This poem, by my friend Piers Northam, takes its inspiration from a Pilgrimage to the Shrine of St James in Santiago de Compostela. The poem is written at the beginning of the Anglican Lambeth Conference. The Conference gathers Bishops and others from member churches of the Anglican Communion. It is a diverse group with differing opinions on many issues. It can be viewed as a ‘scattered family’ which gets together to celebrate a fellowship which is best described as Koinonia – a fellowship with each other brought together by the Holy Spirit and held by that same Spirit in a Communion with each other.
Sometimes, because of its diversity, there is disagreement and some heart-searching as a compromise is sought. Sometimes because of our separate cultures, it isn’t always possible to agree, at least not at present. The member churches seek to listen and keep talking and praying together under God’s guidance until a new understanding is reached.
Another way of seeing things is as a Pilgrimage to God’s Kingdom which we approach from differing directions – as with the Camino where pilgrims walk from many different places. Conversations, prayers and walking together produces many experiences as we share in the common adventure. Finally each of these ‘ways’ converge. The Camino symbol, tracing the cockle shell (emblem of St. James the fisherman) shows us the paths converging to the same point.
Piers reflects on this as he thinks of what is the nature of the Anglican Communion. There are parallels to be discovered between the Camino and the Anglican Communion. Might it, therefore, be possible to see a positive way forward, not just for Anglicans, but also for Christians of all denominations. Could we be even more brave and see some way forward for inter-faith friendship.
The Anglican mystic and teacher of prayer, Evelyn Underhill, had a belief that our differing views and beliefs are as Chapels in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. It is both a lovely and dynamic thought !
Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. Thank you for the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the animals on the land. You inspired St Francis to call them all His sisters and brothers. We thank you that you bless all creation and especially the foxes of Latton. May the spirit of Mamma Fox live on in her cubs. By the power of your love, enable them to live according to your love. May we always praise you for all your beauty reflected in your creation.
Some followers of this blog will be familiar with photos of the ‘Latton Foxes’ which we have published from time to time. The antics of last year’s fox cubs was particularly fun. The foxes live in the garden of Latton Vicarage and they have received regular care from Vicar Lynn – who also took the photographs. She has kept them well fed with ‘Mamma Fox’ being the go between as you carried the food from the Vicarage to the far end of the garden. It’s a great take-away service! The foxes are especially fond of eggs, some chicken (shop bought, not the product of scavenging) and jam sandwiches.
Sadly, Mama fox has disappeared and after over 12 days of absence we have to presume that she has died, maybe as a victim of a road accident.
Lynn says that she arrived in the garden as a cub in 2017. She has lived in our garden since then and has had 4 sets of cubs here in the last 4 years. Her 4 cubs from this years’ litter are still living here and we are taking good care of them. They are getting very big now! We miss her so much. She was here snoozing in the afternoons and loved to have a raw egg and some other bits from us.
Not everyone loves foxes but those who have been following their antics have come to see the Latton Foxes as rather special. Through the photos people have built up quite a following both on this blog, other postings and the church facebook page.
Mamma Fox in particular gave us a picture of motherhood which was both delightful and salutary. Almost the last photo that I have posted of her was when she was washing one of her cubs with a tenderness that was rather beautiful. Of course, we can simply say that she was just doing her duty and in both animal and human kingdom, care and protection of the young is what we creatures do.
I agree but there was something more about Mamma. Something which St. Francis would understand as would the Desert and Celtic saints of earlier times. It could easily be called, Spiritual.
I was reading something about this recently.
What do foxes mean spiritually? According to the Celtic religious belief, the fox is an animal that serves as a spirit guide and can assist you to find your way through the afterlife As a spirit animal, the fox reveals itself during times of great and unpredictable change. With its heightened sense of awareness, the fox compels you to turn up your own senses, gather the information you need, and act swiftly on your decision. The fox symbolizes mental responsiveness.
That not only tells us something about our present time of turmoil in the world but also about how the fox can teach us to respond.
St. Francis points to animals’ roles as reflections of God’s love, the inherent value they possess, the interconnectedness humans have with all of God’s creatures and humankind’s misunderstanding of “dominion” as described in the Book of Genesis.
“Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another,” Francis wrote, later adding that God giving humans dominion over the Earth doesn’t justify “absolute domination over other creatures.”
This was a view echoed by his namesake, Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’ (Praise him) At one point, the pope lamented development projects that do not consider the impact on biodiversity, “as if the loss of species or animals and plant groups were of little importance.”
In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis states, “The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things.”
“Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place“ (Laudato Si)
Pope Francis also said that he couldn’t envisage heaven without animals and birds. Creation belongs to God and it would be very arrogant of us to believe that we have sole rights to be there. Or even soul rights! How boring that would be for God!
Mamma’s family are still with us. One of her daughters from last year appears to be stepping up but we will miss her and hope that she is in God’s hands.We thank God for creating Mamma Fox who brought us such joy and thank you to Lynn who shared that joy with us.
‘Even birds and animals have much they could teach you; ask the creatures of earth and sea for their wisdom. All of them know that the Lord’s hand made them. It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; everyone’s life is in his power’.
My friend Piers sent me this poem and reflectiondrawing on the Rule of Saint Benedict and its relevance to the Lambeth Conference of the worldwide Anglican Church.
I was drawn to dwell on hospitality by recent events surrounding the Anglican Lambeth Conference which began on 26 July 2022. Anglican Bishops and their spouses from around the world have been invited to Canterbury to worship and pray together and to explore a range of topics. I was saddened that partners and spouses of gay and lesbian bishops were not invited and this set me thinking about what true hospitality looks like. St Benedict writes about hospitality in his Rule: in Chapter 53 he says,
‘All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35). Proper honour must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims. Once a guest has been announced, the superior and the brothers are to meet him with all the courtesy of love.’
I also found this useful commentary by Jerome Kodell, OSB in which it becomes clear that, for St Benedict at least, there is a lack of pre-judgement and a defencelessness about true Christian hospitality. So my poem comes not as a rebuke, but as a plea – that we welcome others with true generosity so that all may feel settled and at ease. Only then can we feel safe enough to speak and to explore together.
My prayers are with all involved in the Lambeth Conference over the next few days.