A couple years ago I was on a climbing trip at the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. My climbing partner and I were making an attempt to summit the iconic mountain. The hiking approach just to get to the saddle is a physical feat of its own and takes a good amount of time. For the first several miles of the hike, we were surrounded by tall trees and narrowly focused on the climb we were about to do. Then, in a blink of an eye, we broke the tree line and were surrounded by beautiful gneiss peaks. The sight literally stopped us in our tracks, and we were so overwhelmed by its beauty. I cried tears of joy. In moments like that, it is impossible to deny the presence of God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth.
That experience is comparable to the feeling I got when I visited West Virginia for the first time or any of the times I did the hike to the top of the Nazareth Farm property or watched the gardens grow. It is a feeling of excitement and hope that ignites contemplation and peace. One morning, shortly after I moved to the Farm, I was standing in the parking lot waiting for our send off prayer before leaving for the worksite. There was fog on the ridges of the holler, and it looked like the mountains were breathing and had something to say. It reminded me of the Canticle of Daniel (Daniel 3:57-88), specifically the line: “Mountains and hills, bless the Lord; praise and exalt Him above all forever (Daniel 3:75).” When we have encounters with nature, we begin to realize that, “creatures of this world no longer appear to us under merely natural guise because the risen One is mysteriously holding them to Himself and directing them towards fullness as their end. The very flowers of the field and the birds which His human eyes contemplated and admired are now imbued with His radiant presence (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ 100).”
When we come to this realization we understand more fully the urgent need to protect and defend nature. This is increasingly important during a time of a climate crisis, environmental degradation, exploitation of land and low income communities, mountaintop removal, and fracking, just to name a few of the issues we face. These issues aren’t only concerning because of the effect they have on people and our climate, but it also puts the wild and wonderful places we love at risk. Exploitation of nature, is exploitation of people, and is exploitation of the beauty of God’s creation. Much of this exploitation is caused by destructive consumption habits.
Today, May 24, 2020, is the 5th Anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, his letter about our current ecological crisis and the plight of the poor and vulnerable, the people who are most affected by environmental degradation. In it he highlights our need to resist the throw-away culture, not unlike Nazareth Farm’s decades-old call to simplicity. Living simply, as many people who have visited the Farm know, has many personal benefits like increased gratitude, less clutter, more time to focus on relationships, etc., but there is a deeper, communal aspect of it as well. When we live a life of simplicity we uphold the common good, resist the destruction of ecosystems, and protect the earth and people. Simplicity is a practice of solidarity.
-by Kayla Jacobs, past staff member at Nazareth Farm