Tag Archives: animals

29 April: Saint Endellion.

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I wonder, dare I introduce yet another Celtic Princess and Saint?

Endellion was a sister to Tydfil, the South Wales Martyr; their father was King Brychan of South Wales. It seems there was a family-run mission from Wales to Cornwall – the royal family was as busy then as their descendants are today, but more directly evangelising rather than fostering good works.

Even so, Endellion felt the call to a quieter life, spending more time in prayer as a hermit both in Cornwall near the village which bears her name today, and more remote from humanity, on Lundy Island. She had a cow, whose milk was her principal source of nourishment. I like to think of her making cheese as well as drinking the liquid milk, and sharing cheeses with her sister and brother, Saints Dilic and Nectan, who lived nearby.

Quite a family!

The story is that Endellion was martyred by Saxon pirates and buried on a hill-top, where a church in her name stands to this day. The icon was made by John Coleman in 2005; we were glad to see such a peaceful figure in the church. Her cow is there and the symbol of themartyr’s palm, in view of her death at the hands of heathen men.

The Church hosts many concerts and arts events as well as its regular Anglican worship.

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24 April: Intergalactic Explorations XXXII: noses to the ground

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Alfie: I really would miss Spring, if ever we went back to Ossyria! Breathe in! Spring smells different here in wet Canterbury. Plus we get some Abel time.

Ajax: Hmmmph. Don’t you get fed up of walking in the cold? Even Will’s neighbours noticed I was shivering. I could have stayed curled up on Mrs T’s sofa.

Alfie: Are you missing pod life then? I don’t remember any scraps of roast lamb there.

Ajax: True. But …

Alfie: But … Will has got himself out to give us a walk on a cold, wet morning. How can we say Thank you?

Ajax: By turning for home now?

Alfie: Don’t be soft! Now where’s he taking us? Are you telegraphing him? A short cut before the fox’s den? No, come on, pull this way. And stop.

Will, responsive to the dogs’ wishes, walked on another ten metres, then stopped while they sniffed around for the fox.

Will: White violets! Fancy that, just four yards away from the path I cycle along and I’ve never noticed them before in thirty years! Thank you guys!

And with that they turned for home.

 

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January 9: The Virtue of Temperance, III: Temperance and Moderation.

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Good food in moderation: Broadstairs Baptist Church Hall.

One of the words St Thomas Aquinas uses to speak about temperance is moderation. For St. Thomas, moderation is concerned with that place between the extremes of too much and too little. It is a ‘place’ that is not always easy to find because it requires us to make use of our reason – an extremely important notion for St. Thomas in his understanding of the human person. He emphasises repeatedly that the human being is a rational animal. In saying this he wants us to understand that as ‘animals’ we do some of the things animals do. But as rational beings, we have the capacity – indeed, it is an ontological imperative – to order our ‘animal’ life according to principles and values that mere animals cannot begin to understand.

Yet, our capacity to order our life according to the ‘good of reason’ is somewhat weak, because we are ‘fallen’ through original sin. The integrity of our being is affected, and there are times when our emotions and bodily instincts are apt to clamour for what is not truly good for us. We love pleasures of all sorts, and they are often what lead us astray. We are especially attracted to the pleasures involved with food and sex.

The pleasures of food and sex fulfil our bodily existence, and enable us to continue as a species. So far so good. The trouble is that they seem to suggest that we will be made happy by pursuing these pleasures to the exclusion of all else. But pleasures can deceive. If we follow the path of pleasure in an immoderate way, we will soon experience all the misery that comes from addictive behaviour – for the bodily appetites, if unchecked, simply cry out for more and more pleasure while these same pleasures simultaneously deliver less and less of the very pleasure they seem to promise. This kind of problem simply goes with the package of our fallen human nature. No one escapes it; we must all grapple with it. Temperance, understood as the capacity to moderate the requirements of our physical life in accord with the good of reason, is the virtue that is concerned with these matters.

SJC

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18 October, Saint Luke: Watching

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The wind whisked and sighed all night and

at sunrise-time some secret sun

shed what passed for light, but even

bats were sceptical of day and shot

by in fitful flight, long past their

vanishing-hour,

 

while wind kept sweeping through, rustling

like ladies in long silken skirts.

Nothing sparked or spiked in morning

sunshine that wasn’t, and yet,

this shadowed and speaking scene seethed,

strange with the life

 

I strained to see.  Autumn’s sunflowers

rocked and swayed, scarcely able to

stand, like tall thin drunks on their stems,

sleepy heads lolling, and they seemed

about to slither down, feet first,

into a heap,

 

while wind – I relished standing in

it – used its huge hands to swish the

leaves of trees and push tree tops round

in circles and made sounds like surf

foaming, swirling, hurling itself

on the seashore,

 

sliding back, all slick, and hurling

itself over and over –

 

such

dark, brooding exuberance –

 

such

fierce sibilance –

 

such lavishly

lively gifts of Being –

 

all mine, at dawn

 

as I stood

in the dark wind

 

watching.

 

 

 

SJC.

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Sister Johanna’s poem about Watching and the Wind seems appropriate for Saint Luke, who gave us his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, where he tells how the Spirit came in a great wind and settled over the Apostles.

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July 31, Inter-galactic encounters XXX: the wrong seats, II

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Ajax was telling the Director about something that had happened while the two Ossyrian researchers, disguised as Chihuahuas, had been staying with their friends, the Turnstones.

‘Abel had just had his birthday, so he’s now two. He and his parents came round while we were at Will’s, and when Will brought the tea tray into the front room, Abel pulled his mother off the armchair. He said, “Grandad chair, Grandad chair!’

‘He was quite agitated’, said Alfie, ‘as if the whole world depended on everyone being in the right place. He sat on his own little green chair when he’d got his grandparents sorted.

‘Mrs T was laughing, but Abel was too intent on getting things right to notice.’

‘What do we take from that?’ Pondered T, the Director. ‘An inborn desire for order, security, perhaps. But Abel does not always want a rigid routine. He also wants adventure. Remember when he went paddling in the pool last winter?’

‘Don’t remind us!’ said Alfie, ‘and don’t expect us to come swimming with you just because the air temperature is above 20° Celsius.’

‘He was wearing a ski suit and boots. But do I take it that you guys are ready to go back to pod life? I’m sure it could be arranged in a couple of earth months.’

The pseudo-chihuahuas buried their heads under their common blanket. There were thoughts they did not wish to share with the Director.

 

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July 30: Inter-galactic encounters XXIX, the wrong seats: I.

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‘Hey, T’, beamed Alfie, as the train pulled out of Canterbury, ‘Can’t you read English?’

T had just jumped off the train, said ‘Hi’ to Will Turnstone, grabbed the dogs’ travelling bag and scooped up the pseudo-chihuahuas’ leads and leapt back on board, all in 30 seconds flat. No wonder he did not notice he had trespassed into the First Class compartment.

‘Oh, Come on Alf,’ he beamed back. ‘I’ve been away for three days: what kind of a greeting is that?’

‘Just warning you, T. Here comes the guard to check tickets. Look at that little white antimacassar.’

‘What Alfie’s trying to say,’ interrupted Ajax, ‘is that we are in First Class and I bet you have a standard class ticket.’

‘Sure I do’, T was saying as the guard came by.

‘Hello again sir,’ she said. ‘And who are these fine creatures? Do they mind being petted?’

‘No, go ahead, they’ll take any amount of fuss.’ So for the rest of the ride, in between her duties of platform watching, whistle-blowing and flag-waving; ticket inspection and sales, the guard spent her time in First Class, chatting to T and stroking Alfie and Ajax.

Back home, T said, ‘Will told me how all the old ladies and teenage girls homed in on you two. A babe magnet, he said.’

‘It’s just a chihuahua thing,’ Ajax replied. ‘But you sitting in the wrong seat reminds me of something that happened.’ (to be continued)

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25 May: The Builder’s Dog without the Ossyrians.

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The Builder’s Dog in his Hi-Vis coat was wary when he entered Will’s place. Were those Chihuahuas around? Nor scent nor sound nor scratch marks on the gate. All was well, except that he had a stretch of time, impossible to contemplate, without his mistress who could not take him on her sunshine holiday.

The food was good – exactly the same as at home, except for treats like scraps of Sunday dinner. The walks were OK, except that the Mistress was not there and Will and Mrs T avoided walking down BD’s home street. But the park and Abbot’s Hill were full of smells that humans were utterly unaware of.

It was coming down Abbot’s Hill one evening that BD gave Will his reward. Or was it the other way blackcaparound? An urgent, complicated overlay of scented canine communication required close study, and BD was pleasantly surprised not to feel the lead jerk. Will, too, was fixed to the spot. He was listening to a Blackcap, perched in a suburban Japanese cherry tree, singing his heart out, ignoring the human and dog below.

As Will said later, there’s always something to be grateful for. And he enjoyed another little link as he researched this post: according to Wikipedia, the Blackcap’s song provided the theme for Saint Francis when that famous bird lover Olivier Messiaen wrote his Opera, Saint François d’Assise. Not just any bird then!

Blackcap by Ron Knight

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March 20: A Sandwich for Saint Cuthbert

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March 20 is the feast of St Cuthbert, who died on this day in 687. There is a story that one Friday, the bishop of Lindisfarne, Saint Cuthbert was welcomed into an isolated farmstead by a woman who offered to feed him and his horse. ‘Stay and eat’, she said, ‘for you won’t reach home tonight.’ But Cuthbert would not break his Friday fast, so he rested a while, let her care for his horse, and pressed on his way. It got dark well before he was in sight of home so he found shelter in a tumbledown, empty, isolated shepherd’s hut.

Here his horse began to pull down the thatch of the roof to have something to eat, but even Cuthbert could not see thatch as food for a man, however hungry he might be. The horse carried on attacking the roof, making the best of what was available in this wild place. As it pulled at the thatch, a packet fell to the floor; when the good bishop opened it he found bread and meat, the meat still warm. He shared the loaf with his beast as he gave thanks to God. How did the meal get there? Was it concealed by the hospitable woman as she tended his horse back at the farm? Cuthbert did not know, but he was happy to eat what was provided after his day of fasting had finished – for like the Muslims at Ramadan today, he would have counted sunset as the day’s end.

In Muslim countries today, many Christians will observe the fast in solidarity with their neighbours. So  let us enjoy our sandwiches – yes, even in this season of Lent – to thank the Lord who provides the food, as Cuthbert did, and to share in the ministry of hospitality, like the woman on the farmstead.

Cuthbert in a wall painting at Durham Cathedral.

Please remember in your prayers Abbot Cuthbert Johnson OSB, sometime Abbot of Quarr, who died on January 16, 2017. He was from Saint Cuthbert’s diocese and was ministering there when he fell sick and died.                         Will T.

Photo from thepelicans.org.uk where you can read Abbot Cuthbert’s obituary and an address he gave for the Missionaries of Africa to whom he remained close. http://thepelicans.org.uk/obituaries/obits24.htm#pjohnson

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20 February, Inter-galactic Exploration, XXIII: Peeeeeeeeeeeep! Peeeeeeeeeeep! part 2.

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‘Well,’ said Ajax after Will and Abel had taken themselves back to the railway station. ‘What do you make of that story?’
‘I liked Callum,’ said Alfie, ‘but he seemed a bit aggressive to start with.’
‘So, my friends,’ aked T. ‘Which was the real Callum? “Nasty piece of work” or “you made my day”?’
‘I guess if someone expects you to be a nasty piece of work, that’s what they’ll see, but I smelt anger coming out of him,’ said Alfie. ‘That was before we heard about him at school.’
‘And what if Will had been stealing you? Surely he’d have been righteously angry on my behalf?’
‘But you would not want Will beaten up by an angry law enforcer,’ countered Ajax.
‘He was never going to be touched by Callum, except for that handshake. Once Callum knew the dogs were OK, then Will was OK. And when Callum recognised Will he stopped being a cop and became just a human being. Mind, I might get Sergeant Callum to have a word about the way Will lets Abel stuff you with treats when you have perfectly balanced K9Krunchees in the bowls here.’
‘Leave Abel alone,’said Alfie. ‘K9Krunchees are better than certain other scientific foods we all remember. Adequate but incomplete, the old six foods and four drinks, but K9Krunchees seem to give me an appetite for more interesting things that you couldn’t sniff out in your human disguise.’
WT.

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19 February: Intergalactic Discoveries XXII: Peeeeeeeeeeeep! Peeeeeeeeeeep!

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Peeeeeeeeeeeep! Peeeeeeeeeeep! Will Turnstone stopped walking across Margate sands and about turned. A policeman was gesturing from the promenade. ‘Are those your dogs, Sir?’ he shouted.
Will called Abel, who was leading the Chihuahuas, or were they leading him?  They all walked towards the Waste Land shelter, where the police sergeant had parked his Land Rover. ‘You should have them on the lead, you know. And surely these are not your dogs. I see them out with a tall guy with glasses. What are you doing with them?’
‘We’re walking them for Mr T while he gets some writing done, aren’t we Abel? Abel’s my grandson. And Abel had them on the lead; no case to answer, tear up your ticket.’
‘Someone said much the same to me once before, Mr Turnstone. You remember me, I’m Callum Waters from Saint Darren’s School; it’s your voice gives you away.’
‘Certainly not my grey hair,’ said Will, ‘but I could hardly forget you and Liam. I guess you’ve given up smoking now?’
‘I need to stay fit, driving round all day. But we didn’t turn out so bad; Liam was in the Marines, saw some terrible things before he left. He’s living in Donegal now.’
‘And you’ve seen your share of trouble, in your job, no doubt. I’m glad we caught up after thirty years. And one thing. Thank you for that day you told me to go home because I was still poorly. You were right. And Miss Everard was totally wrong when she told me you were a nasty piece of work. I wanted to prove her wrong, but it’s you that did that, even if she could not see it.
We’d best get these dogs home and this boy back to his parents. Put it there, Callum, you’ve made my day.’
 
 Will , Ajax and Alfie on another day. Chihuahuas hate rain or water in any form except in bowls for drinking.

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