Pilgrimage at Home – 5

Michael HutchinsonPilgrimage

Cuddy’s Ducks

Following the Desert Fathers from whom Cuthbert drew inspiration, Cuthbert desired to live an independent life. Yet conditions on Farne were challenging, with shallow soil and perhaps an overly salty atmosphere – Cuthbert was not sure. Following the failure of his wheat crop, Cuthbert attempted to sow barley, long after its proper season. Mentally resigned to its failure, Cuthbert was resolved to leaving Farne to pursue a more independent existence elsewhere. To his great surprise, an abundant crop grew. Cuthbert could not help but think of the Parable of the Sower: even in difficult circumstances, when the right seed is sown, the seed can produce a crop a hundred times what is sown.

Yet when the crop was ripe, Cuthbert was plagued by rooks, coming to eat his barley. For Cuthbert, his entire existence depended on this crop. He could not simply allow the creatures to eat him out of house and home. Cuthbert bade them depart in the name of Jesus, and the birds arose in a cloud of black, flying off to unknown pastures.

Feeling sad, Cuthbert returned to his home, to find a pair of ravens pulling at the thatch in his roof. He tried to shoo them away, but without success, so again he bade them depart in the name of Jesus. No sooner had he said the words than the ravens left. Cuthbert was shaken: the birds, after all, were causing no real harm. How could it be that he was becoming so possessive of his worldly possessions? He was filled with remorse at his actions, making his confession to Almighty God and begging forgiveness for his misuse of creation.

His heart full of repentance, Cuthbert led a renewed life of love and respect for his fellow creatures. In particular, Cuthbert grew to care for an eider duck, which took to following him around. During the nesting season, these ducks were to be found in his home, and Cuthbert often caressed them during Morning Prayer, much as one might today stroke a dog with its head in your lap. When the ducks had their ducklings, they too would waddle after their adoptive parent, following Cuthbert around as he went about his business. They were affectionately known by the community as Cuddy’s Ducks.

Cuthbert used to teach about creation, asking how it was possible to love the Creator without loving God’s creation? “When we lose sight of our role within creation, we lose sight of the Creator,” he would say, and “How can you claim to love God, when you are not filled with love for all that God has made?” For Cuthbert, divorcing the two was unthinkable: how could the Sacred Space of creation be distinct from their religion? For surely religion is not to be placed in a separate box from the rest of life.

Opening Prayer

Father, we praise you with all your creatures.
They came forth from your all-powerful hand;
they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love.
Praise be to you!

Son of God, Jesus,
through you all things were made.
You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother,
you became part of this earth,
and you gazed upon this world with human eyes.
Today you are alive in every creature
in your risen glory.
Praise be to you!

Holy Spirit, by your light
you guide this world towards the Father’s love
and accompany creation as it groans in travail.
You also dwell in our hearts
and you inspire us to do what is good.
Praise be to you!

Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love,
teach us to contemplate you
in the beauty of the universe,
for all things speak of you.
Awaken our praise and thankfulness
for every being that you have made.
Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined
to everything that is.

God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.

O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!

Closing Prayer

All-powerful God,
you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters,
harming no one.