Ann Lewin, poem on prayer

Prayer is like watching for the

Kingfisher. All you can do is

Be there where he is likely to appear, and

Wait.

Often, nothing much happens;

There is space, silence, and expectancy.

No visible sign, only the

Knowledge that he’s been there,

And may come again.

Seeing or not seeing cease to matter,

You have been prepared.

But sometimes, when you’ve almost

Stopped expecting it,

A flash of brightness

Gives encouragement.

– Ann Lewin, “Candles and Kingfishers”, quoted in Lost In Wonder , Esther de Waal, without title.

Charles Taylor: St. Francis and the Particular

“So it is not altogether surprising that this attempt to bring Christ to the world, the lay world, the previously unhallowed world, should inspire a new focus on this world. On one side, this involved a new vision of nature, as we see in the rich Franciscan spirituality of the life of God in the animate and inanimate things which surround us; on another it brought ordinary people into focus.

And we might add, ordinary people in their individuality. Because another important facet of Franciscan spirituality was its intense focus on the person of Jesus Christ. This devotion, as Louis Dupré argues, ends up opening “a new perspective on the unique particularity of the person.” On the intellectual level, this takes time to work its way out, in the writings of the great Franciscan thinkers, Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, Qccam, but it ends up giving a new status to the particular, as something more than a mere instantiation of the universal. Perfect knowledge will mean now grasping the “individual form”, the haecceitas, in Scotus’ language.”

Though it couldn’t be clear at the time, we with hindsight can recognize this as a major turning point in the history of Western civilization, an important step towards that primacy of the individual which defines our culture. But of course, it could only have this significance because it was more than a mere intellectual shift, reflected in the invention of new unpronounceable scholastic terms. It was primarily a revolution in devotion, in the focus of prayer and love: the paradigm human individual, the God-Man, in relation to whom alone the humanity of all the others can be truly known, begins to emerge more into the light.

And so it seems to be no coincidence that one of the First reflections of this focus in painting should have been Giotto’s murals in the church at Assisi. This interest in the variety and detailed features of real contemporary people did not arise alongside and extrinsic to the religious point of the painting; it was intrinsic to the new spiritual stance to the world.”

– A Secular Age, p. 94

And on, to the Bill of Rights?

“No need to wonder…” – Ruth Bidgood

No need to wonder what heron-haunted lake

lay in the other valley,

or regret the songs in the forest

I chose not to traverse.

No need to ask where other roads might have led,

since they led elsewhere;

for nowhere but this here and now

is my true destination.

The river is gentle in the soft evening,

and all the steps of my life have brought me home.

–   Ruth Bidgood  (as quoted in “Lost In Wonder: Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness”, by Esther De Waal.   Please let me know if this is not accurate.)