Sir Edward Leithen, a Scottish Lawyer is snowbound in Northern Canada, dying of TB in the company of trappers, Indians, and a Quebecois business man who has lost his bearings. Leithen finds his Calvinistic, predestinarian beliefs challenged in the face of the realities he is facing in the North.
The trappers kept a fire going to keep Leithen alive. Picture from SJC
Here in this iron and icy world man was a pigmy and God was all in all. Like Job, he was abashed by the divine majesty and could put his face in the dust. It was the temper in which he wished to pass out of life. He asked for nothing—”nut in the husk, nor dawn in the dusk, nor life beyond death.” He had already much more than his deserts!
Now there suddenly broke in on him like a sunrise a sense of God’s mercy—deeper than the fore-ordination of things, like a great mercifulness… Out of the cruel North most of the birds had flown south from ancient instinct, and would return to keep the wheel of life moving. Merciful! But some remained, snatching safety by cunning ways from the winter of death. Merciful! Under the fetters of ice and snow there were little animals lying snug in holes, and fish under the frozen streams, and bears asleep in their lie-ups, and moose stamping out their yards, and caribou rooting for their grey moss. Merciful! And human beings, men, women, and children, fending off winter and sustaining life by an instinct old as that of the migrating birds. … Surely, surely, behind the reign of law and the coercion of power there was a deep purpose of mercy.
The thought induced in Leithen a tenderness to which he had been long a stranger. He had put life away from him, and it had come back to him in a final reconciliation. He had always hoped to die in April weather when the surge of returning life would be a kind of earnest of immortality. Now, when presently death came to him, it would be like dying in the spring.
John Buchan, Sick Heart River, 1941; Penguin edition 1985.
More news from USPG, supporting the Global Anglican Church.
A Church of South India school has won a national prize for its work on the environment. CMS school in Vechoochira, Kerala has 430 students. They beat thousands of other schools to win the prize, which was organised by the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi.
The school has been championing the Green School Programme in a variety of ways since 2014. Students avoid using plastic bottles or throwaway plastic. They use pens made from waste paper. Each pen has a seed embedded in it. When the ink runs out the pupils ‘plant’ the pen so that a seedling will germinate.
The school is also active in the community, encouraging waste management and recycling. And it owns a biodiversity park and has a kitchen garden to grow its own vegetables.
Joined up thinking which should cause us to ponder. The school has a mission, well-understood, to educate the children in care for creation. But the children also have to live out that mission in their school and family lives. Watching a seed grow is a response to ‘Consider the lilies of the field’ (Matthew 6:28) which was an invitation to all who have ears to hear. In our day that command takes on the second meaning of ‘show some consideration for the lilies of the field’. Laudato Si!
Another story from USPG, demonstrating once again that we are vessels of clay, and depend on the health of our planet to survive and thrive, as one people around the world.
The Revd Bonnie Evans-Hills has worked with USPG promoting the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN in the UK and beyond.
The nature of crises in the world has changed significantly in recent generations. We have reached a point where natural disasters and violent conflict present long-term concerns. Those currently displaced from their homes remain so for an average of 17 years or longer.
Environmental disaster demands longer term solutions in which the whole world must engage. We cannot clean our oceans of plastic unless nations work together. This affects fishing and other industries on which whole populations depend. When these livelihoods disappear, they won’t easily return.
The breadth of challenge facing us is unprecedented, and the choices we make today affect not only our present but generations to come. The Sustainable Development Goals seek to bring together a range of expertise working in collaboration. But while solutions to much of our environmental and social challenges are developed, it will come to nothing if we haven’t the will to implement them, which is why each nation is asked to commit to taking action.
Self-giving God, who in Christ gave yourself for our salvation, thank you that you call us into your mission for the world.
Inspire us, who are partners in the gospel, to follow in your steps, in the way that leads to fullness of life in you. Amen.
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS FRANCIS
FOR THE 104th WORLD DAY OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
29 September 2019
“It is not just about migrants”
I’m ashamed to say that the International Day of Migrants almost passed me by, despite its having been held more than 100 times. We now share an extract from Pope Francis’s message for the day in which he links migration to the misuse of Earth’s bounty that he explored in Laudato si’; the full text can be found here: Migrants’ Day
Faith assures us that in a mysterious way the Kingdom of God is already present here on earth (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 39). Yet in our own time, we are saddened to see the obstacles and opposition it encounters. Violent conflicts and all-out wars continue to tear humanity apart; injustices and discrimination follow one upon the other; economic and social imbalances on a local or global scale prove difficult to overcome. And above all, it is the poorest of the poor and the most disadvantaged who pay the price.
The most economically advanced societies are witnessing a growing trend towards extreme individualism which, combined with a utilitarian mentality and reinforced by the media, is producing a “globalization of indifference”. In this scenario, migrants, refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking have become emblems of exclusion. In addition to the hardships that their condition entails, they are often looked down upon and considered the source of all society’s ills. That attitude is an alarm bell warning of the moral decline we will face if we continue to give ground to the throw-away culture. In fact, if it continues, anyone who does not fall within the accepted norms of physical, mental and social well-being is at risk of marginalization and exclusion.
For this reason, the presence of migrants and refugees – and of vulnerable people in general – is an invitation to recover some of those essential dimensions of our Christian existence and our humanity that risk being overlooked in a prosperous society. That is why it is not just about migrants. When we show concern for them, we also show concern for ourselves, for everyone; in taking care of them, we all grow; in listening to them, we also give voice to a part of ourselves that we may keep hidden because it is not well regarded nowadays.
Tomorrow we begin a series of posts leading up to Saint Francis’ day.
The Zoo? It has to be Chester Zoo in our family, ever since his big sister was living there and took George during his herpetology phase He’d gone from learning all he could about birds to learning all he could about reptiles and amphibians. It helped that we had and still have frogs in the garden and wild lizards not far away.
But Chester Zoo had Komodo dragons. They were the main attraction in his eyes.
I preferred the smaller fry, like this little poisonous golden mantella frog from Madagascar, threatened with imminent extinction in the wild. Captive breeding in the zoo goes hand in hand with similar projects at home in Madagascar, and conservation of their habitat before all the trees are felled.
The Zoo remind us that:
NOW is the time to ACT FOR WILDLIFE. Conservation is CRITICAL; species are under threat. TOGETHER we can make a BIG difference.
Now, in Autumn, is the time to dig out a pond if your garden will take one; plant a tree or two, hang up a bird box or bug hotel. The birds may well roost in the box overwinter and spiders or insects will snooze through the winter in their comfortable guest house.
It’s a start. This comes down to the Franciscan love of creation which goes with love of the Creator. Each of us can do something; together it all adds up.
As Saint Francis and Pope Francis would say, Laudato Si! But don’t just praise God in words, try changing a square metre of earth for the better.
Pope Pius XII ordered archaeological investigations under Saint Peter’s basilica in Rome. The diggers found evidence that bones there were indeed those of the Apostle himself. Now Pope Francis has given some of these bones to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. To read the Patriarch’s reflection on this gift, follow the
After yesterday’s post from Margate which mentioned the cormorants in Rye, I thought we could borrow one from Will Turnstone’s more private and occasional journal. This was posted in 2017 after a visit to Lambeth Palace Library, in search of Arthur Hughes.
Today I walked from Waterloo to Lambeth beside a river confined by embankments, with light shipping passing by the Palace of Westminster and cyclists, joggers, dog-walkers and tourists in both directions along the path, not all looking where they were going.
One thing I was hoping to see, but only saw when I wasn’t looking for it – a cormorant. Picture this big bird flying past the Houses of Parliament; I watched from the opposite bank.
In my youth anyone falling in the River might have died from poisoning. They even kept my little brother in hospital for observation after he fell into the Serpentine Lake in the park (and I had to go home on the bus in wet clothes after dragging him out).
There must be enough fish in the river to satisfy those greedy cormorants.
When my mother and I visited my 4 year-old brother in hospital on the following Friday he was happy to say goodbye when the time came. Dinner had arrived – fish and chips and it looked really tasty! He’s now a chef and still very fond of fish; and there are even herons along the Serpentine these days.
The citizen scientists of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds were not least among those who fought and worked to clean up London’s River. Pray that we all may take courage to walk the next steps – and look where we’re going!
Missio’s magazine, Mission Today, invites us to join Pope Francis and the whole Church in praying for his monthly prayer intentions, particularly on Fridays. We will try to share these intentions with you over the months. For September Pope Francis prays:
May politicians, scientists and economists work together to protect the world’s seas and oceans.
The picture shows Margate in Kent, a seaside resort for some 200 years. It’s not a bad spot to contemplate the seas and oceans. The sea here once carried all manner of filth thrown into the Thames upstream in London and other towns, while Margate pumped its own sewage and refuse a little way out to sea, ready to return on the next tide. 25 years ago I took a group of schoolchildren to investigate the new sewage works that put a stop to that. Now Margate has a blue flag which proudly announces that the water and sands are clean.
Furthermore, the cormorants we saw diving at Rye on 12 December last year are also to be seen on London’s river, opposite the Houses of Parliament. It is possible for politicians, scientists and economists to work together to protect the seas and oceans, and we have our part to play, from what we throw away and how we do so, to young Abel litter-picking, to what we eat. In a land with universal suffrage, we are all politicians. We are all economists, at least when we loosen the purse strings; and scientists, if we stop to think about what we are doing. Unlike TS Eliot, at Margate sands we can connect something with everything,
As I prepare this post we are hoping for rain; apart from a thunderstorm a few days ago, we have not seen any rain for weeks. The nightly bathwater is shared with the lawn and flowerbeds. It keeps them green.
As for the local forests, they could do with a drop, though their roots run deep. GKC enjoyed the forest in the rain; a hundred years ago, in an apparently light-hearted but also very serious remark, he quotes Jesus in favour of rain for ‘all living things’. (Matthew 10:44)
A cup of cold water
It is the water drinker who ought to be the true bacchanal of the forests; for all the forests are drinking water. Moreover, the forests are apparently enjoying it: the trees rave and reel to and fro like drunken giants; they clash boughs as revellers clash cups; they roar undying thirst and howl the health of the world. All around me as I write is a noise of Nature drinking: and Nature makes a noise when she is drinking, being by no means refined.
If I count it Christian mercy to give a cup of cold water to a sufferer, shall I complain of these multitudinous cups of cold water handed round to all living things; a cup of water for every shrub; a cup of water for every weed? I would be ashamed to grumble at it. As Sir Philip Sidney said, their need is greater than mine—especially for water.”
Love me–and I will give into your hands The rare, enamelled jewels of my lands, Flowers red and blue, Tender with air and dew.
From far green armouries of pools and meres I’ll reach for you my lucent sheaves of spears– The singing falls, Where the lone ousel calls.
When, like a passing light upon the sea, Your wood-bird soul shall clap her wings and flee, She shall but nest More closely in my breast.
Jewells: ragged robin and speedwell.
Is it a pagan superstition to talk about the spirit of the earth, or to imagine that spirit speaking? We are made of atoms and hormones and genes and bones – remember that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.
So get to know and love ‘Mother’ Earth: not just the dust and flowers but the wisdom that has been there since the beginning, sustaining it. The Spirit of the Earth can be identified with Wisdom, sitting at the Creator’s side as he set about his work. Laudato Si!
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing, from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made.The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived. neither had the fountains of waters as yet sprung out: The mountains with their huge bulk had not as yet been established: before the hills I was brought forth: He had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was present: when with a certain law and compass he enclosed the depths: When he established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters:When he compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not pass their limits: when be balanced the foundations of the earth; I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times; Playing in the world: and my delights were to be with the children of men.