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Within the dense viburnum shrub outside my study window, an orange-red flicker caught my attention until breezes hid it from view. I waited until the leaves again parted to reveal a female cardinal nesting her clutch. Beneath her long tail was the cone-shaped nest of leaves, stems, and twigs. She seemed content, her pointed feather crest bespeaking her authority as mother. For at least two weeks, her body warmth will facilitate the hatching.

This experience of nesting also recalled the Italian sonnet, “God’s Grandeur” composed by the mystic Gerard Manley Hopkins in 1877, the year of his ordination as a Jesuit. In the octet he discounts the evils of Liverpool’s Industrial Revolution dulling the sensitivities of the residents: “…all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil/and wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell…” Yet for the spiritually adept in the sestet, Hopkins images the Holy Ghost “…over the bent/World broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.”

In view of global disease and unrest challenging our way of life, these images afford critical protection and care, there being evil intent upon rocking our foundations and disseminating fear. No one knows the outcome of this upheaval, how it will look like or when it will occur. Within quiet cloisters of our hearts, we watch and wait and pray. In the religious history of the world, there has always been a remnant that has survived and told the story to those willing to listen. Perhaps this will be our experience.

However this crisis works out, we’re always sheltered from harm like fledglings warmed by nesting birds, both natural and supernatural. Such is our God-given faith.

 

 

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