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Friday, June 03, 2011



A few evenings ago as I prepared for dinner, a robin's solo came to my ears, almost echoing in the stillness, so I stepped outside to look for him. To my surprise, there he was, prominently perched atop a nearby pine, chanting his heart out in the song God gave him. For awhile I paused to listen, and his own song called me to prayer, for I had neglected to pray Vespers thus far that evening.

No other birds were singing but for perhaps, far away, the caw of a random crow or chirp of some other bird;  none were joining his chorus. He was a lone cantor, leading Vespers as the sun sank further toward the horizon hidden behind the trees dotting the Minnesota prairie. Even here in suburbia. I can't remember ever being without the lilting, cheery sound of the Robin's praise, so even though I was caught within my own darkness, the music drew me back towards God's Providence. I couldn't help but quietly rejoice in Him through His creation.


The next morning as I arose, the robins were silent in spite of the rising sun, but the haunting cry of a Mourning Dove wept Lauds while I went about my own morning routine.

As a child I was taught to listen to the Mourning Dove's call, for their behavior portends rain. Throughout the years I've often noticed the silence of other birds in seeming deference to her prophesy. Even when I know the rain to come will be mere sprinkles, their mournful cry ties my stomach in knots, for they portend both the gentle and the destructive with the same call. They are the innocent grim reapers of nature and carry out their duty in solemn profundity. Although I have not yet captured one on my camera, they prominently use rooftops as their pulpits then join all the others on the ground in humble acceptance of the event they have just portended on behalf of all who reside in their vicinity.

If it is indeed a sin to kill a Mockingbird, it is an even greater sin to kill a Robin or a Mourning Dove; for one stands as Cantor calling us to joyful prayer, and the other humbly reminds us of our eventual demise.

In the Midwest and Southeastern United States, it's been a tough spring; the storms thus far this season have been monsters especially in the South, and in the North where I live, they have also attacked highly-populated areas. No one is safe, anywhere.

The birds, they know this. As a child, I remember Mom teaching us how to read the weather through nature, a skill she'd learned from her father, a farmer. She showed me how to read the river and discern the bird's calls, the behavior of wildlife...and the proper human response.

She did this after a tornado nearly touched down directly over our home, sparing us with a warning, that being a twisted tree thrown against us in fury abated by what must have been the intercession of the Saints. She tried to help me overcome my fear through knowledge as she recognized my hyper-vigilance. I wanted to know what was coming so that I could find cover, so she, logically, taught me the signs, hoping they would be a consolation, giving me some sort of control over my surroundings.

Unfortunately, her teachings, while proper, backfired to a certain degree, for I didn't understand context. Any sign of a glassy river sent my adrenaline into survival mode, and the second the wind gusted and  birds went silent, I had to grapple hard to keep from tying myself to some sturdy structure.

Whenever I heard the cry of a Mourning Dove, I looked to the sky for the next day or that following, certain the wrath of the weather was about to erase us from the face of the earth.  I dreaded that terrible, haunting sound, even as I wanted to reach out to them for their sadness.

Perhaps that is where I first learned mercy, for I knew not to hate the messenger. To me, the messenger was always sad and only delivered it for the good of others. I saw the Mourning Dove as a friend who desired our survival. To this day, when I hear that echoing coo, I am overcome simultaneously with the nostalgia of my childhood fear coupled with the sensation of love for my Mother who called my attention to their song.

But Robins...they were always my hope. Although scientific models say that Robins winter in the Northland, I have never, or perhaps, rarely, seen them. When they appear in the spring, boldly capturing their wormy prey, we know Spring has finally arrived. It seems their yearly debut corresponds to that of one of my favorite flowers..the dandelion.

The Hours

Around us, even when we forget to pray, or refuse to do so, is arranged an Horarium of prayer.

While winter is silent, mimicking our spiritual lives either apart from God or at a higher level of purification, the remainder of the year has harbingers of nature reminding us to pray the Holy Hours of the Liturgy, to worship God all of our hours, all of our days.

The birds cannot pray for us, but they can remind us to pray, for their entire being is one of praise for God. They cannot choose this and don't know anything different.

We, as human beings, are the only creatures on earth who must work to praise God, to worship Him, and even, as one philosopher laugh. We as humans don't find prayer as an undeniable instinct. While it is written within our souls and DNA, it is still left to us to choose. Every day I can choose to pray or not to pray. Every day, I can choose to rise and join the song of the birds, or I can choose to close the window and the drapes and cover my ears.

Every day, every moment, I can choose to accept or reject God.

The Horarium {scroll down for specific hours of prayer} helps me to love God and praise Him, even when the birds refuse to sing. Even when the oncoming storm causes the Robin to seek the shelter of the nest and the Mourning Dove to stand down in silence, even when the birds have fled for winter or rise too early in summer, I know when to pray, and to pray in the words and voice of Christ and His Church.  Eternally.

If only I have the grace to choose to do so...and I do...if I don't reject it


Brother Charles said...

Lovely. Thank you.

Pablo the Mexican said...

No one is safe, anywhere...

We are in the fold of our Mother’s mantle.


Jose said...

Very beautiful, Adoro.

Jose C.