Connecting with God

Since moving to Guelph, a passing hobby has become something of a passion. While I have always taken pictures of places in which I’ve lived or visited, it was usually to serve a practical purpose: to show friends and family back home what I’ve been up to since joining the Jesuits.

It wasn’t until I arrived in Guelph to begin my Regency assignment at the Loyola House retreat centre that this practice became less practical and more personal. It has become an end in itself.

 Take, for example, the tree featured in these pictures. If one is looking north from inside Loyola House, it stands very prominently, alone, in the middle of a field. It’s hard to miss, and so when I first visited here, I took a picture of it; and satisfied that the tree had now been ‘documented,’ I promptly moved on and forgot about it.

But since moving here, I’ve returned to that tree again and again. And each time, I see – even experience – something new: A new shade in the leaves as the seasons change, new cloud formations that surround it, new colours in the sky that illuminate it.

 All of this has left me with a deeper appreciation of Monet and his haystacks, or Rouen cathedral, where he would return to many times to paint in different seasons, and at different times of day. In my brief stay here, I believe I have come to appreciate more deeply how a place, even a familiar one, has secrets to reveal, and that these secrets are not revealed quickly, or easily, but rather through a process of engagement.

And I think it has been in this process that I have found a new and deeper way of connecting with God.

 A God whispering in the wind, leaves and even snow. A God who is hiding in the smallest of details that just barely manages to catch my eye.

A God who manages to reveal something new of Himself – if only ever so slightly – in that same tree as I walk past it again and again.

And so in my better moments, I (very, very humbly) hope that a few of my photographs somehow manage to capture something of what I feel I’m seeing as I walk along. They serve to remind me not just of a tree, field or plant, but of an experience behind it – such as the ones I am sharing with you today from a few weeks ago.

They’re of a sunset I remember as being particularly spectacular, the likes of which I’ve never quite seen before. But beyond that, they’re of an experience that I remember…an experience of something almost approaching awe.

An experience of seeing not just a tree, or clouds, or sky, but from something more; an experience of standing, alone, in a wide empty field, seeing heaven nearly touch the earth.

(Photos courtesy of the author)

Matthew Hendzel, SJ is a Canadian Jesuit scholastic currently working at Loyola House in Guelph, Ontario

  • Sharon Walters
    Posted at 09:54h, 30 October Reply

    Beautiful photos and thoughts!

  • Viola Athaide
    Posted at 10:16h, 30 October Reply

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing your experiences and photos.

  • Paul Baker
    Posted at 11:03h, 30 October Reply

    Thanks Matthew for sharing your experience of being gifted by God in your experience of your tree at sunset. You use the word engagement to describe your encounter with your special tree. I would use the word, relationship. The tree has become your friend. Be grateful to God for your new friend and stay in touch. Your article reminds me of a July 23, 2018 igNation posting of an article I did entitled, Station of Creation.

  • Maria Skarzynski
    Posted at 13:43h, 30 October Reply

    The eye of an artist and poet – and thank you for letting us appreciate a little of what you saw .. and see every time you pass.

  • Jeanine Glute IBVM
    Posted at 15:32h, 30 October Reply

    Thank you for this. Makes me “homesick.”

  • Eric Jensen
    Posted at 15:51h, 30 October Reply

    Moments in time captured for eternity!

    Thanks, Matt!

  • Eric Jensen
    Posted at 15:52h, 30 October Reply

    Moments in time captured for eternity.

    Thanks, Matt!

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 20:51h, 30 October Reply

    Thank you Matt!

  • Shannon Gittemeier
    Posted at 12:21h, 13 February Reply

    Thank you for sharing your insights into God’s presence in the beauty of nature! My Sophomore theologians at Marquette Catholic High School in Alton, Il will be working and praying with your post in the upcoming week. I am looking forward to the discussion surrounding your phrase, “…process of engagement.” May you continue to see God at work in your life and document that process via your artist’s eye and poet’s heart. <3

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