Catholic Activity: Supernaturalizing God's Creation
Sky, trees, sun, all of nature was created by God and serves Him perfectly, giving Him great glory. But nature study by itself teaches only an assortment of interesting facts. It can teach much more, if we would use it to teach as Our Lord did, and help our children to see the world as proof of God and His greatness and generosity.
Sky, trees, sun, all of nature was created by God and serves Him perfectly, giving Him great glory. But nature study by itself teaches only an assortment of interesting facts. It can teach much more, if we would use it to teach as Our Lord did, and help our children to see the world as proof of God and His greatness and generosity. For instance, one time Our Lord said:
Consider the ravens, for they sow not, neither do they reap, neither have they storehouse nor barn, and God feedeth them. How much are you more valuable than they!
He was talking to grown-ups at the time, telling them to be so detached that the sight of a flock of crows would remind them to trust their Father in Heaven. We have crows all over our pasture and woods in the summertime, and the children love to think of Christ watching just such flights, hearing the same sounds of cawing when He told his listeners to think of crows like this. If you live in the city and complain, "But we have only sparrows in the city," well, He said the same thing about sparrows. Weren't two sparrows sold for only a penny? He asked. And yet not one fell to the ground without God's first giving permission. "Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." We do not have to tax our ingenuity in our use of nature to teach our children these first steps toward detachment. We need only to imitate Christ. That is one of the ways He taught most often.
Encouraged to look at the world this way and to wonder at all its beauty and mystery, they begin to see these truths by them selves. Then the ants around an anthill tell them wonderful things, not just about ants, but about the power of God Who could give such tiny insects instincts of order and industry which they follow faithfully and thereby give glory to Him.
A child will come in to report tearfully that kitty has caught a mouse and is eating it on the porch, and it is the beginning of learning the incredible obedience in nature: that it is the nature of kitty to do just that. A mouse will eat the grain (or nibble the bread in the pantry), a cat will eat the mouse, a dog will chase the cat, and on up the scale. It is a fallen world since the first sin in the Garden, and we are all the victims of fallen nature. Animals have no soul like ours, no reason, no gifts of grace. So they are obedient to their nature by doing the things their instincts tell them to do. And in their obedience, they praise God.
During deer season in our part of the country, the children are horror-stricken at the thought of killing deer; even seeing hunters cross our land to go into the hills makes for much excitement. So every season we have to reread the passage in Genesis where God gave man all the beasts of the earth for his food. Then explaining that by hunting, for the purpose of food, the deer population is kept in check and the orchards which bear our native apples and peaches are protected from damage by too many deer, they begin to learn something of the Divine economy in nature, the pattern of victim to prey, and the great dignity of man to whom God made all other things subject.
These things may seem trivial, far afield of detachment, but for children they are the beginning. But often we miss the opportunity, in our haste to correct them for some attitude we think cruel or disrespectful, to use such situations to anchor them just a bit more firmly in their knowledge of God For instance, some children discovered a turtle and started pelting him with stones. When they ran back to report the fun to the grown-ups, some admonished them not to throw stones at turtles: "It isn't nice." Others said, "You mustn't throw stones at turtles. God made the turtle and he is obeying God perfectly, according to his turtle way. You are far above a turtle. You have a mind and a soul, many things he has not. When you see a turtle, see him as something quite wonderful coming from the hand of God, with a funny little head that goes in and out, and a little house he carries on his back. And remember that both you and he were put here by God to do His will and praise Him the one by acting like a turtle, the other by acting like a boy."
This sounds like the kind of thing that might go in one ear and out the other, especially coming in the middle of an afternoon of noisy play. But days later, one of the boys at the turtle episode ran to his brothers after discovering a baby rabbit in its nest.
"Did you catch it?"
"No, it's God's. I just kneeled down and looked at it."
Every mouse, every bird, every ant and grub can be an occasion for a small reflection, and these poured together like grains of sand slowly, surely, help to anchor a child in God.
Activity Source: We and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland, Image Books, 1961