A Wake-Up Call?


Out walking a few days ago in a wooded area near our residence, I was pulled out of my reverie by a loud bird-call. I looked around, and at the top of a tree I noticed a cardinal, because of his gender entitled to splendid ecclesiastical robes, giving full-throated vent to his song.

This awakened me to the fact that over recent decades birds and bird songs, a regular pleasant experience of my youth, had gradually faded away as air quality diminished and billions of birds perished.

Where have the birds gone? I fondly remember grassy expanses where three or four robins were busily hunting for worms and warbling away. They left. But now robins and their friends have become more numerous.

Why is this so? Covid-19 is a threat to all of us, a source of anxiety especially for the old, but our efforts to protect ourselves have slowed down the pace of our lives, with the result that the air we breathe, together with our feathered friends, is much less polluted.

Most are able to breathe more slowly and deeply. Our lives are more uncluttered, more regular, with more time for personal relations with God and neighbour. We mostly avoid close up conversations, but the internet applications available to us enable us not only to talk, but do so face to face, and be involved in group as well as personal interactions.

We are learning new patterns. Our experience readily tells us that there are no blessings that do not involve burdens, but also let us realize that there are no burdens – in this case those of Covid-19 – that do not involve a blessing.

Some do not experience that blessing: maybe those whose financial resources are dwindling, or those in close contact with the disease as caregivers or victims. But most feel blessed by countless examples of solidarity, responsible behaviour, on the part of the vast majority who in solidarity with others willingly embrace restrictions, and on the part of most political leaders who do their best to deal effectively with this crisis rather than use it as a way to feather their own nest towards re-election.

The bird-call I heard, and the reflection it evoked in me, invites me and all of us to hear an other call, an urgent call to wake up. We have been wrenched out of the normal cycle of our lives and forced to live more simply and more slowly. We see what life could be.

People who live in huge supercities – for example in India – are able at this time to open their lungs and welcome breathable air. The usual rat-race has subsided. Once the pandemic is over, do we want to return to the old normal, or to a new normal?

Do we want an economy moving ever faster in the quest for profits, leaving in the lurch human persons and the earthly home God gives them, or are we ready to take collective steps to change the pace of our lives?

Will selfishness and self-protection take over again, or are we ready to move towards a different and better world?

Jean-Marc Laporte, SJ lives in Montreal where he is the socius to the novice director for the Canadian Jesuits.

  • graeme quinlan
    Posted at 01:37h, 03 June Reply

    It does make one want to stop and appreciate the life we have. Yes I have been caught up in several volunteer movements over the last few years and love doing so. These past months have enabled me to take a good reappraisal, to slow down and be less stressed ,more time for prayer both personal and communal. Yes I look forward to the new order.May God enable us to love our life and His world with a much healthier climate, and respect for our world and each other.

  • Joan levy Earle
    Posted at 06:00h, 03 June Reply

    Such a profound, yet simple article on the awareness of the song of a bird. Well done, Father Laporte. You are right; so many people are in need of a wake up call. God always brings good from difficult times. Let us hope and pray for a stronger return to regular church worship and more public awareness of the need to practise one’s gift of faith.

  • Robert Czerny
    Posted at 08:17h, 03 June Reply

    Thank you Jean-Marc for this wonderful perspective!

  • Peter Bisson SJ
    Posted at 09:07h, 03 June Reply

    Thank you Jean-Marc!

  • Richard Grover
    Posted at 10:26h, 03 June Reply

    The good shepherd knows his flock and cares for them.Whose voice do the sheep of the COVID 19 world hear?Do the media provide both sides of this important topic?Whose voices do our governments hear today?

  • Bill Clarke, sj
    Posted at 11:20h, 03 June Reply

    Thanks Jean Marc, this is well said.

  • James Boyd
    Posted at 15:38h, 03 June Reply

    A restful thought, Jean-Marc, amid the violence these days and all of its attendant reporting.

  • Judy Hanshaw
    Posted at 21:24h, 03 June Reply

    Thank you Jean Marc. It is a joy to celebrate fresh air, robins in search of worms, and a beautiful red cardinal who, in my case, spends his day “knocking” on my front door. It is good to once again “hear” your words of wisdom. Be safe.

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