This weekend our family flew to Houston for my sister-in-law’s graduation, and we had the opportunity to slip away for a few hours to take Pia to the zoo for the first time. I love zoos. As such, I know my husband thinks this trip was actually for me and not for our daughter, but I think it was actually for all of us. Not just because exotic animals are super cool (they are), or because we desperately needed some alone family time (we did), or because we needed fresh air and exercise (again, yes) but because creation…whether it be mountains, or the sea, or the stars, or, yes, the animals…has something to do with leading our souls upward. My mother used to take me to our city zoo when I was Pia’s age almost every month, and I’m convinced it did a great deal of good in preparing my heart for God (and here she thought she was just entertaining me!).
Recently I received a little confirmation of all of this via my current book of choice — Fire Within by Fr. Thomas Dubay, on St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross regarding prayer. He had a section on creation and nature as helpful aids in the development of our prayer life. He writes, “because creation shouts the Creator to the attentive heart, the man or woman who sets out on a serious pursuit of God uses the finite order as a stepping-stone to the infinite.” Of St. John of the Cross he writes, that he describes “the vast diversity and variety and numbers of plants and animals, and he concludes that ‘only the hand of God, her Beloved’, could create such grandeur.”
I heartedly agree! So wether you are getting your kiddos out for a hike, a walk in the park even, or yes, the zoo, let them soak it all up… and marvel with them… at how the long the necks of giraffes or the trunks of elephants are. You’re doing a world of good for them, and possibly more than you thought in preparing their little hearts for their prayer life!