Listening to the Groans of Creation

i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?
it answered

Excerpt from the poem,
“what they did yesterday afternoon”
by warsan shire

We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; 
and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, 
we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, 
the redemption of our bodies.

Romans 22-23

St. Francis loved creation, really loved creation like a person loves a parent, a brother, a sister.  He saw the glories of creation and at the same time, he heard the groaning of creation.  Today as I sit with an atlas on my lap and move my finger from east to west, I ponder how I am attuned to the earth’s groaning that has become ever more intense in recent years.  I muse and converse with creation… 

Brother Sun and Sister Moon, as Saint Francis of Assisi called you, you are precious and radiant in splendor, I cannot live without you.  I hear your groans in the dark cold of night and the day illuminates the suffering of creation, near and far. 

As I move my fingers across the world, I come in contact with so much more than I can in my imagination alone. I can whisper to the places I touch and begin to perceive the groaning of my world, God’s creation.

As my fingers linger over cities, do I hear you, Brother Wind groaning in the pollution that fills our once clean spaces?  Can I discern the suffering of my brothers and sisters coughing and gasping for freshness, for life? As I move my hand, can I hear your howling, Brother Wind, in tempest, hurricane, cyclone, typhoon and monsoon, followed by groans of despair and loss in the wake of the storm?

As I touch oceans and seas, rivers and streams, lakes and ponds, the birthplace of water in the atmosphere, do I remember my experience of you, Sister Water, as you cry tears in abundance in torrential rains and the groaning of floods?  The moaning I hear from people and animals displaced, trees and vegetation uprooted and carried away fills my heart, as well as my ears.  I can also touch many areas of lack of precious water, places of drought and dryness, the earth cracking in pain and people dying of starvation. Oh, how my world suffers under such stress!

Moving on, my hands reach out to places where you, Brother Fire, have been powerful and strong, the earth hurting, scorched by your might and so much destruction.  Flora and fauna cry out in anguish.

There remains our whole planet, you, our Mother Earth, wailing as your inner being is wrenched by earthquakes and volcanoes and your outer shell is mangled by avalanches and tornadoes or eroded by landslides.  Mother Earth, you sustains us, can I hear your groans in the imbalances of moisture and healthy soil needed for your providence?

Harry Alan Hahne has said: “The suffering of creation is like birth pangs leading to a glorious new world, rather than the death pangs of a dying creation. The intense pain leads to a joyous outcome.” I am overwhelmed by all the suffering of creation and of the people all over my world. I can become numbed to the groaning of creation and experience great inertia, far from seeing a joyous outcome.  Yet, Saint Paul calls us to hope.  “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” Romans 12.12  Saint Francis ends his Canticle of Creation with reference to people in the midst of creation, praising God for how each one is called to live in reconciliation and endure in peace.  As I attune not only my ears, but more importantly my heart, to the groaning of creation, I  am called to rejoice in hope in each bright sunrise, each bud opening to the new day, each creature born and beginning the wondrous journey to fulness of being in God’s life.  Today and forever, I am challenged to live in reconciliation with all of creation and endure in peaceful living, so groaning may diminish and creation will flourish. 

Sister Deborah Lockwood

Franciscan Sister

Redwood City, CA