“Let all creation help you to praise God.
When you are walking alone, listen to the sermon preached to you by the flowers, the trees, the shrubs, the sky, the sun and the whole world.
Notice how they preach to you a sermon full of love, of praise of God, and how they invite you to proclaim the greatness of the one who has given them being.”
— St. Paul of the Cross
I came to better know the truth about myself and to more fully understand God’s direction for my life by doing two things: being active in the outdoors, and spending time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. This was not necessarily intentional, but it happened. In seeking the true happiness and true peace that we are all made for, I encountered God’s presence through creation, and then perhaps more deeply in adoration.
If you’ve ever been to Wisconsin and the shores of Lake Michigan, you know the beauty of that great lake which changes color with light and season, and the lush green forests and trails that with each step take you closer to their creator and ours. Here in Colorado, we know of the first sunlight of the day on the mountains, and the moonset over them amidst a purple sky.
Beauty naturally draws us out of ourselves and brings our minds to something other than, greater than ourselves. And if we really listen, it invites us deeper into ourselves. It speaks to us, as created, of a creator. The beauty we see and experience in creation tells of the goodness of God. It speaks to our hearts of his love. The God who passionately pursues us uses creation to draw us into relationship with himself. Who is this God, creator of the beauty of the mountains, warm sunshine, and the expansive night sky? We want to know this beauty and be known by it. We want to taste it, take it in. We want to possess it and be possessed by it.
The deepest longings of every human heart for beauty beyond description, for perfect, infinite love, are satisfied in Jesus alone. In Him we come to know the creator of the universe and we come to know our true selves.
At the JPII Outdoor Lab, our mission is to lead young people to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ through creation and the sacraments. We accomplish this by providing the opportunity, the time and place for an encounter. Founded on the basis of Pope John Paul II’s Fides et Ratio, we know that the God who created us for relationship with himself desires to make himself known. Indeed, he is always making himself known! In this Christmas season, we remember that the God who created majestic mountains and fiery sunsets is the same God who lay defenseless in a manger, completely dependent on his holy mother Mary and foster-father Joseph. We do not ascend to him. He comes to us. God incarnate, the baby in the straw, who walked among us, comes daily to us in the beauty around us and will never stop drawing us to himself. Through creation and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, we know God is truly and fully present and continues to come to us in physical, tangible ways.
Our God has chosen the human road. At the JPII Outdoor Lab, we invite young people and adults alike to open their hearts to encounter Jesus Christ and as they continue to journey with him step by step, with each sunrise and moonset, we pray that their daily lives will be transformed by the power of his love.