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Finding God in Nature

Min Wullems shares why he loves Finding God in Nature...

This year is the 5th anniversary of the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’. It was published on 24 May 2015. Now is an opportune time to review what has happened over that time.

I was born in the Netherlands the year WWII ended. The city where I was had been totally destroyed by the Germans. My father spent most of the war hiding in cellars or lofts, only coming out to attempt to find food after dark. If he had been caught it would have meant one of the harsh working camps for him. My parents barely had what they needed to support themselves my two younger brothers and myself. Nature as I know it today simply was outside my knowledge, outside my reach. My father had been keen to emigrate from the Netherlands so that we as a family might have a better chance of living the kind of life he wished for. He had found work with Philips and through them he managed to find a position in Wellington, New Zealand. So, in December 1953, we set out to catch a ship heading to Wellington, with only what we could carry. After six weeks at sea we arrived in Wellington, we were absolutely amazed at Wellington harbour. There were what seemed to us, mountains all around. We had never seen mountains before! I was eight years old and all this seemed like a fairy-tale. 2020 05 14 10 24 17

I first began to go out into the bush, the New Zealand bush, at the age of about nine. Since then, I have been totally captivated by the beauty, the diversity of nature, the landscape, the plants, the trees, the insects, the birds, the animals, and all that fills its every nook. I love the New Zealand bush, its grand mountains, its great rivers, its beautiful lakes. I have spent a lot of time enjoying it on my own, taking others who were interested into it, experiencing a manifold of different experiences there, and where possible, involving others in these experiences.

2020 05 14 11 36 20When I moved to Australia in 1965, its bush, mountains and deserts, while so very different to that which I was used to, appealed to me just the same. I have been fortunate enough to be able to afford a Landcruiser, this has made it possible for me to go to places that would otherwise be off-limits. The Australian deserts are a particularly captivating. Every one of them is so very different! I particularly remember one experience when I was in the desert country south of Mildura. I was standing all alone in the middle of this beautiful salt-pan. I turn around, and here sweeping towards me was a massive wedge-tail eagle. It passed directly over me, clearing me by a mere metre or so. It was just me and the eagle, or was it? I then realised that God was here too, and had given me this unforgettable experience. Later, I thought, I should have taken a photo with the camera which I had slung over my shoulder. Then I thought, if I had done that, I may have had a fabulous photo, but the experience would not have been the same. Give me the experience every time. The memory of it, and my imagination are just so much richer!

  2020 05 14 11 40 06

It is only much later that I am barely able to describe what I experienced then and subsequently! In the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins

 

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God. …
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod: …
And for all this, nature is never spent;”[1]

 

And again, from the Bible:

 

’…And to all the wild animals, all the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that creep along the ground. I give all the foliage of the plants as their food.’ And, so it was. God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good.[2]

 

2020 05 14 11 52 43

 

And again, from the Bible:2020 05 14 11 55 37

 

You founded the earth on its base,
to stand firm from age to age.
You wrapped it with the ocean like a cloak:
the waters stood higher that the mountains.

You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow in between the hills.
On their banks dwell the birds of heaven;
from the branches they sing their song.

From your dwelling you water the hills;2020 05 14 11 58 26
earth drinks its fill of your gift.
You make the grass grow for the cattle
and the plants to serve man’s needs.

How many are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you have made them all.
The earth is full of your riches.
Bless the Lord, my soul![3]

 

 

And again, from the Bible:

For everything created by God is good,
and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude;
for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.[4]

 

And again, from Pope Francis:

2020 05 14 12 07 34

 

“Laudato Si’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, SaintFrancis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.[5]

 

And again, from St. Francis of Assisi, quoted by Pope Francis:

2020 05 14 12 02 12

Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun,
who is the day and through whom you give us light.

And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour;
and bears a likeness of you, Most High.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather
through whom you give sustenance to your creatures.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night,
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong”.[6]

 

When I go into the bush, the Australian bush, yes, even the Australian deserts, they are wonderful places, places of serenity. If I become really still, … quiet, and really listen, becoming aware of my surroundings, then I find I am not alone! There are many creatures around me, but even more I become aware of God’s presence, his deep, all pervasive presence. It fills me with awe, an awe I cannot express! If only I could stay there all the time! But no, He allows me to taste this, then sends me back reminding me that He is always there for me, and for those whom He sends to me. He does allow me to revisit Him in these special places, allows me to drink in all that I am able.

How can I not share this with others! Faber’s contemplative walks are a fabulous way to introduce others to this! So, while I am physically able, I would dearly like to continue my participation in these walks.

 

Min Wullems

 


 

[1] God’s Grandeur, 1918, Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ

[2] Genesis 1:30-31

[3] Psalm 104:8-14

[4] 1 Timothy 4:4

[5] Laudato Si’ [1]

[6] Laudato Si’ [87]; Canticle of the Creatures, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, New York-London-Manila, 1999, 113-114.

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