Being Present to Presence: A Nature Meditation

Joining us for a guest post is Joe Lonergan, Director of Student Services and Spiritual Formation, at the Franciscan School of Theology.

“The first garden, Eden, is the eternal paradiso. We were never taken away from it because that garden is Christ. The gift of contemplation – being awestruck and aware of this unity and community of all things – comes
implanted and imprinted in each of us”

Riley, Dan. Franciscan Lectio: Reading the World Through the Living Word  (Massachusetts: Paraclete Press, 2022), 112.

Every Thursday morning during the 2022-2023 school year, Franciscan School of Theology hosts a contemplative sit in the Garden of the Sea at the University of San Diego. This beautiful garden overlooking Mission Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and the city of San Diego, is a serene and beautiful space to greet one’s day. It is alive with active hummingbirds, several varieties of blooming flowers, some majestic pine trees, and cleansing winds.

Resting on the end of the garden overlooking the panoramic view of San Diego is a simple statue of St. Francis. It is at this point that we take time each Thursday to listen to a brief Franciscan reflection and then enter into twenty minutes of silence together and being present with “this unity and community of all things.” Oftentimes, the sit will begin with this statue covered in shadow, but by the end of our time, it is emblazoned with sunlight.

This intentional time set aside helps us enter a divine intimacy. “Think of it in this radical, spiritual way – of a creature returning to its creator with a longing and true passion to be with the One who has made us” (Riley, 114). So, in a very authentic way, we are opening ourselves up to a vibrant, relational world and a God who lives and dances through it all.

This time of prayer and being present to the moment also connects us to the message of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “on care for our common home.” To find ways to live out the meaning of this landmark letter, we see our contemplative sit as a necessary posture to help us be more aware of and proactive in caring for creation. This is confirmed by Pope Francis’ words, “We are speaking of an attitude of heart, one which approaches life with serene attentiveness, which is capable of being fully present to someone without thinking of what comes next, which accepts each moment as a gift from God to be lived to the full” (LS 226).