to the beach – the possibilities are endless, especially in New Jersey where our drive to a lake, a mountain or the ocean is relatively short! When you return, start a conversation with your family about the difference between how you feel in nature versus in front of a screen. Note for parents – try not to use this conversation as a way to put digital technology in a bad light. Instead, use this opportunity as a way to help your children grow into the habit of maintaining a healthy balance between connecting with the natural world and making good use of technology.
As St. John Chrysostom wrote, “From the creation learn to admire the Lord! Indeed the magnitude and beauty of creation display a God who is the artificer of the universe. He has made the mode of creation to be our best teacher.”
Jessica Donahue serves as director of religious education in St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton.
Faith at Home is a monthly column coordinated by the Diocese of Trenton’s Departments of Catechesis, Evangelization and Family Life, and Youth and Young Adult Ministry. For additional Faith at Home resources, visit dioceseoftrenton.org/faith-at-home.