The Word on the Week

Fieldfares and Francis

We had a couple of days of frosty weather this week and, right on cue, came our friends the fieldfares.   They come from Scandinavia in their winter wanderings and usually remain on higher ground of the Wicklow hills until cold weather brings them down to us in Kildare.

They come in flocks sometimes mixed up with their friends the Redwing but this time it was only the larger Fieldfare that were in evidence.   It was the red berries on the Hawthorn trees, left over from the Blackbirds, Thrushes and Finches, that was part of the attraction.    When all the berries were eaten they come down to earth combing the grassy fields for what they could find to eat.

They are handsome birds, some 10 inches in length and have an unmistakable alert and upright appearance when alighting on the treetops.   Their head is a grey colour as if they were wearing a cape.   The throat and breast is a rusty yellow streaked with black.    Their tail is also black with a grey rump and white underside to their wings.   The flight call is a noisy chatter – they appear to enjoy each other’s company and have a lot to say!   

I am not surprised to read that St Francis (1182 – 1226) was fond of the birds.  Their presence and singing brightens up the countryside whereas their absence adds to a feeling of desolation.    St Francis possibly knew something of the latter when as a soldier in the Assis army at the age of 22 he became ill.   This led to a spiritual crisis which enabled him to view life differently.  

He dedicated himself to a life of simplicity and poverty following Jesus words to his apostles in St Matthew Chapter 10 verse 1 and Chapter 16 verses 24 to 26 which reads; Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

It was not to be however.   The order which he founded including St Francis himself came under the authority of an appointee of the Cardinal.   His quest was to point the church back to its spiritual foundations and to illustrate the manner of life that pointed people to Jesus.

St Francis never became a priest.   He wanted to be “married” to Lady Poverty and walk with Sister Charity and to serve as a praise leader of all creation.   Canticle to the Sun has the verse; The heavens are telling the glory of God, And all creation is shouting for joy!
Come, dance in the forest, come, play in the field,  And sing, sing to the glory of the Lord!
Praise for the wind that blows through the trees, the seas’ mighty storms, the gentlest breeze;
they blow where they will they blow where they please to please the Lord!

Shades of St John Chapter 3 verse 8 “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”