Category Archives: Laudato si’

September 20: L is for Lindisfarne

Coble_SH105_1_(Nigel_Coates)

A modern coble captured by Nigel Coates

Let’s go almost as far north as we can in England, to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. There are many stories of the early saints of Holy Island, and we can come back to Cuthbert, Aidan and their companions again. But today I’m retelling a cautionary tale of the last two centuries, from Richard Perry’s 1946 book A Naturalist on Lindisfarne. It is worth the telling because we need to take care of our earth and the seas that surround it.

The morning I wrote this piece there were fishermen on the radio convinced that Brexit would lead to greater catches for themselves with the European nations excluded from their grounds.

Perry suggests this is unlikely to happen.

He tells how over-fishing at the end of the nineteenth century led to the end of the herring industry. The fishermen took to catching white fish inshore, but

‘light trawling during the war of 1914-18 brought relief to over-trawled fishing and spawning grounds and allowed the white fish to increase to their immemorial millions at a time when inshore fishermen were beginning to suffer from the effects of this over-fishing. But within a few years of the end of the war the trawler fleets were again cleaning up the inshore grounds of both lobsters and white fish; just as the drifters had destroyed the inshore  herring fishing. By 1931 the catches of the ten Island cobles were only ten or twenty per cent of those taken before or after the war…

‘With the year 1945 at an end …events will no doubt conform to the post 1914-18 pattern, with seven  or ten good years inshore fishing, before the trawlers have swept the grounds clean of all marketable fish.’

Let us pray for wisdom all round as Britain and Europe’s leaders negotiate every aspect of their new relationship. May God’s earth, sea and air not be forgotten! And let us pray for all fishermen and all at peril on the Sea.

Laudato Si’.

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Let it snow! By David Powell

snowgapcropped

It was snowing and Tommy was really happy. This was the real Christmas scene. It was soft fluffy snow which made really good snowballs. Moreover, it was holidays so perhaps he would be able to go tobogganing with his brothers and sister. Perhaps even Mum and Dad would come too. That would be great. He loved it when they did things together as a family. It filled him with a warm glow. He heard his father singing in the bathroom whilst he stropped his razor.

Then he went down to breakfast and was glad to see it was porridge with honey. His Mum came in and kissed him. She looked very fit and he knew she did exercises every day and went to the pool twice every week so hopefully she would feel OK about tobogganing. ‘I must check my sledge, Mum.’

‘Yes, you should because last year we didn’t have any snow to speak of and you didn’t use it, but it looks fine for tobogganing today. I wish I could come but I have to go Christmas shopping with your Aunt Clara in Canterbury.’

‘You might not be able to get to Canterbury’, said Tommy hopefully.

‘Yes the busses are running. However, your Dad’s not going to work today and he really likes tobogganing. He can use the old tin tray. It’s under the draining board’.

Tommy went to get ready and join his brothers and sister. Dad came down full of merriment and eager to get going. Soon they were all kitted out in their warmest clothes with scarves, winter boots and gloves.

snowgapa

Outside it was pretty cold but they did not have far to go to the snow covered slopes of the hill behind their house. They met lots of people they knew and when they arrived at the slopes it was packed so they decided to go for a walk first.

They went for a long walk and came back home hungry and cold. Tommy’s sister and brothers prepared some lunch whilst Dad lit the log fire in the lounge. Then feeling a bit drowsy, they all dozed off until Mum returned.

They had tea together and were revived. As they became more animated Tommy’s brother Ralph went outside and said it had stopped snowing and was a beautiful moonlit night. So they all decided to go tobogganing and Tommy was very excited about the prospect of hurtling down the run in the moonlight with all his family all around.

There were still quite a few people about but nothing like as many as in the morning. The run was still smooth and hard because it was beginning to freeze. Tommy watched as his brothers and sister started their runs. He heard his father, who was an engineer say to him: ‘Son, remember it’s all about using your body weight effectively,’ but he knew instinctively what to do and enjoyed his first run down and joked with his brothers and sister at the bottom of the run.

Some people had brought flasks of hot chocolate and buns which were very welcome. Then the younger folk started to organise races in which Tommy did very well. However, his Mum seemed rather anxious and asked Tommy if he had seen his Dad recently. Tommy remembered his Dad’s last remark to him before he set off on his first run. He had not seen him since so he started to ask around but none of his family or friends had seen him for at least half an hour. So they started a serious search at the bottom of the run and in the bushes on the side thinking he might have veered off course.

But there was no sign of Dad and Tommy was very worried. He kept calling, ‘Dad! Dad!’, but there was no response. Suddenly the front door of a house to the side of the run was opened and there was Tommy’s Dad, all merry and bright. Dad described what had happened, somewhat contritely for despite what he told Tommy about weight distribution, his own weight was too much on one side; consequently he slid off course and into the house at the side of the track.

The crowd which had gathered were highly amused by Dad’s account of what had transpired and thought that perhaps they should have a ‘whip round’ to buy him a proper sledge rather than allow him to go sliding on a tin tray virtually into people’s living rooms, with the obvious intention of getting a Christmas drink.

Dad took all the ribaldry in good part and to show his sportsmanship decided to go for one final slide on his tin tray.

Tommy was very proud of his Dad, though the phrase about weight distribution would always be remembered as a reminder of the old adage, ‘practise what you preach’.

DBP.

 

 

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September 1: Day of prayer for creation.

creation prayer cafod 2017

Cafod, the English and Welsh Catholic Church’s Development and Social Service arm has invited us to join in the day of prayer for the care of creation. Here is a prayer you might like to use.

Laudato Si’!

MMB.

 

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August 25: The truth about a camp

 

milkyway

Pattie said that morning, ‘Do you know the opposite of Faith? It’s certainty.’ Perhaps, in a ‘naught for your comfort’ way, certainty belongs to hope – or deep hope against hope – rather than faith?

But this passage from Roger Deakin’s inspiring book, Wildwood – A Journey Through Trees (Penguin 2008, p 14) makes Pattie’s case very well. The writer is describing sleeping in a shed in an orchard on an August night.

To sleep half a field away from the house, tucked into the hedge, with an open door facing south into the meadow and plenty of cool night air, must surely add very much to the chances of sleep.

…There’s more truth about a camp than a house. Planning laws need not worry the improvising builder because temporary structures are more beautiful anyway, and you don’t need permission for them. There’s more truth about a camp because that is the position we are in. The house represents what we ourselves would like to be on earth: permanent rooted, here for eternity. But a camp represents the true reality of things: we’re just passing through.

And as Saint Francis would say, welcoming Sister Death: Laudato Si’ !

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August 22: I is for Ironbridge.

640px-ironbridge002

Ironbridge: the name says it. All those glorious structures like the Forth Bridge, Sydney Harbour, the Howrah, the Golden Gate and the bridge at Victoria Falls, owe their ancestry to this iron bridge over the Severn in Shropshire.

A bold venture to build a bridge of cast iron so high above the river in 1779. The beams were cast on site since transporting them would have been difficult. But would it work? Abraham Darby must have been an excellent mathematician, blessed with patience to check each step of his calculations and each stage of the casting, the building of foundations and assembly of the bridge. Here it stands today, carefully maintained, like the Forth Bridge and all those others. My grandfather, a Shropshire lad, took me to see it aged about five; it impresses me more now than it did then, unlike so many things.

Crossing the river here safely was a dream made real by Darby and the men who dug his coal, smelted, transported and cast his iron; masons, surveyors, painters. He and they had to trust in the laws of physics as they understood them. The people who keep the bridge alive –  it is still open to pedestrians – apply the physics and chemistry they understand to prevent rust, metal fatigue and erosion.

The dirt and hard labour of the Industrial Revolution have gone, leaving the Severn Gorge free from dark Satanic Mills. But if we are to build Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land we need an understanding of what we are about, and how to ensure dirt, fatigue, rust and erosion do not stop us working together.

God, come to our aid, Lord, make haste to help us!

Laudaato Si’!

MMB.

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August 17: Water of life

fountain.st.peters.rome

It was my joke, when I was researching in Rome, that my constitutional walk was down the Via Aurelia, round the fountain and back to the HQ of the Missionaries of Africa, and the (thankfully dust-free) files in the archives. The fountain was a good goal to aim for: you could hardly miss it, unless you mistook it for the one on the opposite side of the piazza. And a thing of beauty it is with the water playing in the sunlight.

This summer it is not playing. When the old popes brought water from the hills to furnish these fountains and many others throughout Rome there were many fewer people drinking less water, using less for washing and all the many processes that need water. The spring rains have not come this year: the City of Rome may soon ration water, so the Vatican City has turned off the supply to many of its fountains in solidarity with the Roman people.

People come before ornamental fountains, though even in April I was glad of the drinking fountain in the wall of the Vatican. I hope that is still running in the heat: my friend Fr Dominique Arnauld told me that the water in the fountains of Rome is reliably fresh and drinkable; and cold. You could spend a small fortune buying bottled water!

Let us not take water for granted – nor the needs of our fellow human beings, brothers and sisters. Nor indeed all the creatures that depend on water from the hills and from springs and rivers and the clouds. I’m sure I could use a little less each day. And you?

Laudato Si’ !

 

 

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August 12: Grace is given unawares and unearned and everywhere: A Franciscan Revolution People.

MMB.

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24 July: Let me count the ways – of saying thank you.

 

heart.of.pebbles

Fancy finding this at your garden gate!

We had been talking gardening with a neighbour, and ended by leaving a plant for her to rehome in her garden. When she returned to collect it she left this thank-you message. There are many ways to say thank you …

Even to people who would usually deflect any open acknowledgement of services rendered; this morning I’ve had smiles, a thumbs-up, a raised eyebrow, a few words about the weather. And a couple of explicit thank-yous.

Laudato Si’.

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23 July: In the eye of the beholder?

mermaidrose (542x408)

Is a beach, a forest, a flower beautiful when nobody is looking at it? I remember such questions being laid before us at school to get us to think. 

The answer can be many layered, from ‘of course it is always beautiful’ to ‘God sees it, and everything he made is good’, to ‘We must train our eyes to see just as we must train our brains to think.’

When I first got to know the Mermaid rose it was in a pot in the garden centre, but just asking to be grown against our house wall. It is happy there, despite its being a dry spot; so happy I had to prune it quite heavily last autumn before it scratched too many passers-by. Mermaid has vicious thorns!

So the blossom is a little late this year, but plentiful. However, there is another beauty to be seen: the shoots of new growth where the bush wants to regain lost territory. What a beautiful red, but it will last no more than a few days.

The answer to the question?

Laudato Si’ !

MMB

rose.mermaid.new.shoots.red..jpg

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July 18: A walk on the flat side.

swans.stodmarshThe marsh walk was  chosen not because it was flat but because there was a pub at either end. George was home for a few days gardening leave between jobs, his gardening consisting in sunbathing on the lawn that his mother tends with this activity in mind. Stodmarsh feels further from London than 70 miles.

Nonetheless, this is a post-industrial landscape: Chislet colliery lay under here and as land in the Stour valley subsided water and reeds took over. Paths allow dryshod walking from the Red Lion to the Grove Ferry Inn, especially after a dry winter and spring.

Mrs T is shorter than her husband and son, just below the tops of the reeds, so her view was restricted. But she enjoyed the birdsong – including two cuckoos and a booming bittern. The cuckoo is becoming rarer; there were many more when we came to Kent some forty years ago. Bitterns are a different case, no more than birds of passage back then.

Back then the old field fences could be seen from the train, gradually sinking into what was at first seasonal open water but has now become reed beds, favoured home of bitterns. Back then – even just a couple of years ago – we would have expected swallows and martins as well as swifts chasing flies. It cannot be just lack of mud for nest-building that kept them away this year.

Although young Abel will appreciate the birds he gets to know, he may never be familiar with swallows and martins, or even song thrushes. Thank God he has sparrows under his roof.

I don’t need Mr Trump’s climate change denial. I saw how entranced Abel was, aged 18 months, by the song of a robin in a nearby bush. I would like to think that, aged 18, he will enjoy the song of a nightingale from a Kentish bramble patch.

Laudato Si’ – but also – miserere nobis.

George’s picture of the swans -there were two parents and seven cygnets – shows how well the wildlife is hidden out on the marsh.

 

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