Is Lent for the Birds or for more and for God?

Feb 25, 2020

Could an interest in birding and their place in biodiversity be a suitable Lenten practice?  Environmental disasters are one of the areas mentioned by Pope Francis in his Lenten message and loss of biodiversity is at least a low-key disaster. The Holy Father calls for conversion and includes, “putting the paschal mystery at the centre of our lives means feeling compassion towards the wounds of the crucified Christ present in the many innocent victims of various forms of violence. Some forms of suffering are more drastic than others, and the loss of biodiversity is important too. In his Laudato Si’ he notes the importance of various species as resources for the future as food, medicine and other uses. Importantly too he then mentions that species, including birds of all kinds, have value in themselves. Extinction means gone forever and interestingly he writes, “the great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity and will no longer give glory to God by their very existence.”There is real food for thought.

All these aspects are reason enough for a family to choose to grow in appreciation of birds as a part of their Lenten practice or of ongoing environmental awareness. At a recent information talk on “Fun Facts about feathered friends” I was fascinated to hear about the lifestyles and family relationships of some species.  Male ostriches will mate with a few females all of whom will lay a number of eggs. The dominant female (the first wife) , however, will lay a larger number and incubate all the eggs, but only during the daytime, while the male sits on the nest at night.  Barn owls have special qualities to their hearing ability which allows them to hunt successfully in total darkness. They also have a unique quality in their wing feathers which has been explored by aeronautical scientists involved in aircraft wing design.

Biomimicry, I discovered, is a science of studying aspects of nature to identify specific qualities that can aid society in various ways.  Since adopting the 2020 family theme OUR WORLD A FAMILY OF FAMILIES I am learning all the time about the wonders of nature and the wisdom of God in creation. Many of us love to visit game reserves and note down the numbers of the Big Five we have seen.  Others, maybe more discerning, go birdwatching.  They can take note too how birdlife is threatened in parts of the country often due to farming taking over their natural habitats and drought draining wetlands frequented by many bird species.  Sea gulls and crows are scavengers and play their part too, although they may suffer from swallowing items.

Birds may not all be particularly attractive but they certainly have their uses.  They eat creeping things and worms to aerate the soil, seeds and fruit that play a valuable role in seed dispersal and catch insects that may also become pests. I was listening to an appeal on TV that, to support the cause of biodiversity loss the media could use the smaller, less spectacular species in their advertising campaigns.  Countries have their national birds, ours in SA is the blue crane, but other birds, their habitats and characteristics could be chosen for particular campaigns. Pelicans maybe good hoarders, saving in their beaks for a rainy day.  Flamingoes can teach about a balancing act.  Amazingly beautiful and, did you know, that the collective noun for a group is a flamboyance!   Although baby chicks are so sweet and cuddly they soon grow up to meet their fate on anyone’s dinner table. It might be best to leave it to Nando’s to use the qualities of chickens in their advertising.  But no one really wants to eat their pet.

There are many issues facing families and society, financial (the Budget) economic and relational (family violence)  There are also many ways of using Lenten practices to deepen our spirituality, to care for one another, for others, the poor, the birds and the environment as a whole and to respond to the Message of Pope Francis:  “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20).  He invites us to see the wounded Christ in the suffering around us and respond, not just as a good cause, but in order to be reconciled to God, who loves us and teaches us how to love.   May Lent for you and your families bring that kind of growth.    TR FAMILY WEEKLY

See a Lenten Family calendar to download, print and paste for all to choose their acts. Lenten calendar 2020

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