On my honor, I will do my best … To be a good steward of creation.
– Trail Life Oath
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
– Genesis 1:31
God calls us to become responsible members of our community and the world through selfless acts that contribute to the welfare of others.
– Trail Life Statement of Values
It was 38 degrees outside. It was early. And yet, these boys arose and arrived at the designated time and place, not to pay (although there was some of that), but to pick up whatever didn’t belong on the church grounds. After an hour of walking around the block slowly hunting for discarded gum, cigarette butts, and the occasional bottle or can. When combined with their sisters’s bags over ten pounds of garbage was removed. Then it was cookies, cider, and hot cocoa!
Trail Life is a Christian Outdoor Adventure, Character, and Leadership Program for boys and young men. Outdoor adventure was intentionally placed immediately after the Christian character of Trail Life. The Trailman should love, know, and feel comfortable in the outdoors. This is why, during all four seasons, there are adventures planned. You can find them building snow shelters, taking spring hikes, setting up camp in the summer camps, and partaking in autumn’s bounty. Over time these boys develop a deep, abiding love of creation and the Creator. The passages below, taken from “The Catholic Church and Stewardship of Creation,” lay out some of the theology behind OR-1531’s approach to creation:
“At the very beginning of the Creed, the Catholic Church professes its belief in one God who created heaven and earth. That Creator, unlike those described in the pagan cosmologies of antiquity, is described as good–indeed, as the only good that is whole and perfect.”1 The opening pages of Scripture also repeatedly emphasize that the Creator looked upon his creation and “saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:4; 1:10; 1:12; 1:18; 1:21; 1:25). Of all his good creation, it is God’s creation of mankind that completes the created order in such a way that he pronounces it to be “very good” (Gen. 1:31). The Catechism of the Catholic Church reinforces this fact: “Man is the summit of the Creator’s work, as the inspired account expresses by clearly distinguishing the creation of man from that of the other creatures.”2 Human beings are described as part of that creation, as specially created in God’s image and likeness, and as endowed with the unique powers of reason and will.
The order that is inscribed into the very fabric of creation reveals to us that not only is everything God created good, but also that creation itself reflects the grandeur of God. In the ancient tradition, the Church Fathers often spoke of nature and Scripture as two divine books. The first shows us some of God’s attributes through traces and images of the Creator imprinted on material things. Among these attributes are his transcendence, sovereignty, and marvelous creative power that appear to us in the vast cosmos and the fertile earth with its wonderful assortment of creatures. Even some peoples prior to or outside the influence of revelation were moved by the wonder of the world to intuitions about its origin and how everything had been brought into being. The sheer variety of things led them to speculate about the plenitude of their source. The order and intelligibility they found everywhere seemed a trace of some divine reason or unitive principle operating in all creatures. The world’s beauty and majesty spoke of some perfect spirit at work. Stars, seas, mountains, animals, and plants visibly pointed beyond themselves to some invisible reality hidden to mortal eyes.3
The biblical revelation deepened these intuitions still further, placing them on a firmer foundation, and encouraging believers to observe ever more closely the world God had made. The Wisdom Literature and the prophets testified to a profound experience of God’s creative power and guidance over the world, and a sense of the awesome responsibility of the human creature. Or, as the Psalmist eloquently describes it:
When I see the heavens, the work of your hands,
the moon and the stars which you arranged,
what is man that you should keep him in mind,
mortal man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him little less than a god,
with glory and honor you crowned him,
gave him power over the works of your hand,
put all things under his feet.
All of them, sheep and cattle,
yes, even the savage beasts–
birds of the air, and fish
that make their way through the waters. (Ps. 8:3—8)
This vision combines the two basic dimensions of Scripture’s view of creation: the glory and majesty we may contemplate in what God has made, and our surprising dignity as active stewards of the world, despite our mere creatureliness. This realization has echoed throughout Christian history. Saint Francis of Assisi best expressed the concrete implications of this insight in encouraging his followers to contemplate creation and to praise God “in all creatures and from all creatures.”4 It is no accident that the Franciscans, who loved and rejoiced in creation more than other religious orders, shaped individuals such as Roger Bacon. Bacon paid careful attention to nature and, as a consequence, figured prominently after the medieval period in the development of early experimental science.5 Thus, in echoing a long-standing tradition, the Second Vatican Council declared that Scripture enables us to ‘recognize the inner nature, the value, and the ordering of the whole of creation to the praise of God.'” Article