Saturday, May 31, 2014

Foul Fowl

I shared, a while back, the not-so-great photo of the little baby robins in the nest in the tree next to my chapel. There were three to start with, I think, and I believe one met its end prematurely – as in, before it actually learned to fly. After that, two remained, chirping loudly when the mother robin came bearing worms and other goodies for them.

And then, one day, the nest was empty. I spotted what I was pretty sure were the two young robins flitting about the yard. It takes them awhile to really get the flying part down!

Another type of bird we have around our place is the magpie. I don’t like them! They are big, loud, and bold. They are noisy and messy. They eat the cat food that is left in a bowl for our kitties, and the cats won’t even challenge those birds!

The other day, I was praying in the chapel, and I heard loud squawking and chirping. I looked out the window and saw several magpies sitting on the fence, and one magpie on the ground. Beneath that magpie there were some little fluttering wings.

I rushed out and discovered that those little flapping wings belonged to one of the young robins. The mother robin was sitting on a nearby branch watching, but she certainly wasn’t any match for the magpie. Besides, I am not sure how much protective instinct is left in the parent birds once the offspring have left the nest.

(On the other hand, one year I did see a robin bringing worms to offspring that had been flying about the yard for a couple of weeks. They would be pecking around on the ground, and the mother would still come and feed them.)

Anyway, the little robin was not quite dead, but clearly on the way out. I left it and went back inside, but the magpie came right back. I went out again; this time the little robin was definitely dead, and the magpie was eating it.  It just made me angry.  I covered the little robin’s body with an empty plant container just to keep the magpie away from it. Later, my husband disposed of it – probably by flinging in unceremoniously over the fence! But at least I didn’t have to see it!

Now, really, there is no sense in my reaction. These are wild creatures, doing what their nature tells them to do. In my imagination, the mother robin was weeping and mourning the loss of her baby, but in reality I’m sure no such thing was going on. And it’s no use being mad at the magpie; I’m sure there was no “evil intent”. It’s just a matter of nature, and survival, and instinct.

Meanwhile, a pair of mourning doves also built a nest in that little tree next to my chapel. The female has been sitting on eggs for over a week now. (Well, I can’t see the eggs, but why else would they have built a nest, and why would one of them be sitting there so quietly all day long?!) I just think it’s pretty cool.

But today, there was danger in the air (mentally play the theme from “Jaws”). I came out of the house and saw a magpie flying near to that tree, and the mourning dove chasing after it. I ran out and yelled at the magpie to scare it off, but I took my eye off it for a minute and wasn’t sure where it had gone. I glanced around and didn’t see it, but it definitely wasn’t in the tree. I watched for a few more minutes to see if the nasty magpie would return, but finally turned to go to the chapel. As I did, I saw a movement and saw that the magpie had been sitting on the roof of the chapel all that time, watching me! This time, though, it did fly away. I imagine it will be back.

I hope the little mourning dove eggs hatch and I get to see the nestlings before they get attacked by the magpie! Just in case, I have a couple of little rocks handy to throw at the predator should it return on my watch.  (Unfortunately, I am one of those “can’t hit the broad side of a barn” throwers!)

Life goes on. And of course, where there is life on earth, there is eventually death.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Whistling Demons

From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

[Abba John the Dwarf] also said this to a certain brother about the soul that wishes to be converted:

“There was in a city a courtesan who had many lovers. One of the governors approached her, saying, ‘Promise me you will be good, and I will marry you.’
She promised his and he took her and brought her to his house. Her lovers seeking her again, said to one another, ‘That lord has taken her with him to his house, so if we go to his house and he learns of it, he will condemn us. But let us go to the back, and whistle to her. Then, when she recognizes the sound of the whistle she will come down to us; as for us, we shall be unassailable.’ When she heard the whistle, the woman stopped her ears and withdrew to the inner chamber and shut the doors.”

The old man said that this courtesan is our soul; that her lovers are the passions and other men; that the lord is Christ; that the inner chamber is the eternal dwelling; those who whistle are the evil demons, but the soul always takes refuge in the Lord.

How true that sounds to me – the devils whistling to us and enticing us to return to our past sins, to our immoral thoughts and ways. I have found that, over time, it gets easier to recognize that the whistling is that of the demons (though I am perhaps a rather slow learner!). I have also found that as the soul becomes increasingly able to recognize the whistling for what it is, the demons become increasingly clever. They change the tune they are whistling, or maybe they sing instead of whistle.

Or maybe they just whisper. Even in the world, whispering almost always gets attention. We know someone is speaking, but we can’t quite make out the words, and so we listen even more carefully. The demons obviously know that!

May the Lord draw me deeper into his chamber, and may my ears be stopped against the whistling and the whispering of demons!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Chicks, Instincts, and Sin

I mentioned our chicks the other day…they are growing like crazy, with real feathers coming in to replace the downy fluff. We have them in the house, to protect them from the cold nights and mornings, but in a few weeks, they’ll be out in the chicken coop.

The chicks have a heat lamp hovering over them, as well; and we keep the door of the room closed to prevent our little dog, who has the run of the house most of the time, from bothering the chicks.

The other day, it was warm outside, and so it was even warmer inside; it seemed a bit stuffy to me in that room. I opened the window a few inches and decided I would turn on the ceiling fan to circulate the air.

The little chickies did not like that fan one bit! A chorus of alarmed chirping arose, their little flightless wings were fluttering frantically, and they were running around like chickens with their…well, never mind that part! Anyway, they were scared!

I remembered something that was actually from my psychology training, and it had to do with instincts. Birds and other animals that live on the ground are instinctively frightened when the shadow of a bird of prey passes over them. I think I remember that they are supposed to freeze in one position as the adaptive response to the presence of the predator, although my little chicks certainly didn’t do that.

At any rate, figuring that the moving blades of the fan triggered that instinct, I quickly shut off the fan.  The chicks were still pretty upset until I stopped all the remaining motion of the blades with my hand. Then they immediately calmed down and resumed their prior low-key activities.

I’m sure that if I wanted to, I could condition the chicks to be resistant to their fear of the moving fan blades.

It made me think about our reaction to sin…or at least, what it should be.

Ideally, we instinctively react against sin. Our fallen human nature starts immediately to make us immune to that reaction, though. That’s why we talk about “forming one’s conscience”.  By the natural law, we know that some things are wrong, but by our fallen human nature, we are susceptible to becoming resistant to the natural revulsion we feel toward sinful acts.

I guess this reminds me of the blight of sin on our souls -
a piece of junk in a beautiful wildenress setting.
A glaring example of that, of course, is what is becoming society’s unequivocal acceptance (which is a false “tolerance”) of homosexual behavior and lifestyle. What was once unmentionable and almost universally recognized as immoral has now become “tolerated”, accepted, and even endorsed and promoted as a positive good!

There are other less glaring examples, and we can all probably identify some relatively minor ones in our own lives – “little” sins which we have come to excuse ourselves of on various grounds of rationalization, but which in our hearts we know to be wrong.

The chicks’ reaction to a predator flying above them in the sky will, in the big scheme of things, determine their survival. Likewise, cultivating our own sense of what is right and what is wrong will determine our eternal destination.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Fowl Play, and Spring

Well, we have chickens. We've never raised chickens before, but thought we'd give it a try this year. It was a low-overhead investment; my husband converted the old pig pen into a chicken coop and yard. The chicks themselves are very inexpensive, and the cost of the chicken feed is...well...chicken feed.

The babies arrived yesterday and are being kept in the house under a heat lamp till they can withstand the (still) cold weather outside.

There are two of each color; I have no idea what the official name of each type is!

On the wild side, we see lots of signs of birds nesting, but I was still surprised to hear hatchlings chirping loudly for their supper the other day. A little investigation led to the discovery of a nest in the tree next to my chapel, at eye level. The babies are actually looking like they are approaching fledgling stage, as they are pretty big and have lots of feathers:

Not the best photo, I know,but hopefully you can see a couple of eyes and beaks.

Here's the mom - a little put out that I'm looking at her and taking her picture, and unsure as to whether she should carry that worm to the babies. I snapped the photo and left her quickly so she wouldn't keep them waiting!

Spring continues to unfold here. We have an ornamental plum tree of some sort that has beautiful pink blossoms...still haven't quite been able to capture the color...

Things are pretty green all over the valley right now. Here's a bunch of deer that were enjoying the grass in our pastures yesterday evening.

God provides us with an endless variety of sights and sounds!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Divine Providence and Prayer

Recently I resumed reading Providence by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. Last night as I 
made my way through a few pages, I was struck by the thought that it seems in general have lost any sense of trusting Divine Providence in their daily lives.

Society in general, I think, encourages us to take an attitude of control – motivated more by self-interest than anything else. “I want it, so I should take the steps to get it.” Perhaps it’s always been that way, but still…our whole way of life these days seems oriented to the fast food mentality, and having everything “my way”. With medical issues, we are all about finding cures and making people well – not that that’s bad, but even in Catholic circles it’s difficult to find people looking for the spiritual meaning and effects of suffering. In terms of artificial contraception, almost no one questions the “right” of parents to determine the number and spacing of their children; to do so invites derision and opprobrium, along with the suggestion that such an attitude of openness to life is tantamount to Quietism. 

And when it comes to “happiness”, we are urged to find out what makes us happy and pursue it with all our resources (and maybe a few of the resources that belong to others!)

Fr. G-L points out that true happiness, true freedom lies in trusting the Divine Will, rather than our own. He addresses the important question of the importance of prayer, because on the face of it, it would seem that if we are to trust Divine Providence in everything, prayer – if its intention is to change God’s mind – is useless. That, again, is Quietism.

Fr. G-L says (my emphases):

We sometimes speak as though prayer were a force having the primary cause of its efficacy in ourselves, seeking by way of persuasion to bend God's will to our own; and forthwith the mind is confronted with the difficulty just mentioned, that no one can enlighten God or prevail upon Him to alter His designs.

As clearly shown by St. Augustine and St. Thomas (IIa IIae, q. 83, a. 2), the truth is that prayer is not a force having its primary source in ourselves; it is not an effort of the human soul to bring violence to bear upon God and compel Him to alter the dispositions of His providence. If we do occasionally make use of these expressions, it is by way of metaphor, just a human way of expressing ourselves. In reality, the will of God is absolutely unchangeable, as unchangeable as it is merciful; yet in this very unchangeableness the efficacy of prayer, rightly said, has its source, even as the source of a stream is to be found on the topmost heights of the mountains.

In point of fact, before ever we ourselves decided to have recourse to prayer, it was willed by God. From all eternity God willed it to be one of the most fruitful factors in our spiritual life, a means of obtaining the graces necessary to reach the goal of our life's journey. To conceive of God as not foreseeing and intending from all eternity the prayers we address to Him in time is just as childish as the notion of a God subjecting His will to ours and so altering His designs.

Trusting in Divine Providence can be very comforting! It’s not easy, though…I guess our fallen human nature seeks to impose its will wherever it can, and we (or at least I) sometimes have a hard time believing that God’s will is being done when our own selfish desires are not being fulfilled.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!