Eastertide and people are weeding and mowing, pruning and sowing. The journalist and chef had written about moving out of London and starting a vegetable garden. Well done to her! She clearly enjoyed getting her hands dirty and eating her first crops:
“The feeling of satisfaction and fulfilment was addictive. But it wasn’t just the eating: it was the fact that I had created my own food from a tiny seed.”
But no, no, no. You did not create your own food. Even if you are an atheist, you must recognise all the forces of nature that nourish the seed, once you’ve sown it and gone away, leaving it to grow, you hardly know how.
Have some humility; remember you are human, that is humus – earth – and to earth you will return. You can, perhaps, claim to create or design a garden. You can create a recipe for the produce of your garden but you cannot create a carrot. Rather you should watch over it, harvest it, admire it and enjoy eating it as fresh as possible, giving thanks to its creator.
Oh, I all but forgot. When you first open that packet of carrot seeds, have a good sniff, and you’ll pick up the scent of carrots before the seeds go into the ground and start their transformation. Happy Gardening and Happy Harvesting!
‘C’ is Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish thinker who was a friend of WIlliam Allingham, the Irish poet and editor, whose diary entry we share from this day in 1878. William Lecky was an Irish historian and politician, married to a lady-in-waiting to the Queen of the Netherlands. Friedrich Wilhelm was the German Kaiser. The illustration is from a Methodist book for children.
C. spoke of Darwinism. ‘ I don’t care three ha’pence for the Darwinian Theory.’
By and by he said, ‘ It is impossible to believe otherwise than that this world is the work of an Intelligent Mind, The Power which has formed us — He (or It — if that appears to any one more suitable) has known how to put into the human soul an ineradicable love of justice and truth.
‘The best bit for me in Kant is that saying of his, ” Two things strike me dumb with astonishment — the Starry Heavens and the Sense of Right and Wrong in the Human Soul.” These physical gentlemen ought to be struck dumb if they properly consider the nature of the Universe.’
Mrs. Lecky suggested that investigation as well as reverence was natural to man, and would not Mr. Carlyle permit inquiry ?
‘Oh yes,’ he said (half jestingly), ‘ man is full of curiosity — but I would order these people to say as little as possible. Friedrich Wilhelm’s plan would be the right one with them, ” Hold your tongue or else — ” ‘
My impression of scientists is that many of them do indeed have a sense of reverence as well as the instinct for investigation. We owe a great deal of whatever security we have to the work of scientists. The young surgeon who spoke to me after operating on my brain described his awe at seeing my brain within my opened skull: a privileged view of human life shared by very few people. He was all but lost for words.
We don’t have a library photo of an albatross but this gull from Folkestone is a commanding presence, by Leigh Mulley. Today is traditionally the birds’ wedding day so a good one for this story.
Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner kept one wedding guest in three with his cautionary tale of the consequences of his crime in killing the Albatross. Two centuries later, as well as sympathising with the guest, we can take the last two verses as a prayer for creation – and for us to realise and fulfil our duty towards it.
O Wedding-Guest! this soul hath been Alone on a wide wide sea: So lonely ’twas, that God himself Scarce seemed there to be.
O sweeter than the marriage-feast, ‘Tis sweeter far to me, To walk together to the kirk With a goodly company!–
To walk together to the kirk, And all together pray, While each to his great Father bends, Old men, and babes, and loving friends And youths and maidens gay!
Farewell, farewell! but this I tell To thee, thou Wedding-Guest! He prayeth well, who loveth well Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best, who loveth best All things both great and small; For the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all.
There is a tradition for the Pope to greet pilgrims at Angelus time, around midday and share a few thoughts, often on the readings for the day. We are glad to offer a selection from Pope Benedict XVI’s reflections, aimed at a general audience rather than academic theologians. Sometimes there are interesting asides addressed to particular groups of pilgrims, showing Benedict’s human side.
I am glad to meet you for this first Angelus of 2010. I address those of you who have gathered in large numbers in St Peter’s Square and also those who have joined us in our prayer via radio and television. I wish for you all that the year which has just begun may be a time in which, with the Lord’s help, we may satisfy Christ and God’s will, and thus also improve this world of ours.
One objective that may be shared by everyone, an indispensable condition for peace, is the administration of the earth’s natural resources fairly and wisely. “If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation”, is the timely theme to which I have dedicated my Message for today’s 43rd World Day of Peace. When the Message was published, the Heads of State and Government were meeting in Copenhagen for the Summit on the climate at which, once again, the urgent need for concerted approaches at the global level became apparent. At this moment, however, I would like to stress the importance that the decisions of individuals, families and local administrations also have in the preservation of the environment. “We can no longer do without a real change of outlook which will result in new life-styles” (cf. Message, n. 11). In fact we are all responsible for the protection and care of creation. Therefore in this field too education is fundamental; to learn to respect nature, to be increasingly disposed; to begin building peace “with far-reaching decisions on the part of individuals, families, communities and states” (ibid.).
If we must care for the creatures that surround us, what consideration we should have for people, our brothers and sisters! What respect for human life! On the first day of the year I would like to address an appeal to the consciences of all who belong to armed groups of any kind. I say to each and every one: stop, think and abandon the path of violence! At the moment this step might seem impossible to you; but if you have the courage to take it, God will assist you and you will feel returning to your hearts the joy of peace which perhaps you have forgotten for some time. I entrust this appeal to the intercession of Mary, the Most Holy Mother of God. The Liturgy today reminds us that eight days after the birth of the Child, together with Joseph her husband she had him circumcised, in accordance with Mosaic law, and called him Jesus, the name given to him by the Angel (cf. Lk 2: 21). This name, which means “God saves”, is the fulfilment of God’s revelation. Jesus is the Face of God, he is the blessing for every person and for all peoples, he is peace for the world. Thank you, Blessed Mother, who gave birth to the Saviour, the Prince of Peace!
It’s a while since we heard from Fr James Kurzynski, the astronomer and parish priest, scientist and theologian. He’s been reading Pope Benedict and reflects on his reading in this article.
This extract is from the beginning; do follow the link for a most interesting lead.
Reflecting on Genesis 1:20-24, Benedict XVI (writing then as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) begins with a beautiful summary of two, core realisations about the Creation narratives and the Church’s authentic understanding of them.*
We can sum up the first in this way: As Christians we read Holy Scripture with Christ. He is our guide all the way through it. He indicates to us in reliable fashion what an image is and where the real, enduring content of a biblical expression may be found. At the same time he is freedom from a false slavery to literalism and a guarantee of the solid, realistic truth of the Bible, which does not dissipate into a cloud of pious pleasantries but remains the sure ground upon which we can stand. Our second realisation was this: Faith in creation is reasonable. Even if reason itself cannot perhaps give an account of it, it searches in faith and finds there the answer that it had been looking for.
*In the Beginning.: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Eerdmans New York, 1995, p21.
Congratulations to Lichfield Cathedral on its award for caring for our home planet!
We’ll let them tell the story which follows naturally our short Franciscan season.
Lichfield Cathedral has been presented with its Silver Eco Church Award.
Lichfield Cathedral won the Bronze Award in 2021 and is working hard to achieve the Gold Eco Church Award.The Cathedral also received A Rocha UK’s Partner in Action Certificate in Environmental Excellence. This certificate acknowledges the Cathedral’s dedication to protecting and enhancing species and habitats, engaging the cathedral community in caring for the land, and developing a sustainable, low carbon approach to energy, food, and water use.
The Revd Canon Dr David Primrose said, “we are on a journey from Bronze to Gold. Tasks ahead include robust action plans to reduce our carbon footprint, and improved communications and engagement with others. There is a growing awareness of the connections between loss of biodiversity, the climate crisis, rising energy prices, and the cost of living.As a Healthy Healing Hub, we know the links between care for creation, the common good, and the wellbeing of those who are vulnerable.”
We are created, called, to be conscious beings. There comes a time when our consciousness overflows into words; the toddler seems to acquire a massive working vocabulary almost overnight, even if the most frequently used word seems to be ‘no’.
Chesterton here seeks to understand with his readers the point at which words are of no further use to describe our consciousness of God; to realise, if only fleetingly, that we all depend in every detail, at every instant, upon God.
The mystic who passes through the moment when there is nothing but God does in some sense behold the beginningless beginnings in which there was really nothing else.
He not only appreciates everything but the nothing of which everything was made.
In a fashion he endures and answers even the earthquake irony of the Book of Job; in some sense he is there when the foundations of the world are laid, with the morning stars singing together and the sons of God shouting for joy. That is but a distant adumbration of the reason why the Franciscan, ragged, penniless, homeless and apparently hopeless, did indeed come forth singing such songs as might come from the stars of morning; and shouting, a son of God. This sense of the great gratitude and the sublime dependence was not a phrase or even a sentiment; it is the whole point that this was the very rock of reality. It was not a fancy but a fact; rather it is true that beside it all facts are fancies.
That we all depend in every detail, at every instant, as a Christian would say upon God, as even an agnostic would say upon existence and the nature of things, is not an illusion of imagination; on the contrary, it is the fundamental fact which we cover up, as with curtains, with the illusion of ordinary life.
From “Saint Francis of Assisi: The Life and Times of St. Francis” by G. K. Chesterton
The night was far advanced. I closed the book with a bang and flung it on the table. Then I blew out the lamp with the idea of turning into bed. No sooner had I done so than, through the open windows, the moonlight burst into the room, with a shock of surprise. That little bit of a lamp had been sneering drily at me, like some Mephistopheles: and that tiniest sneer had screened off this infinite light of joy issuing forth from the deep love which is in all the world.
What, forsooth, had I been looking for in the empty wordiness of the book? There was the very thing itself, filling the skies, silently waiting for me outside, all these hours! If I had gone off to bed leaving the shutters closed, and thus missed this vision, it would have stayed there all the same without any protest against the mocking lamp inside.
Even if I had remained blind to it all my life,—letting the lamp triumph to the end,—till for the last time I went darkling to bed,—even then the moon would have still been there, sweetly smiling, unperturbed and unobtrusive, waiting for me as she has throughout the ages.
From Glimpses of Bengal Selected from the Letters of Sir Rabindranath Tagore
And we conceal the stars and dim the moon with our wasteful lighting of homes, workplaces and streets. Once again Tagore’s reflections chime in with my Christian sensibilities. I was first introduced to him by my mother, who heard of him from a Cistercian monk.
This is from earlier in the Compleat Angler. Piscator lands a trout, his protege, here still called ‘Viator’ or Traveller, is treated to more of his master’s observations and praise of creation.
Piscator: here is a Trout now, and a good one too, if I can but hold him; and two or three turns more will tire him: Now you see he lies still, and the sleight is to land him: Reach me that Landing net: So (Sir) now he is mine own, what say you? is not this worth all my labour?
Viator. On my word Master, this is a gallant Trout; what shall we do with him?
“But turn out of the way a little, good Scholar, towards yonder high hedge: We’ll sit whilst this shower falls so gently upon the teeming earth, and gives a sweeter smell to the lovely flowers that adorn the verdant Meadows.
Look, under that broad Beech tree I sat down when I was last this way a fishing, and the birds in the adjoining Grove seemed to have a friendly contention with an Echo, whose dead voice seemed to live in a hollow cave, near to the brow of that Primrose hill; there I sat viewing the Silver streams glide silently towards their centre, the tempestuous Sea, yet sometimes opposed by rugged roots, and pibble stones, which broke their waves, and turned them into some: and sometimes viewing the harmless Lambs, some leaping securely in the cool shade, whilst others sported themselves in the cheerful Sun; and others were craving comfort from the swollen Udders of their bleating Dams.
As I thus sat, these and other sighs had so fully possessed my soul, that I thought as the Poet has happily expressed it: I was for that time lifted above earth; And possessed joys not promised in my birth.
Brother Guy Consolmagno was meant to be addressing an astronomy conference recently, but a mild case of covid meant that he had to do so remotely, though he’d already arrived in Scotland, ready, or so he thought, to speak about meteorites. He reflects on his experience:(follow the link for the full text).
I’ve lost track of how many Covid “waves” this has been, but unlike the last waves there has been no uptick in deaths this time. Still, it’s no fun having your travel plans disturbed by disease, even after you’ve taken all the recommended precautions.
Some forty-plus years ago, the brilliant engineer Freeman Dyson wrote a book called Disturbing the Universe and the title alone would make it memorable. (The rest of the book’s pretty good, too.) Each of us has had to endure having our universes disturbed, by causes big or small. And each of us in turn disturbs the universe as well. We can’t help but poke and prod… sometimes with spacecraft, sometimes with prayer. It’s a universe that was created to be disturbed.
Thanks for your continued prayers and support, and know that you also have mine!