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Each of us has our own experiences of life and the natural world, which lead us to ponder the Mystery of God's creation. Within these pages (or Leaves), I compiled my favorite Biblical passages, quotations, and reflections for prayer, study, and meditation. I hope you enjoy the beauty of the individual Leaves as well as the entire tree. I arranged this short book from a Christian viewpoint, as a Roman Catholic, who appreciates both the natural world and human life. I ask God to bless you, the reader, that you may grow closer to the Creator and to a greater awareness of our role to protect life as helpful servants of our brothers and sisters, and wise and holy managers of the earth and its resources.

In addition to the treasure of the Word contained in Holy Scripture and the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, there are countless possible moments in our lives and the environment speaking volumes about God. In my own life, my parents were my first teachers directing me to signs of God's Love and Presence. They were faithful in bringing my brothers and me to Church, praying at home, taking us on walks and family trips to parks, mountains, lakes, forests, and Shrines, teaching us how to swim, guiding us through school, homework and activities, scouting, camping, hiking, backpacking, canoeing, and star-gazing, and onto college and careers. We planted vegetables and flowers, watered plants and weeded, played and swam, raked leaves, and shovelled snow. We filled bird feeders at the nature sanctuary, watched nuthatches, chickadees, and woodpeckers. We walked through bogs and woods, and helped on trail days. We botanized and learned the names of plants. We watched sunrises, sunsets, and eclipses of the moon. We enjoyed time together visiting relatives and friends.

Upon receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, I chose St. Francis of Assisi as a patron saint since he was close to God and all His creatures "great and small." While on camp staff in the Adirondack Mountains (1981), I was inspired by remarkable sunrises, sudden thunderstorms, the flora and fauna, and night constellations. In college (19811986), particular Scriptural passages became appealing and the focus of meditations, especially during the Liturgy of the Hours. In graduate school (19871993), my wife and I enjoyed exploring nearby parks. I started editing for an international botanical project (1993). Our family begins Sunday at Mass at our parish Church, and then we take the family on day trips much like my parents did for us.

I was touched by the words of Pope John Paul II on a human ecology, and a meditation by Father Barbaric of Medjugorje, and I very much wanted to share these. Thanks to the Mary Foundation, St. Jude Media, and Marytown, I was inspired by the writings of St. Maximilian Kolbe and my family enrolled as Knights of Immaculata in 1997, and soon after, I learned about current research findings on the Shroud of Turin connected with botany. All of these various happenings and the wish to share the Gospel's profound message of life, faith, and hope with my children and the interested reader have contributed to the organization for this book.

The title Leaves of Prayer presents multiple meanings. First, I arranged the book as a book of prayer and meditation. Pages of books have sometimes been referred to as "leaves", and reasonably so when we recall the origin of the paper. Secondly, each Scriptural passage and quotation is like a leaf arranged on a tree. Thirdly, the photos and drawings provide wonderful leaves upon which to reflect. As the saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words." Fourthly, when joined or uplifted, our hands can be thought of as "leaves of prayer." Finally, we are branches on the Vine Who is Jesus, together forming the Church, the Body of Christ, the Kingdom of God.

(C) 2002 by Anthony R. Brach.