I was looking for posts to mark the Season of Creation – which starts on 1 September, the Day of Prayer for Creation, and ends on 4 October, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology beloved by many Christian denominations. This poem leapt off the page.
I see his blood upon the rose And in the stars the glory of his eyes, His body gleams amid eternal snows, His tears fall from the skies. I see his face in every flower; The thunder and the singing of the birds Are but his voice—and carven by his power Rocks are his written words. All pathways by his feet are worn, His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea, His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn, His cross is every tree.
I learned that Joseph Plunkett was one of those who signed the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and he was executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising.
Shortly before his execution on May 4 1916, he married his fiancée, Grace Gifford, in the jail’s chapel. Plunkett was just 28 years old.
There are multiple painful contradictions here. How to reconcile Plunkett the poet of creation with Plunkett the man of violence against other men, created by God?
Meanwhile, when Plunkett was fighting for an Irish Republic, other young Irishmen were signing up to the British Army to fight the Kaiser. Their recruitment was not necessarily an exercise in honesty on the part of the authorities.
When I chose the Godshill Lily Cross to head this post I was forgetting that in the churchyard there is the grave of
THOMAS FRANCIS O’NEILL A SOLDIER OF THE KINGDOM OF IRELAND WHO DIED OCTOBER 18TH 1918 AGED 35 YEARS R.I.P.
DULCE ET DECORUM EST PRO PATRIA MORI
So, not every Irishman agreed with Plunkett. Thomas O’Neill saw things differently as his widow recorded on his memorial (but why did she erect this stone rather than the standard white Portland stone for War Graves?)
The Latin verse is another irony: ‘sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country’, an irony picked up by another poet, Wilfred Owen, who saw many men endure painful ends before dying himself in the last days of the War. Violence in Ireland continued for many years, and is not yet about to be forgotten or totally set aside.
Let us pray for peace, the peace implied in Plunkett’s words, peace on earth to people of good will, and peace to all creatures that share this world with humanity.
He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. Isaiah 2:4.
Today marks the Day of Prayer for Creation, the start of the Season of Creation, an ecumenical time of prayer. These intercessions were shared by CAFOD, the overseas development arm of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. They sum up themes for the season, which ends on St Francis’s Day, 4th October.
We pray for the Church: that she may be a beacon of hope throughout the world, reminding us all of our responsibility to care for and protect God’s precious gift of creation. Lord, in your mercy…
We pray for the world, our common home: that through God’s grace we may hear its cry of the damage done and be moved to protect it for future generations to enjoy. Lord, in your mercy…
We pray for those people who are already facing droughts, floods and storms: that God may grant them strength and hope for the future as they work to adapt to the changing climate. Lord, in your mercy…
We pray for our parish and our local community: that through the grace of God we may hear the urgent cry of the earth and of the poor and be inspired to respond at this crucial time. Lord, in your mercy…
We pray for the world we live in: that God may open our eyes to recognise the goodness of all creation and help us to do what we can to restore and care for the wonderful gift that we have been given. Lord, in your mercy…
We pray for world leaders: that God may grant them wisdom to make just decisions which respect the earth and all that lives in it, especially those who are poorest and most vulnerable. Lord, in your mercy…
We pray for our local community: that through God’s grace we may be good neighbours to each other and to the whole of creation, restoring and caring for all that God has made. Lord, in your mercy…
More wisdom on Creation and our part in it, as distilled by Pope Francis
86. We understand better the importance and meaning of each creature if we contemplate it within the entirety of God’s plan. As the Catechism teaches: “God wills the interdependence of creatures. The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other.”
87. When we can see God reflected in all that exists, our hearts are moved to praise the Lord for all his creatures and to worship him in union with them. This sentiment finds magnificent expression in the hymn of Saint Francis of Assisi:
Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
who is the day and through whom you give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour;
and bears a likeness of you, Most High.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather
through whom you give sustenance to your creatures.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night,
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong”.
Canterbury had a railway link to London before 1850, engineered along the Stour Valley from Ashford, a relatively flat line which needed few road bridges, over or under. However, there are a number of level crossings, two of them in central Canterbury, capable of holding up road traffic for minutes at a time in queues 100m and more long.
Sad to say, most cars and motor vehicles (but not the local buses) have their engines left on at this time, wasting the drivers’ money in fuel burning uselessly. That we might say is their problem, but it’s everyone’s problem when the air on St Dunstan’s Street is so often polluted above safe levels; it’s everyone’s problem when greenhouse gases are unnecessarily emitted into the atmosphere to add to global warming.
Please think about switching off your engine when traffic grinds to a halt at a crossing or other hold up.
Today is the feast of Gregory the Great, first pope of that name, who sent Augustine to Canterbury, arriving here in 597. He was inspired to establish the English mission when he came across young Saxons on sale in Rome’s market. Gregory was also a theologian and spiritual writer, here in his book Moralia (XXVIII 47), commenting on the Book of Job (12.4), where Job is answering his critics:
I am one mocked by his friends, Who called on God, and He answered him, The just and blameless who is ridiculed.
Window, St Thomas’ church, Canterbury, England.
Worldliness dictates to her followers to seek the high places of honour, to triumph in attaining the vain acquisition of temporal glory; to return manifold the mischiefs that others bring upon us; when the means are with us, to give way to no man’s opposition; when the opportunity of power is lacking, all whatsoever he cannot accomplish in wickedness to represent in the guise of peaceable good nature.
On the other hand it is the wisdom of the righteous, to pretend nothing in show, to discover the meaning by words; to love the truth as it is, to avoid falsehood; to set forth good deeds for nought, to bear evil more gladly than to do it; to seek no revenging of a wrong, to account opprobrium for the Truth’s sake to be a gain. But this simplicity of the righteous is ‘laughed to scorn,’ in that the goodness of purity is taken for folly with the wise men of this world. For doubtless every thing that is done from innocency is accounted foolish by them, and whatever truth sanctions in practice sounds weak to carnal wisdom.
For what seems worse folly to the world than to shew the mind by the words, to feign nothing by crafty contrivance, to return no abuse for wrong, to pray for them that speak evil of us, to seek after poverty, to forsake our possessions, not to resist him that is robbing us, to offer the other cheek to one that strikes us?
Much of this passage could serve as a manifesto for Agnellus’ Mirror and for the Season of Creation:
It is the wisdom of the righteous, to pretend nothing in show, to discover the meaning by words; to love the truth as it is, to avoid falsehood; to set forth good deeds for nought.
We hope we live up to that, in the blog and in daily life.
‘Plain living and high thinking’ are not popular ideals. Most people prefer to live in luxury, and to think with the majority.
If we run a series of posts for the season of Creation which starts today, it could easily become a bad-tempered, five week long rant. So let’s at least approach the season light-heartedly, with a wise word from Oscar, a reminder of what we are up against in our own selves.
Fr Adrian Graffy writes: During the 2021 Season of Creation, from 1st September to the feast of St Francis on 4th October, thousands of Christians on six continents will unite to pray and take action in defence of our common home.
From the parish of Gidea Park in Brentwood Diocese, we have organised two study days – on Saturday 4th September and Saturday 2nd October from 11.00 to 12.30 BST – to explore the teaching of Pope Francis on ‘care for our common home’ (Laudato si’), and the promotion of global solidarity (Fratelli Tutti).
These study days, ‘The Cry of Creation’ and ‘The Cry of the Poor’ will be given by Fr Ashley Beck, associate professor at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. For access to these free live stream events go to: www.whatgoodnews.org
No registration needed. Talks will be available subsequently on the same website. Please spread the word on social media.