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Center for Action and Contemplation
Loving God Through Creation
Loving God Through Creation

Praying with Nature

Monday, October 30, 2023

Richard Rohr recalls his first experiences with the prayer of the Pueblo people in New Mexico:

In 1969 when I was a young deacon in Acoma Pueblo, one of my jobs was to take the census. Because it was summer and hot, I would start early in the morning, driving my little orange truck to each residence. Invariably at sunrise, I would see a mother outside the door of her home, with her children standing beside her. She and the children would be reaching out with both hands uplifted to “scoop” up the new day and then “pour” it over their heads and bodies in blessing. I would sit in my truck until they were finished, thinking how silly it was of us Franciscans to think we brought religion to New Mexico four hundred years ago! [1]

Though I have no family links to Indigenous religions, I have great respect for their wisdom. My early experience at Acoma Pueblo has inspired me to continue to learn about the Pueblo, Diné (Navajo), and Apache peoples here in New Mexico. But I only know enough to know that I don’t know much at all. Indigenous spirituality is not intended for non-Native use. When we try to interpret or apply these teachings in our own context, we run the risk of “severe reinterpretation” [2] according to our own cultural lens and preferences, and without enough regard for their traditional origins.

I also don’t want to romanticize Native spirituality. As in every religion, there are times, places, and people who “get it”—the mystery of divine/human union—more than others. There are different stages and states of consciousness, and all are part of the journey. Western models of development usually focus on the rational mind, which offers one way of knowing reality, but in fact, there are many other ways of perceiving and expressing human experience. [3]

Choctaw elder and retired Episcopal bishop Steven Charleston offers a meditation honoring different ways of knowing that have fed his soul:  

For all the great thoughts I have read
For all the deep books I have studied
None has brought me nearer to Spirit
Than a walk beneath shimmering leaves

Golden red with the fire of autumn
When the air is crisp
And the sun a pale eye, watching.

I am a scholar of the senses
A theologian of the tangible.

Spirit touches me and I touch Spirit
Each time I lift a leaf from my path
A thin flake of fire golden red
Still warm from the breath that made it. [4]


[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Walk in Beauty,” Daily Meditations, August 10, 2018.

[2] William C. Sturtevant, preface to Native North American Spirituality of the Eastern Woodlands: Sacred Myths, Dreams, Visions [¼], ed. Elisabeth Tooker (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1979), xv. 

[3] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Other Ways of Knowing,” Daily Meditations, August 7, 2018.

[4] Steven Charleston, “Scholar of the Senses,” in Spirit Wheel: Meditations from an Indigenous Elder (Minneapolis, MN: Broadleaf Books, 2023), 22. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Loïs Mailou Jones, Jeune Fille Français (detail), 1951, oil on canvas, Smithsonian; Textile Design for Cretonne (detail), 1928, watercolor on paper, Smithsonian; Eglise Saint Joseph (detail), 1954, oil on canvas, Smithsonian. Click here to enlarge image.

Creation teaches us to love God in all Her death, decay, fallow times, insemination, growth, blooming and life and death and life.

Story from Our Community:  

I have been reading the daily meditations for a few years now. Rarely a day goes by when there hasn’t been an “ah ha!” moment, an eye-opener, a new perspective to consider. But it really hit home recently as to just how much an impact these meditations have had on me. I was in the midst of making a very difficult decision, one that had me tossing and turning at night. During one of these sleepless moments, I asked God for help. Admittedly, I’m not one to pray often. “What should I do?” It didn’t take long for the answer to come, not ‘out loud’ but in my heart. My heart was telling me, “Make your decision from a place of love, not fear. Always love.” I knew immediately what my decision would be. And there have been no regrets. In fact, it has taught me to trust this notion of always operating from a place of love. Thank you, Fr. Rohr and everyone at CAC. —Kathleen C.

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