“Canticles of the Earth”

Some books I can’t let go of. I tell myself it’s time to donate this book to our library here, but I just can’t move myself to do it. Such a book is Canticles of the Earth by F. Lynne Bachleda. Published by Loyola Press in 2004, this little book (it’s 5″ X 7″) “shows us how to look through a spiritual lens and see God in the natural world.” I was praying with this book the other day, and I decided to share a few excerpts for today’s blog.

First of all, let me mention that this book draws from a wide range of writers from William Wordsworth to Buddha, from Thomas Merton to Emily Dickinson, from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin to Julian of Norwich—and many, many others. Some excerpts might be a page or more. But most are brief paragraphs. Here are ten excerpts I thought you might find “nourishing.”

(Photo by Hieu Hoang – Pexels)

1. We humans think we are smart, but an orchid, for example, knows how to produce noble, symmetrical flowers, and a snail knows how to make a beautiful, well-proportioned shell… We should bow deeply before the orchid and the snail and join our palms reverently before the monarch butterfly and the magnolia tree. The feeling of respect for all species will help us recognize the noblest nature in ourselves. Thich Nhat Hanh

2. If you wish to know the divine, feel the wind on your face and the warm sun on your hand. Buddha

(Photo by Pixabay)

3. I must share with you a story about a particular barren time in my life when I used a tree for a spiritual director. I learned so much that year because I listened in silence… Because it was small, I couldn’t lean on it but could only sit beside it. That taught me a lot about what the role of a spiritual guide should be… Even though it was small, it had the ability to give a certain amount of shade… You don’t have to have a lot of leaves to give shade… Because it was silent I listened deeply… You don’t need a lot of words to connect with God. Sister Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB

4. In the name of God, stop a moment, close your work, look around you. Leo Tolstoy

5. Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the ploughshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart for any seeds the wind may bring. Henri Frederic Amiel

6. When Jesus commanded people to “love their neighbor,” did he say all neighbors were necessarily two-legged ones? Matthew Fox

(Photo by Lum 3n – Pexels)

7. Don’t make lists, or explore ancient accounts.

Forget everything you know

and open. Dorothy Walters

8. Protect me, O Lord; my boat is so small, and your ocean so big. Breton Fisherman’s Prayer

9. Immediately when we see or experience any natural phenomenon, when we see a flower, a butterfly, a tree, when we feel the evening breeze flow over us or wade in a stream of clear water, our natural response is immediate, intuitive, transforming, ecstatic. Everywhere we find ourselves invaded by the world of the sacred. Thomas Berry

10. Grant us a heart wide open to all (earth’s) beauty; and save our souls from being so blind we pass unseeing when even the common thornbush is aflame with your Glory. Walter Rauschenbush

(Photo by Kelly – Pexels)

For reflection:

Do any of these excerpts speak to you today? If so, which one(s)… and why?

Do you have any books that you have held on to for years? If so, which book(s)… and why?

PS: When I chose this topic for today, I couldn’t help but think of all those millions of people suffering from natural disasters all over the world—especially the people who were in the path of Hurricane Ian. Let us continue to pray for all who are suffering from natural disasters of all kinds, and for the people who give them aid in whatever way they can—whether it is direct assistance, monetary contributions, prayers.

Our video today is the ancient prayer of St. Francis of Assisi called “Canticle of the Son” written in the 13th Century. This version is a recitation of his prayer with accompanying pictures of nature’s beauty.

I encourage you to respond below to today’s reflection. My readers always tell me how much they enjoy hearing from other readers!


  1. Sr Kathleen McDonnell on October 2, 2022 at 11:33 pm

    I have many books that I can’t give away. Tuesday’s with Morrie, The Last Lecture, My Life With the Saints, to name a few
    When I can’t fall asleep I will grab one of these and read a chapter or two.

  2. John Hopkins on October 3, 2022 at 5:35 am

    Good morning, Sr. Melannie,

    I really love all those quotes, most of which point the way to the sacred through our natural surroundings. Macrina’s using a small tree for a spiritual advisor — how great is that! I might copy that one and give it to a student I know who likes to calm down by sitting in the boughs of an enormous beech tree on campus. Books? I have read Esther De Waal’s “Seeking God” at least four times. Yes, prayers for the world!

  3. Marie Rivard on October 3, 2022 at 8:17 am

    Still not getting your emails

  4. BonnieOlsen on October 3, 2022 at 10:45 am

    I’m not getting your emails I had been and so enjoyed them

  5. Terry Corr on October 3, 2022 at 3:45 pm

    Please excuse my pragmatism; copy and paste this into your bookmarks folder: https://melanniesvobodasnd.org.

    On Mondays click on that bookmark and Sr. Melanie’s blog will be delivered to your computer instantly.

    There shall be no excuses for missing out on receiving any her blogs. You’re in control.

  6. Frances Betz on October 3, 2022 at 8:20 pm

    I relate to Number 10, especially today, when I hiked a beautiful trail through the forest to the ocean’s rocky shore, then back into the forest, and walked out on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. I find that my senses become much more acute when I’m enjoying the natural beauty around me. I hear and see birds, notice the different plants, and all the different shades of green. The forest seems mysterious in how the vegetation and trees die and decay, producing other things like lichen and mushrooms, etc. The ocean today was sparkling and blue, along with the sky. God is good, His creations are amazing, and I am grateful.

  7. Sondra Poplar on October 4, 2022 at 9:00 am

    Not receiving your blog for some reason. Can you please look into this for me? Miss you terribly🥹. Sunnie Poplar

  8. Nancy Mraz on October 5, 2022 at 10:18 am

    We live in North Naples and were spared but you can’t feel good with all the devasation around you. Thank God it has not rained since Ian. Praying for all those families. Not good at the computer but will try to send you a picture of one of our orchids that was entwinned in the tree and we couldn’t . bring it in. Four beautiful orchids bloomed the day before Ian and survived the wind and rain! God is good

    Not getting your blog either. Hope they can fix fast! Pray for you and all our fellow readers!
    Love and prayers, Nancy M.

  9. Susan Bachner on October 5, 2022 at 7:36 pm

    One book that I keep on my side table is “Living Joy” by Chris Stefanick. Can always find something to bring joy to my life.

    • Annmarie Ragukonis on October 9, 2022 at 9:01 am

      Excellent book, multiple copies given as a gift from my parish. I highly recommend it!

  10. Susan Bachner on October 5, 2022 at 7:37 pm

    Still not receiving the blog.

    • Jane Fisher on October 19, 2022 at 10:04 am

      I do appreciate your blogs but for some reason no longer am receiving them. My e-mail is [email protected]. Hope I can get back on the list. Thanks,

  11. Christine Bianco on October 7, 2022 at 2:12 pm

    Hello Sr. Melannie…wanted to let you know about another problem I encountered with email. I also was receiving Bisop Baron’s daily gospel reflection, but as of last Monday it stopped coming into my inbox. I contacted Word On Fire and the nice gentleman there tried to fix it. But he also told me that Hotmail, the provider I have, sometimes gets “overwhelmed” with all the internet traffic and will stop sending things to people. He recommended subscribing to Gmail, which he said their research indicated was the most reliable. I already had a Gmail account, so I did as he suggested and now I am getting the gospel reflections there. I also just resubscribed to your blog with my Gmail. Will see if that works next Monday! But as Hotmail is still my main email, it’s a little annoying to have to check both. Wondering if the Hotmail issue might be part of your blog problem. Anyway, I’ll find you somewhere, no matter what! Blessings!

  12. Sunnie Poplar on October 8, 2022 at 10:18 am

    Hope you can get me back on your email list.
    [email protected]
    A dear friend forwarded this to me.

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