Be Saved by Beauty this Lent

By Sister Linda Straub 

The external deserts of the world are growing because the internal deserts have become so vast. For this reason, the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion.—Pope Francis, Laudato Si #217.

Lent is a time for conversion. How might we respond to Pope Francis’ call to profound interior conversion of heart this Lent? In harmony with our chapter call to action, “Communion within the Earth Community,” let us open our hearts to conversion and experience God’s love for us through the wonders of creation.

Nature is filled with words of love, but how can we listen amid constant noise, interminable and nerve-wracking distractions, or the cult of appearances. —Pope Francis, Laudato Si # 155.

Nature is full of words of love and once we hear them, our hearts are changed forever. This is the purpose of Pope Francis’ letter to us—slow down, be present, be still, let your hearts be moved. John Muir, an American naturalist, environmental philosopher and founder of Sierra Club, experienced this great love as he communed with the beauty of nature. Rocks and waters, etc., are words of God and so are men (sic). We all flow from one fountain Soul. All are expressions of one Love. (Letter to Catherine Merrill, Yosemite 1872.)

Nature is healing. When we are worried and feel overwhelmed, nature can restore us, can bring peace to our hearts. Nature reminds us of the bigger picture, the immensity of God’s great love for us. With so much violence in our world, so often we feel discouraged. Beauty is an anecdote to violence, both within and outside ourselves. Beauty can help us heal the brokenness of our planet beginning with our own hearts. As Dostoevsky said, “The world will be saved by beauty.”

How can we bring more beauty and healing love into our lives this Lent?

First we need space and silence in our lives to “listen” to the words of love God speaks to us 24-7 through nature. Budget time each day taking in the beauty of nature. Sit near a window or, when possible, outside. Be fully present to the air on your skin, the sun on your face, the sound of birds in the air. Notice your breath and how the exchange of air outside becomes the source of life sustaining elements within you. Take in the beauty and give thanks.

This season take time to receive God’s words of love in nature. Begin today by putting in your prayer space a beautiful flower or treat yourself to a new spring plant. Enjoy its beauty—let it speak to you words of love. What if this Lent we make as our contemplative prayer 10 minutes of walking/sitting outside and spending those moments listening, observing and relishing the wonder of creation.

This Lent may our hearts be opened. May we hear God’s words of love through nature and may we respond with acts of love, compassion and mercy to all of creation: the air, the rocks, the water, the plants and animals and the human family. And may we and all the world be saved by beauty.

Sister Linda Straub is a member of the Province Leadership Team

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