All Is Beautiful Before Me

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This is a full prayer service that was prepared by the Racism Committee of the Sisters of Mercy as a way of commemorating the five hundredth anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in America. The prayer pairs themes of Native American spirituality with Christian traditions. This is a beautiful prayer, suitable for students and adults.

The following prayer service, sent to us by Cheryl Erb, RSM, author of our feature article in this issue, was prepared by the Racism Committee of the Sisters of Mercy of Cincinnati as a way of commemorating the quincentenary.

For the prayer environment, use an arrangement of Native American symbols: earth-tone cloths or Native American weavings, a smudge stick (a bunch of dried herbs tied together with string), pottery, candles. Also, a censer and incense from the Catholic Tradition should be on the floor next to the arrangement.


Leader 1 reads: With our prayer service today, we commemorate the five hundredth anniversary of Columbus's arrival in the Americas. Today we focus on the spiritual heritage that the Europeans brought to what they believed to be the New World, and the equally rich spirituality that was embodied in the people who already walked this land.

Incensing and Smudging

Leaders 2 and 3 approach the arrangement. Leader 2 reads: The use of incense is familiar in the prayer of the Catholic Tradition both as a purification for something or someone and as a prayer offering to God. Let our prayer rise like incense before you, O God.

Leader 2 takes the censer, prepares the incense, and proceeds to incense the assembly, bows and incenses to the right, center, and left, bows again, and replaces the censer at the foot of the arrangement.

Leader 3 reads: In the Native American tradition the smudge stick or smudge pot is an important part of prayer and ritual. Smudging is a process of cleansing the energy field through the use of smoke from burning herbs. The herbs most often used are sage, which gets rid of negative energy, and sweet grass, which draws positive energy.

Leader 3 lights the smudge stick and waits until the fire is out and the smudge stick is smoking. Then leader 3 smudges the six directions. North, West, South, East, above, and below. This is done by waving the smudge stick in each direction to disperse the smoke.

Stories of Creation

Leader 2 reads: This reading is a story of Creation from the Judeo-Christian tradition, in the Book of Genesis. Read Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-23.

Leader 3 reads: This reading is an origin story, a folk myth from the Blackfoot Native Americans. Read the story called "'Old Man the Creator" from In the Beginning, by Virginia Hamilton (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) pp. 25-27. Other creation stories from the Native American tradition can be found in public library collections.

Song and Chant of Response

Leader 2 reads: Let us respond to the stories of our beginning by joining in a song from the Christian Celtic tradition. Everyone joins in singing "Christ Be Beside Me," available in many Catholic hymnals and missalettes.

Leader 3 reads: And now let us join in praying the Navaho chant "All Is Beautiful Before Me." Everyone joins in the chant below.

All is beautiful before me,

All is beautiful behind me,

All is beautiful below me,

All is beautiful above me,

All is beautiful all around me.

This covers it all,

The skies and the Most High

Power whose ways are beautiful.

All is beautiful . . .

This covers it all,

The mountains and the Most High

Power whose ways are beautiful.

All is beautiful . . .

This covers it all,

The water and the Most High

Power whose ways are beautiful.

All is beautiful . . .

This covers it all,

The darkness and the Most High

Power whose ways are beautiful.

All is beautiful . . .

This covers it all,

The down and the Most High

Power whose ways are beautiful.

All is beautiful . . .

All is beautiful . . .

A Message from Chief Seattle

Leader 1 reads: I invite you now to listen to and reflect on the words of Chief Seattle to President Franklin Pierce in 1854, in response to inquiries by the U.S. government about buying tribal lands.

Two options for conveying Chief Seattle's words are possible. Use the fourth videocassette, Sacrifice and Bliss, in the Bill Moyers PBS television series The Power of Myth. The beginning of this tape features a dramatic rendering of Chief Seattle's message. Or have one of the leaders read the following excerpted version.

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. . . .

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. . . . The water's murmur is the voice of my father's father.

The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So . . . give to the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.

. . . The air is precious to us . . . the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

. . . This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.

Our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator . . .

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children and love it, as God loves us all.


Leader 1 reads: Let us pray: We thank you, God, for this land that was cared for by Native Americans. May we learn from the first Americans how to revere, care for, and shore all of creation. We ask this in the name of the God who walks among all people. All respond, either with a Christian "Amen" or a Native American "Ho." Both responses mean "Yes, I believe; it is so."


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Published February 1, 1992.