Leaves of Prayer
Leaves of Prayer
Scriptural Passages and Catholic Reflections For Those Who Enjoy Nature
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Our experiences of life and the earth lead us to ponder nature, life, and the Creator. Within these Leaves of Prayer are arranged reflections, selected Biblical passages, and quotations upon the mystery of God's creation for prayer, study, and meditation. As Catholics, we are called to appreciate both the natural world and human life.

The twenty chapters offer prayerful, optimistic meditations and images for reflecting upon God's creation-the universe, seasons, rainbows and auroras, the earth, mountains and hills, rock, wind, water, ice and snow, lightning and fire, flora, fauna, wings and angels, the human family, stewardship, suffering, death and resurrection. Pope John Paul II, Catholic saints, and scholars of various faiths are quoted upon the mystery of God's creation, our appreciation of nature, and our roles as servants of one another and caretakers of life and the environment. Twenty-five images are arranged throughout including line drawings of Christian symbols and photos of God's earth and His creatures.

Leaves of Prayer provides a simple and faithful guide to a closer relationship with the Creator and to a greater awareness of our role to protect life as helpful servants of our brothers and sisters, and wise and holy managers of the earth and its resources.

"God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good." —Genesis 1: 31
Preface Each of us has our own experiences of life and the natural world, which lead us to ponder the Mystery of God's creation. Within these pages (or Leaves), I compiled my favorite Biblical passages, quotations, and reflections for prayer, study, and meditation. I hope you enjoy the beauty of the individual Leaves as well as the entire tree. I arranged this short book from a Christian viewpoint, as a Roman Catholic, who appreciates both the natural world and human life. I ask God to bless you, the reader, that you may grow closer to the Creator and to a greater awareness of our role to protect life as helpful servants of our brothers and sisters, and wise and holy managers of the earth and its resources. In addition to the treasure of the Word contained in Holy Scripture and the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, there are countless possible moments in our lives and the environment speaking volumes about God. In my own life, my parents were my first teachers directing me to signs of God's Love and Presence. They were faithful in bringing my brothers and me to Church, praying at home, taking us on walks and family trips to parks, mountains, lakes, forests, and Shrines, teaching us how to swim, guiding us through school, homework and activities, scouting, camping, hiking, backpacking, canoeing, and star-gazing, and onto college and careers. We planted vegetables and flowers, watered plants and weeded, played and swam, raked leaves, and shovelled snow. We filled bird feeders at the nature sanctuary, watched nuthatches, chickadees, and woodpeckers. We walked through bogs and woods, and helped on trail days. We botanized and learned the names of plants. We watched sunrises, sunsets, and eclipses of the moon. We enjoyed time together visiting relatives and friends. Upon receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, I chose St. Francis of Assisi as a patron saint since he was close to God and all His creatures "great and small." While on camp staff in the Adirondack Mountains (1981), I was inspired by remarkable sunrises, sudden thunderstorms, the flora and fauna, and night constellations. In college (1981–1986), particular Scriptural passages became appealing and the focus of meditations, especially during the Liturgy of the Hours. In graduate school (1987–1993), my wife and I enjoyed exploring nearby parks. I started editing for an international botanical project (1993). Our family begins Sunday at Mass at our parish Church, and then we take the family on day trips much like my parents did for us. I was touched by the words of Pope John Paul II on a human ecology, and a meditation by Father Barbaric of Medjugorje, and I very much wanted to share these. Thanks to the Mary Foundation, St. Jude Media, and Marytown, I was inspired by the writings of St. Maximilian Kolbe and my family enrolled as Knights of Immaculata in 1997, and soon after, I learned about current research findings on the Shroud of Turin connected with botany. All of these various happenings and the wish to share the Gospel's profound message of life, faith, and hope with my children and the interested reader have contributed to the organization for this book. The title Leaves of Prayer presents multiple meanings. First, I arranged the book as a book of prayer and meditation. Pages of books have sometimes been referred to as "leaves", and reasonably so when we recall the origin of the paper. Secondly, each Scriptural passage and quotation is like a leaf arranged on a tree. Thirdly, the photos and drawings provide wonderful leaves upon which to reflect. As the saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words." Fourthly, when joined or uplifted, our hands can be thought of as "leaves of prayer." Finally, we are branches on the Vine Who is Jesus, together forming the Church, the Body of Christ, the Kingdom of God. Chapter 1. Introduction Have you ever been amazed by the wonders of the earth, life, and the universe? Every day, there is something new, something remarkable that awes us. We are reminded of our smallness in relation to the vast expanse of the universe. There is an amazing intricacy in the details of structure and function. It is fascinating how all the systems of life and nature are designed to work together. From sunrise to sunset, dew and rain, ice and snow, sunshine and clouds, rainbows and auroras, flowers and bird songs, babies to the elderly, smiling faces and helping hands, we are moved to praise and thank God our Creator. Throughout history, humankind has variously responded to God our Creator. Scientists have searched for answers through evolutionary theory, metaphysics, and "deep ecology." People of various religions have sought truths about creation and life. Sometimes, people confused and misidentified nature, the earth, and creatures themselves as "gods." When persons find God, they find the source of all truth, all that is good, beautiful, unifying, and holy. Today as we are in sorrow at the tragedies of life and the world, we realize that every one of us is called to holiness, to live in accord with our families, communities, and creation around us. We live holy lives when we radiate the love and peace of God, and when we offer Him our hearts, hands, minds, and strength to share in His work of creation. The opposite of God's Goodness and Life is evil; in fact, it is literally the opposite spelling of the word "Live." We are called to plant and to restore, to nurture life, not to destroy. To save all humankind from all that which is not life giving, God inspired the authors of Holy Scripture, i.e., the Holy Bible—The Word of God, to tell us about their experiences leading them to the Loving God whom called them. They were Israelites, the Hebrews, the Jews, and the first Christians. They told us about God and life from their perspectives and experiences living close to the land and sea as shepherds, farmers, and fishermen. For us as Christians, we believe that God sent us His only Son, Jesus, the Word made flesh, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We listen to Him Who is the Word Himself when we read the Holy Bible and hear the Word proclaimed. Our reflecting upon Biblical passages directs us to our Triune God, one God in three Persons, the Mystery beautifully reflected in the form of the shamrock by St. Patrick. The first leaflet reminds us of the first Person of this Trinity, the Providential Father and Creator. The second leaflet reminds us of the second Person, Jesus Son of God and Son of Man, the new Adam, the Living Word Himself. Finally, the third leaflet reminds us of the third Person, the Holy Spirit, the Love between the Father and the Son, Who renews the Life of God within us and in the Church. Together the three leaflets are one leaf. We pray to the Father, through our Lord Jesus, in union with the Holy Spirit. We are changed and renewed by God's new creation through the Resurrection of Jesus. May God bless us and guide us on our continuing lifelong journey to Him. The pilgrimage begins from a tiny seed (our conception), to germination (our birth), to growth as a seedling (our childhood and youth), to growth into a mature tree (our adulthood), and finally to death (and Heaven, if we choose God's Way of Life, thanks be to God). May we be firmly rooted in faith and the life of the Church, the Word and the Sacraments. May we grow with the Light of Christ and together form that perfect tree, the living vine, the Kingdom of God. May the Mother of Jesus, the Mother given to us at the "tree" of the Cross, shower us with healing and life-giving graces from God. She replaces Eve as the mother of all the living. Because she is the spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mary is a wonderful advocate. She and all the saints were responsible stewards of life. The angels, too, treasure life; they sang at the birth of the Christ Child, cried at the death of our Savior, and rejoiced at the Resurrection. May all the saints and angels guide all of us to Jesus, the Light
Anthony R. Brach was born in Rochester, NY. He received a B.S. in Biology from Iona College, and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Environmental and Forest Biology from the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry. Anthony resides in Melrose, MA with his wife and three children.

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