Professor Kate Bulinski is a paeleontologist at Bellarmine University in America. I wanted to share her guest blog at the Vatican Observatory website, as it challenges us to face up to our responsibilities to observe God’s Creation and our part in it – and to start to restore, renew and revive what we have unwittingly damaged. Here is a short sample from her post. Click on her name above to read it in full. A good Advent read. Let’s pray for the enthusiasm to carry on despite the odds, like these children, digging at Aberdaron beach, despite the rain.
I sometimes ask my students to contemplate what the fossil record of the 21st century would look like. Would we have layers of sediment embedded with plastic debris and electronic waste? … What would future humans (or our evolutionary descendants!) have to say about this era of Earth history? And perhaps more importantly, what would God say about how we responded to the charge to care for creation and how we responded once we realized the mistakes we were making?
Our Victorian forebears were rather taken with the language of flowers and could semaphore their feelings through a careful choice of blooms in a posy. Hence the pansy, or pensée in French, signalled, ‘you are in my thoughts.’
Mrs T and I visited Chartham village with Abel. After he had played on the roundabouts at the village green, we wandered into the churchyard for lunch under the trees.
Our Victorian forebears, if they could afford it, erected finely carved stones over their loved-one’s graves. Without much effort at all we found these three carved with passionflowers which represent the saving death of Jesus. There are ten petals for the ten apostles who did not deny him – leaving out Peter and Judas. There are five stamens representing the five wounds; three stigma for the nails, and the fringe of filaments around the flower stands for the crown of thorns.
All this suffering somehow mirrored in a beautiful flower. And by carving this flower over their dear ones’ graves, the three families were proclaiming belief that the dead would rise again with Christ. A good thought and prayer for November and All Souls.
When you see a passionflower let it remind you that Jesus is real, his death was real, as indeed will ours be – but so, too, will our rising. And when you see a passionflower on a gravestone, send us a picture to put in the blog!
Doubtless Agnellus and Company wobble sometimes, we may not be pedalling, squeezing an accordion, helping balance a bike, wearing a funny hat and a false moustache while keeping time with the rest of the band, all at the same time. But we hope we provide something interesting, enjoyable and challenging day by day.
It is enjoyable looking out for thoughts to share. We hope that when we offer a sample of a writer’s work that some readers feel inspired to seek out more. If we can give web links we will continue to do so.
But for today, you saints in the making,
THANK YOU FOR BEING WITH US.
And please do stick around.
Here is a thought for November and Winter from Mary Webb – about time she appeared here again!
Though winter may wear a sad-coloured garment, it is shot with bright threads of reminiscence and prophecy. Orange oak leaves, lingering seed-vessels on ash and lime, crimson blackberry trails, are recollections of past splendour. The sere and broken reeds and rushes – golden and russet – are like the piled trophies of some fairy warfare; spear and sword and bulrush-banner recall the time when conquering summer led forth his legions. There are dreams and dawnings of another summer also. The twigs that look so lifeless have minute buds on them, vivid points of colour.
Reminiscence and prophecy – that is our calling: to go back to our roots and to speak out as the Spirit moves us. Let us read and interpret the signs of the times: Laudato Si!
Mary Webb, The Spring of Joy
“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”
Sherlock Holmes, in “The Adventure of the Naval Treaty”
I didn’t expect Sherlock Holmes to contribute to the blog either! Will.
As I was walking home at a quarter to nine this morning, the Sun was finding it difficult to break through but there was autumn colour nonetheless. We are in the city centre, at the site of a corn mill that burned to the ground eighty years ago. Top picture is looking upstream; the cathedral is behind the houses on the left; the building on the right, obscured by trees, was once the Dominican Priory.
Looking downstream, the steps, right foreground, take you across the main river over the sluice gates that control the flow – still vital when there is too much or too little rain.
There is a pub with rooms called the Miller’s Arms just visible behind the trees to the right. They fed us well the last time we visited.
The old bridge is called after St Radigund, a princess-abbess from the so-called dark ages when so many noblewomen found openings for themselves and others to be something other than wives, mothers and domestics. We’d better publish a post about her sometime soon; till then, Laudato Si!
O the nobility of Divine Friendship ! Are not all His treasures yours, and yours His? Is not your very Soul and Body His : is not His life and felicity yours : is not His desire yours? Is not His will yours?
And if His will be yours, the accomplishment of it is yours, and the end of all is your perfection.
You are infinitely rich as He is : being pleased in everything as He is. And if His will be yours, yours is His. For you will what He willeth, which is to be truly wise and good and holy. And when you delight in the same reasons that moved Him to will, you will know it.
Though perhaps you will know that delight without having the words to express it in Christian language as Thomas Traherne does here. Laudato Si!
Many flowers have English names that speak of the faith of those who named them. We saw these resplendent Michaelmas Daisies in Folkestone, next to Saint Eanswythe’s Pool which we have visited before on this blog. It’s where the saint brought clean water for the townspeople and her sisters.
But today we remember Michael the Archangel, whose name means ‘Who is like God?’
Who indeed? Passing through Tonbridge I saw another fine clump of Michaelmas Daisies, where a seed must have taken root alongside the line. Too much reflection from the window to grab a snap, but maybe more people see them than St Eanswythe’s.
Let’s hope hearts at both ends of Kent are lifted at the sight.
It’s worth recalling that Michaelmas daisies are officially ‘asters’ or stars, and stars can guide the wise.
In his little book for big children, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Dylan Thomas tells us about the Useful Presents, including:
Books that told me everything about the wasp, except why.
My 300 word target for these posts does not allow me to say more than
Why – because God so loved the world! Laudato Si!
Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Orion Edition, 1993, no page number.
wasp by Richard Bartz
This isn’t the first time I’ve shared an article by Father James Kurzynski, who writes on the Catholic Astronomer website. This time he is writing from the Rockies, where he tacked a holiday onto officiating at the wedding of friends.
Whether you contrived to get away this August or not, take a walk with Fr James through the Sanctuary of the Sorrowful Mother in Oregon. An armchair pilgrimage in the spirit of Laudato Si!. Follow the link!
Musings from the Sanctuary
Not one of Fr James’s pictures, but they convey a sense of place. Follow the link!
Today Traherne’s meditation flows from the same source as Saint Francis and Pope Francis, who has taken much of his Laudato Si’! from Patriarch Bartholomew. Creation is a gift to be prized, not priced! And, after a day of walking by the sea, I reflected that everything of ours was not in its proper place; I could have filled a few litter bags with discarded plastic if I’d had my litter-picker with me. Not a problem that Traherne could have imagined.
When things are ours in their proper places, nothing is needful but prizing to enjoy them. God therefore hath made it infinitely easy to enjoy, by making everything ours, and us able so easily to prize them.
Everything is ours that serves us in its place. The Sun serves us as much as is possible, and more than we could imagine. The Clouds and Stars minister unto us, the World surrounds us with beauty, the Air refresheth us, the Sea revives the earth and us. The Earth itself is better than gold because it produceth fruits and flowers.
And therefore in the beginning, was it made manifest to be mine, because Adam alone was made to enjoy it. By making one, and not a multitude, God evidently shewed one alone to be the end of the World and every one its enjoyer. For every one may enjoy it as much as he.
Picture from FMSL