Here in Canterbury I spotted roller skaters picking litter from the edges of a disused car park, and thanks go to them for that. But the land used to be allotment gardens, and was allowed to go wild for decades before being covered in asphalt.
In New York State (and elsewhere in the USA) various congregations of sisters are finding themselves with more land than they need, land that would make good car parks (parking lots) for tourists visiting the Hudson River Valley. As the sisters are growing older and fewer, the time to leave these properties is growing nearer. What are they going to do to keep their precious green spaces to allow the earth and local people room to breathe?
This link is to four articles in EarthBeat about the sisters’ responses to the challenge of climate change and habitat destruction in the light of Laudato’ Si, Pope Francis’s letter on caring for Creation. Each one is well worth reading, and even if lessons are not directly applicable outside the US, we could all look around and ask ourselves what we as individuals and communities might do next in love for our common home.
Redwing blackbirds are among the birds and other animals that make their home in the restored prairie belonging to Franciscan Sisters in Iowa. (EarthBeat photo/Brian Roewe)
and contemplation is charity drawn inward to its own divine source.
Action is the stream and contemplation is the spring.
Thomas Merton, No man is an Island, 1957, p84.
Another view of ordinary saintliness at work.
We can discover the water of life at work in us through listening, watching, being open to the Spirit.
Jesus said to the woman at the well:
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water that I will give him will never be thirsty. The water that I will give him will become a spring of water within him welling up to eternal life.”
PS: Since Merton was writing in 1957 we must forgive his use of ‘man’ to cover both sexes, and the translators, too!
Royal battle fleets once anchored here, near the Cinque Ports of Rye and Winchelsea. It’s a peaceful scene today, sheep in green pastures. Behind us as we look towards the passing train, flow the quiet waters of the River Brede, draining the salt marsh which was under the sea in historical times. But why talk about distress here today?
When we walked along the River we found on a willow a memorial tribute to a woman found drowned here, may she rest in peace. It was a special spot for her in life.
The railway is an another place where those in despair end their lives, and as we have seen before, the railway companies have set about suicide prevention in earnest. Now Southern Railway who operate the train seen here have appointed Laura Campbell as suicide prevention officer, a job she describes an a necessity.
All staff are trained to identify someone in distress or vulnerable and how to intervene. She says that more than 300 of her staff have saved lives since 2019. Not every station is staffed, of course, but, she says, fellow passengers should not be afraid to step in and ask, are you OK, thus offering an opening to a different narrative in the distressed fellow traveller.
Biology is much more than we might have been taught at school, its remit is the whole of creation, as Pope Francis makes clear here. It may look at lab experiments but has also to get out in the field, observe what’s going on and predict what is likely to happen if humans continue to act as we have been doing. The future must not be entrusted to multinational corporations.
35. Highways, new plantations, the fencing-off of certain areas, the damming of water sources, and similar developments, crowd out natural habitats and, at times, break them up in such a way that animal populations can no longer migrate or roam freely. As a result, some species face extinction. Alternatives exist which at least lessen the impact of these projects, like the creation of biological corridors, but few countries demonstrate such concern and foresight.
36. Caring for ecosystems demands farsightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation. We can be silent witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we can obtain significant benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental deterioration.
37. Some countries have made significant progress in establishing sanctuaries on land and in the oceans. Certain places need greater protection because of their immense importance for the global ecosystem, or because they represent important water reserves and thus safeguard other forms of life.
38. Let us mention, for example, those richly biodiverse lungs of our planet which are the Amazon and the Congo basins, or the great aquifers and glaciers. We know how important these are for the entire earth and for the future of humanity. The ecosystems of tropical forests possess an enormously complex biodiversity which is almost impossible to appreciate fully, yet when these forests are burned down or levelled for purposes of cultivation, within the space of a few years countless species are lost and the areas frequently become arid wastelands. A delicate balance has to be maintained when speaking about these places, for we cannot overlook the huge global economic interests which, under the guise of protecting them, can undermine the sovereignty of individual nations. We cannot fail to praise the commitment of international agencies and civil society organisations which draw public attention to these issues and offer critical cooperation, employing legitimate means of pressure, to ensure that each government carries out its proper and inalienable responsibility to preserve its country’s environment and natural resources, without capitulating to spurious local or international interests.
I am privileged to live close enough to the sea to cycle there in under an hour (I’m getting slower in old age!) No further comment on Emily’s little poem below, except that someone should carve it in stone at some seaside place, and perhaps I should get it by heart. The blue-white building in the background is Margate’s Turner Centre. Maybe we could chisel it into the concrete there?
My river runs to thee:
Blue sea, wilt welcome me?
My river waits reply.
Oh sea, look graciously!
I'll fetch thee brooks
From spotted nooks, —
(from "Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete" via Kindle)
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!
What did you expect from a sermon to the fish? They got a brilliant theology of Creation, from Scripture to science without any contradictions. Laudato Si!
The fishes being set in order and array, Saint Antony began solemnly to preach, and so spake: “My brothers the fish, much are ye bounden so far as in ye lies, to give thanks to our Creator, who hath given you so noble an element for your abode; in such sort that as it pleaseth you, ye have sweet waters and salt; and hath given you many a refuge to escape the storms withal; nay more, hath given you a clear, translucent element, and food by the which ye may live.
God, your kind and bountiful Creator, when He created you, gave you commandment to increase and multiply, and poured on you His blessing: then whenas the deluge came and one and all the other beasts all died, you alone did God keep safe from harm. Moreover hath He given you fins that ye may roam where’er ye please.
To you the grace was given, by God’s command, to save the prophet Jonah, and after the third day to throw him safe and whole upon the land. Ye brought the tribute-money to our Lord Jesu Christ, who was so poor, He had not aught to pay.Ye were the food of the eternal King, Jesus Christ, before the Resurrection and thereafter, through a mystery wondrous rare; for all the which things much are ye bound to bless and praise God, who hath given you so many and so great blessings more than to other creatures.”
Antony with some of his fish, alongside Francis. Public Domain via Wikipedia.
Any teacher or preacher would have to admit to moments when we’d as soon address the fish of the sea or the school pond, than humans who don’t want to be taught. Abel enjoyed a response from the university carp a few weeks ago, but he was tossing lumps of bread, not words of wisdom.
The blessed Christ, desiring to set forth the great sanctity of his most faithful servant, Saint Antony, with what devotion men should give ear unto his preaching and his holy doctrine, once on a time, amongst others, reproved the folly of the infidel heretics by means of the animals that have no reason, to wit, by the fishes, even as in old time in the Old Testament he had reproved the ignorance of Balaam by the mouth of the ass.
Wherefore on a day Saint Antony being in Rimini, where was great company of heretics, desiring to bring them back to the light of the true faith and to the path of virtue, preached unto them for many days, and disputed of the faith of Christ and of the Holy Scripture; but they not only gave no consent unto his holy words, but therewithal, as men hardened and stiff-necked, would give no ear unto him.
Inspired of God, Saint Antony went one day to the river-side hard by the sea; and standing thus upon the bank betwixt the river and the sea, began to speak after the manner of a preacher sent by God unto the fishes: “Hear the word of God, O ye fishes of the sea and of the river, since the infidel heretics refuse to hear it.” And when he had thus spoken, forthwith there came unto him to the bank a multitude of fishes, great and small and what between, that never in that sea nor in that river had been seen so great a multitude; and they all held up their heads above the water and all stood attentive towards the face of Saint Antony, one and all in much great peace and gentleness and order; for in front and more a-nigh the bank stood the smaller fish, and behind them stood the fish of middle size, further behind where deeper water was the greater fishes stood.
How Saint Francis set forth unto Brother Leo a fair dream that he had seen
It befell on a time that Saint Francis was grievously sick and Brother Leo did him service; the said Brother Leo, whilst praying close to Saint Francis, was rapt in ecstasy, and borne in spirit to a mighty river, broad and rushing furiously. And as he stood there for to see who crossed over it, he beheld certain brothers enter into the river, with loads upon their backs; the which were straightway thrown down by the force of the stream and were drowned; but certain others went as far as a third of the way over; others, as far as the middle of the stream; some nearly to the other bank; but in the end they all fell down and were drowned.
Seeing this, Brother Leo had exceeding great compassion on them: and meanwhile lo! there came suddenly a great multitude of brothers that had on their backs no load or burden of any kind and the light of holy poverty shone upon them; and they entered into the stream and passed over without any peril; and when he had seen this, Brother Leo came back to himself again. Then Saint Francis perceiving in spirit that Brother Leo had seen a vision, called him unto him and questioned him concerning what he had seen: and whenas Brother Leo had told him all the vision in order, quoth Saint Francis: That which thou hast seen is true. The great river is this world; the brothers that were drowned in the river are they that remained not true to their profession of the gospel life, and chief above all to that of the deepest poverty; but they that without peril passed over are those brothers that neither seek nor possess in this world aught that is earthly or carnal, but being temperate in clothing and in food, are content therewith, following Christ naked upon the cross; and with gladness and right good will do they bear the burden and sweet yoke of Christ and of most holy obedience; wherefore they pass with ease from this temporal life to life eternal.
We are saving Post L (50) of this series until Christmas day, where it belongs.
Our L’Arche pilgrimage was like winding a section of Blake’s golden string, only those of us at the back of the group were following arrows chalked on the pavement by the frontrunners. What ten-year-old would not enjoy the chance to draw graffiti without getting into trouble?
In Dover I ended up walking with D, who may be slow, but speeds up to slow ahead when someone holds his hand. Having a banner to carry also helped him along.
Now D does not speak, though he has a vocabulary in Makaton signs (which I must learn again, not having used them for forty years). We were walking beside the River Dour in Dover when a duck started berating us. So I quacked back. D began to laugh, so I quacked even more. So did the duck.
Then D began making little grunts in time with my quacks. He’d got the joke and joined in. We were both still smiling when a few people caught up with us and mentioned lunch. At which point D’s feet found wings!
I think I passed through Jerusalem’s wall that morning.