For more than thirty years we have resisted hanging net curtains in the bay window of our front room. We all, from visiting grandchildren to the oldest inhabitant, like to look out and wave to our neighbours and friends. Only yesterday Melvyn told me he always looks in case I’m there to exchange waves. But the other day brought something different. We spotted this damselfly on a loosely woven blanket by the window. The colours did not make for a good photograph, but black and white enhanced it all, especially the veins of the wings.
I wonder if the creature came from our pond? We soon opened the window and gently sent her on her way to snap up a few mosquitoes. It was encouraging to see a big dragonfly this morning by the river, but too high for a photo unless we get a drone! We would almost certainly crash it into the trees if we did.
Are dragonflies or damselflies mentioned by name in the Bible? I fancy not, but just look at Genesis 1:22, almost an exact description! And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. That sounds like a dragonfly or damselfly to me, coming forth from the waters to fly above the earth in the open firmamnet of heaven. LAUDATO SI!
Yesterday we looked at eternity and this world; love being the link between the two. Today school holidays are upon us again in England, and grandparents get to join in these days, keeping the third generation safe and occupied.But perhaps they – and we – should be allowed to experience a few butterfly’s days, ‘without design’, going nowhere ‘In purposeless circumference’, till sundown. If we let go of our business for a day, it’s possible that Another might get a word, idea or image in edgeways.
This red admiral was seen at the L’Arche Kent garden as it basked in the summer sun. Get ready to bask in an ‘audience of idleness.’
Enjoy your holidays and be grateful for moments of idleness!
THE BUTTERFLY’S DAY
From cocoon forth a butterfly As lady from her door Emerged — a summer afternoon — Repairing everywhere,
Without design, that I could trace, Except to stray abroad On miscellaneous enterprise The clovers understood.
Her pretty parasol was seen Contracting in a field Where men made hay, then struggling hard With an opposing cloud,
Where parties, phantom as herself, To Nowhere seemed to go In purposeless circumference, As ‘t were a tropic show.
And notwithstanding bee that worked, And flower that zealous blew, This audience of idleness Disdained them, from the sky,
Till sundown crept, a steady tide, And men that made the hay, And afternoon, and butterfly, Extinguished in its sea.
Here are a couple of paragraphs from Pope Francis’s Laudato si’, his teaching on the environment, and how we can care for it or destroy it. Humankind, he warns, has abandoned trust in God, in each other, and in the earth we inhabit. We need to acknowledge the harm we have done and continue to do, although we are much more aware of it than just a few years ago.
Sadly, the pandemic over, it seems people are scrambling to ‘get back to normal’ when our previous way of life was definitely not normal. It lacked respect: for God and his laws, which are the laws of true human living; for our neighbours, and for our mother earth and all that lives on her. But let’s read Francis’s own words. (The footnote links lead to the original document.)
66. The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality. They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin. The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. This in turn distorted our mandate to “have dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), to “till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). As a result, the originally harmonious relationship between human beings and nature became conflictual (cf. Gen 3:17-19). It is significant that the harmony which Saint Francis of Assisi experienced with all creatures was seen as a healing of that rupture. Saint Bonaventure held that, through universal reconciliation with every creature, Saint Francis in some way returned to the state of original innocence. This is a far cry from our situation today, where sin is manifest in all its destructive power in wars, the various forms of violence and abuse, the abandonment of the most vulnerable, and attacks on nature.Ex 23:12). Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.
69. Together with our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly, we are called to recognize that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes: “by their mere existence they bless him and give him glory”, and indeed, “the Lord rejoices in all his works” (Ps 104:31). By virtue of our unique dignity and our gift of intelligence, we are called to respect creation and its inherent laws, for “the Lord by wisdom founded the earth” (Prov 3:19). In our time, the Church does not simply state that other creatures are completely subordinated to the good of human beings, as if they have no worth in themselves and can be treated as we wish. The German bishops have taught that, where other creatures are concerned, “we can speak of the priority of being over that of being useful”. The Catechism clearly and forcefully criticizes a distorted anthropocentrism: “Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection… Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things”.
Saint Kevin lived an ascetic life, close to nature and animals, but a man of joy rather than the melancholy set before us tomorrow by Rabindranath Tagore. A good saint when we are trying to set our priorities aright regarding the world God has created us to care for. Only a man of Hope would live as ultra frugally as Kevin did. There is more to us than our petty desires that can never satisfy for long.
Let us pray for a generous, merciful heart, inspired by the Spirit to be loving to our fellow creatures, and to find ways to help them thrive, and in so doing be partners in God’s Creation.
A prayer to Saint Kevin of Glendalough
A Chaoimhín le caoineas do mhéine Fuair an-chion ainmhithe is éanlaith; I do láthair ba ghnáth leo go léir a bheith Gan scá romhat I bhfásach an fhéir ghlais. Bímisne, a Chaoimhín na féile, Dea-iompair le dúile gan éirim: Dia a chruthaigh is a chuir ar an soal iad Is cúiteoidh Sé linn an croí truamhéile.
Kevin, with your kind nature, you were loved by animals and birds; they stayed in your presence without fear in the green grassy growth. Let us all, O generous Kevin, behave well towards dumb creatures: God created them and put them into this world and he will reward us for a merciful heart.
Donla uí Bhraonáin (ed.), Paidreacha na Gaeilge: Prayers in Irish (Dublin: Cois Life, 2009), 122–3.
It’s another of those social sins where we are implicated willy-nilly; it’s as if someone sins on our behalf whether we like it or not. When we can avoid the willy-nillyness of life and be conscious of what we are doing, that’s what we should do.
Some years ago I was correctly told to stop trying to recycle the blister packs from medicine tablets and capsules as they could not be processed. Well, think again Mr Turnstone!
Since February 2021, TerraCycle, an international recycling company, has been working with Superdrug and other pharmacies to recycle these complicated little packages, earning a contribution to charity.
There are other schemes that benefit chosen charities directly; the churches of Saints Dunstan, Mildred and Peter in Canterbury are collecting them for Marie Curie Cancer Care, but Superdrug is in the city centre.
Waters above! eternal springs!
The dew that silvers the Dove's wings!
O welcome, welcome to the sad!
Give dry dust drink; drink that makes glad!
Many fair ev'nings, many flow'rs
Sweeten'd with rich and gentle showers,
Have I enjoy'd, and down have run
Many a fine and shining sun;
But never, till this happy hour,
Was blest with such an evening-shower!
From "Poems of Henry Vaughan, Silurist, Volume II.
This was not an April shower, but a March one; a morning but not an evening shower yet I'm sure Henry Vaughan would have appreciated it, as I did, seeing the raindrops on the willows shining on the osiers. Laudato Si'!
This month Pope Francis asks us to pray for a Christian response to bioethical challenges.
We pray for Christians facing new bioethical challenges; may they continue to defend the dignity of all human life with prayer and action.
Of course it’s not as straightforward as pronouncing on the ethics of medical or cosmetic procedures. I had chosen the photo before I absorbed the words ‘ the dignity of all human life’, then wondered whether it was appropriate. I decided that it was. All human life includes the subsistence farmers who find themselves choosing between traditional crops and modern ones that are resistant to disease or insect attack. These are expensive to buy and need their fields to be sprayed with the expensive pesticide they can resist but the pests cannot.
And what of the long-term effects on the land and its ability to produce crops?
A jolly, hopeful poem from Christina Rossetti. Laudato Si’.
Every valley drinks,
Every dell and hollow:
Where the kind rain sinks and sinks,
Green of Spring will follow.
Yet a lapse of weeks
Buds will burst their edges,
Strip their wool-coats, glue-coats, streaks,
In the woods and hedges;
Weave a bower of love
For birds to meet each other,
Weave a canopy above
Nest and egg and mother.
But for fattening rain
We should have no flowers,
Never a bud or leaf again
But for soaking showers;
Never a mated bird
In the rocking tree-tops,
Never indeed a flock or herd
To graze upon the lea-crops.
Lambs so woolly white,
Sheep the sun-bright leas on,
They could have no grass to bite
But for rain in season.
We should find no moss
In the shadiest places,
Find no waving meadow-grass
Pied with broad-eyed daisies;
But miles of barren sand,
With never a son or daughter,
Not a lily on the land,
Or lily on the water.
(from "Poems" by Christina Georgina Rossetti)
I turned the corner into our street; at almost 4.00 p.m. dusk was falling, so why was a woman crouched down outside the piano workshop looking through her phone towards the dental surgery? Surely not to capture their new paint job, which needs a few brush strokes where the scaffold had stood.
A jerky movement in front of the photographer revealed a pied wagtail, rather whiter about the head than this one, maybe three metres away from her. She will have gone home happy for having seen this trusting creature up close and personal, and at least having tried to take its picture.
And so did I rejoice in bird and birder! Well, I had discovered something of human nature as well as having a good look at the wagtail.
Father James Kurzynski in his blog for the Vatican Observatory, questions the use of three verbs in this short piece: capture, take, and discover. ‘Capture’ and ‘take’ both have hints of violence and taking possession of something. ‘Discover’ – did I dis-cover something or was I made aware of it? Was it rather revealed to me? My smile was real enough.
You will smile more than once reading Fr James’s article, I promise.
Pied wagtail by Charles J Sharp, Sharp Photography
Original photo of Nablus (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0): Dr. Michael Loadenthal
Day 5 “Ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising”
Psalm 121–I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where will my help come?
Matthew 2:7-10–Ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising
Again and again, the scriptures tell us how God walks with us. The path may not always be straight: sometimes we are led to retrace our steps, sometimes to return by a different route. But in all our journeying through life, we can be confident that God, who neither “sleeps nor slumbers”, is with us when we slip or fall.
Even in the greatest darkness, God’s light is with us. Most perfectly, in the fullness of time, God sends Jesus Christ, who is the guiding light for all nations, the glory of God in the world, the source of divine light and life.
The way ahead into unity with one another, into closer union with Christ, is not always clear. In our earnest attempts to build unity ourselves it is all too easy to lose sight of this fundamental message of the scriptures: that God does not abandon his people even in their failures and divisiveness. This is God’s message of hope for the whole world. As the story of the Magi reminds us, God guides people of all kinds, by the light of the star, to where Christ, the light of the world, is to be found.
God our Guide,
you sent the star to lead the Magi to your only begotten Son.
Fill us with the confidence that you are walking with us.
Open our eyes to your Spirit, and encourage us in our faith,
so that we may confess that Jesus is Lord,
and worship him as the Magi did in Bethlehem.
Hope of my heart, strength of my soul,
Guide Thou my footsteps and keep me whole;
My grace and fortress, Thou wilt be,
Oh, let Thy mighty hand ever lead me.
Barney E Warren, 1893
Global: As a global community we continue to face many challenges. How do we seek God’s guidance in our response to those challenges?
Local: How is God guiding your Christian community at this time? Where are you being called to act?
Personal: Reflect on a time when you have felt or seen God’s guidance. What was that like?
Global: Start (or continue) a conversation around your Christian community about how you are responding to the challenges of climate justice. As churches, take part in global prayer and action for climate justice (https://www.prayandact4climate.org).
Local: Plan a Climate Sunday service between the churches in your locality. Visit climatesunday.org for resources and inspiration.
Personal: Seek out a community to be part of to support you in your action responding to global challenges. For example if you like craft you could turn your skills into activism in community with the craftivist-collective.com.