I’ve been “murmuring” to myself all day about a photograph. Thousands of Africans, dressed in their “Sunday best” have walked for many hours and miles to celebrate the coming of Pope Francis. It’s pouring with rain and the crowd is seated on a hillside of moving mud – in a land of sunshine. It seems so unfair!

And then I catch myself – and doubtless in company with millions of other much-too-certain keepers of traditions, disquieted by life’s upending so much we think of as “what should be” – ecological, meteorological, philosophical or spiritual, I catch sight of my ridiculous, protesting little self in a mirror and, for a while at least, am humbled and silenced.

From the margins, in Africa, the call of the twenty-first century prophet Francis urges two new ecological turning points in history: humankind must stop destroying one another and must stop destroying the earth upon which it depends.

Peaceful coexistence. Wider perspectives. Higher generosity. Deeper humility. Broad hospitality. Common wealth. Quiet speech. Attentive listening – especially, in this noisy world, to the all-illuminating, all-pervasive silent music of God.

From the margins, in North Wales, the twentieth century poet R S Thomas provided a vision of prophetic listening, an antidote to fear or pride, the possibility, having seen oneself in a mirror, of praise:


I praise you because
you are artist and scientist
in one. When I am somewhat
fearful of your power,
your ability to work miracles
with a set-square, I hear
you murmuring to yourself
in a notation Beethoven
dreamed of but never achieved.
You run off your scales of
rain water and sea water, play
the chords of the morning
and evening light, sculpture
with shadow, join together leaf
by leaf, when spring
comes, the stanzas of
an immense poem. You speak
all languages and none,
answering our most complex
prayers with the simplicity
of a flower, confronting
us, when we would domesticate you
to our uses, with the rioting
viruses under our lens.

R S Thomas (link)
Laboratories of the Spirit, 1975

Let me not be so quick to presume!

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