Not too long ago, our family had a season of summer vacations to national parks. Every other year we made a road trip to one of the great ones: Big Bend, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. It was the right time for us to do this- three of our four kids then were boys, ages ten down to four when we started. They needed active summer adventures. We wanted something restorative and quiet. We also wanted to show all four some of the big, beautiful world God the Father has created for his beloved children.
The parks did not disappoint. The kids have great memories of extreme (to us) hikes and heights like we’d never experienced. Above all, the trips were special times together as a family and special times of an easy and natural closeness to God, latent in His creation. Despite some physical aches and pains, my husband and I came home feeling renewed in body and soul, feeling … loved, children ourselves of a God who bestows such achingly beautiful gifts: time-chiseled canyons of rock of every color, vast wildernesses smelling of pine and water and teeming with animal life, snow-capped mountains towering over shimmering lakes.
In such blessed moments, it is easy to echo St. Francis’ exuberant “Canticle of the Creatures,” ‘Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us…
Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures,
Especially Sir Brother Sun,
who is the day and through whom you give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor;
And bears a likeness of you, Most High.
Creation reveals the Creator and draws us into relationship with Him, as children of a loving Father. For myself, continued connection to the natural world shines a brighter light on the beauty of its cosmic design and the simplicity of its innate order, as well as keeps me grateful for the gifts my Father’s creation continues to bestow- each cycle of my fertility, each developmental milestone of our toddler’s life, the rain each fall after summers of earth-scorching heat, the wildflowers that burst forth in color against the horizon each spring.
Pope Francis echoed the language of St. Francis’ Canticle with the title of his encyclical on the environment- “Laudato Si,” Italian for “Praised be you.” This is not surprising from a pope who took his papal name from the same St. Francis of Assisi. In English, the content of the encyclical is more easily understood by its subtitle, “On Care for Our Common Home.” The encyclical covers a broad spectrum- from a review of the ecological situation of the current time to a synopsis of the consistent teachings of the Catholic Church on stewardship of the earth, to a challenge to live an integral ecology which recognizes the interrelatedness of respect for human life and respect for the environment in which humans live. While sweeping in scope and ambitious in challenge, Pope Francis’ fundamental message is a simple one. Protect life, beginning with human life. Preserve that which sustains life.
His connections are most clear to me when he uses the language of gift: “… creation can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of the Father of all, and as a reality illuminated by the love which calls us together in universal communion” (76).
Married sexuality with its power to co-create life is one of the greatest gifts within the gift of human life. The sympto-thermal method of natural family planning is a model of integral ecology practically lived by married couples. It begins with an appreciation for the gifts of a woman’s fertility and a couple’s sexuality. It’s respectful of human life from the moment of conception and cares for the earth that sustains life. It’s clean family planning for women that supports the healthy process of ovulation. It’s green family planning because there’s no prophylactic trash or hormone-tainted water supply. There’s not necessarily any waste other than paper charts and a thermometer every decade. Human resources are developed throughout the process.
For fifty years, CCL has supported married couples in family planning that is natural, effective, healthy, and consistent with God’s plan for life, love, and marriage. For fifty years, CCL has promoted an integral ecology, before the phrase was even coined. For fifty years, CCL has protected human life and preserved the earth that sustains it. St. Francis, on your feast day and every day, pray for married couples living natural family planning together. And… Laudato Si, loving Creator and Sustainer of all life.
Melissa Gorley, CCL Staff Coach