by Catherine Maresca
As we pass through the weeks of spring we can’t help but rejoice in the blossoming trees and blooming flowers of the season. It’s no coincidence that Easter and Passover are celebrated in the spring – the nearness and life of God in these celebrations are reflected all around us in nature.
Nature is also a means of God speaking to us, of calling us, and of encouraging us. My story offers an example of this. I offer it in the hope that you experience and note the abundant blessings of God’s creation, and find ways to be a blessing in return to creation, deepening our communion with all the beings of the universe.
When she was about eight years old, my oldest daughter, Julie, asked if she could have a ring-necked dove as a pet. My husband Charley wisely answered, yes, but first you need to write a bird’s bill of rights. Julie considered this, and her document included fresh water, daily food, clean birdcage, company, and gentle handling.
Charley built a large cage, and Crema joined our household. With her strong voice, she was a constant and humorous contributor to family conversations as well as weekly community prayer meetings. She was joined by another dove, and the two lived contentedly with us for a number of years, before moving to a large aviary nearby.
A couple of years later, I was asked to house a pair of doves in the 6-9 atrium of the school where I work. These doves were mates, and soon were sitting on eggs, and then feeding hatchlings. Our school’s youngest children used to come to the door with a note, “May I watch the birds?” They would then sit in complete silence, inches from the cage, watching the nest for a glimpse of the eggs or the babies.
And then, in 1995, several colleagues and I started the Center for Children and Theology to nurture, research and reflect on the gifts of children for the church. We began in September in a room rented from the school. On December 8, I began work one day seriously questioning what I was doing, and if I was truly called to this adventure with the Center. Kate, a co-worker, came into the room before the school day began. I was looking for something in the closet when I heard her say quietly, “Catherine, look, but turn around slowly.”
On the sill outside the window above our prayer table sat a perfectly white dove, reminding us of the gift of peace Noah experienced after the great flood. We were encouraged. When we returned to the room at lunch time, the dove was still there. We were more encouraged, and began to consider the meaning of this visit in earnest. A month went by, and the dove was still with us. She flew to the rooftop for water, then returned to the sill for seeds that we provided. Occasionally, Kate would open the window and sing to the dove. Once again, children came to the door with a note, “May I watch the bird?”
The dove remained with us until late May, a bit like a mother who is present to her child during the months of learning to walk: encouraging, protecting, and clearing the way as needed. By the time the dove moved on, our little Center had a firm footing, thanks to the hope and encouragement of God, present in our faithful companion, the dove.