In his autobiography, St. Ignatius Loyola recounts how “the greatest consolation he used to receive was to look at the sky and the stars, which he did often and for a long time, because with this he used to feel in himself a great impetus towards serving Our Lord.” (11)
Ignatius’s fondness for stargazing resonates with me, because nature is my go-to place for finding God. When my prayer life is dry, going out into nature invariably brings me back to God, as everywhere I turn, I see God’s gifts. When my prayer life is lush, it becomes even more verdant when I’m in nature, because the more I see, the more praise emanates from my heart.
The other day, I was walking along, admiring the bronze and golden leaves lining my path. I noticed before me a stretch of sidewalk upon which leaves had left indelible imprints. Some prints were delicate and perfect, while others were smudged.
These leaves left a silhouette in my mind that lingered long after I passed that stretch of concrete. As I walked along, I realized that, although they had lived only half a year at most, in this short time they had brightened my path with vibrant greens in the spring, shaded my face from the searing sun in the summer, and now, even in death, had left their mark upon the earth—and my heart. I continued on, contemplating how God had created every leaf, every blade of grass, every butterfly, and every rainbow—and how, despite their fleeting existence, their presences had left a lasting impression on me. I found myself humming the old hymn, “How Can I Keep from Singing?”
As I ambled on, I thought too of all the people that God has created. If we consider our lives against the backdrop of eternity, our life span is akin to that of a leaf. St. John Paul II’s words came to mind:
A human being is an object to be counted, something considered under the aspect of quantity, one of many millions. Yet at the same time he is a single being, unique and unrepeatable…If our human statistics, human categories, human political, economic and social systems, and mere human possibilities fail to ensure that man can be born, live and act as one who is unique and unrepeatable, then all this is ensured by God. For God and before God, the human being is always unique and unrepeatable, somebody thought of and chosen from eternity, some called and identified by his own name. (Urbi et Orbi Message, Christmas 1978, 1).
Isn’t that beautiful? Like the leaves of autumn, we are each “unique and unrepeatable” and “chosen from eternity.”
It makes me wonder, what will be my imprint upon the earth?
And you, my “unique and unrepeatable” friend, what will your imprint be?