It is easy to miss events in the world around us. So much of the beauty of creation occurs in slow motion, or in ways that are so minute as to be virtually unnoticeable. The wild weather here in Victoria over the last month has been quite exceptional however; it has imposed itself upon us and gained our attention. So often though, our attempts to divide our attention between all that life throws at us can be overwhelming, and we miss the wonderful, less obvious opportunities that God has placed in our way.
Driving my children home from sport last week I noticed something unusual. A raven was attacking a mouse or a rat on the side of the road. The movement and intensity of what was occurring grabbed my attention. In response I stopped the car and went to shoo them both away. What shocked me was that the 'rodent' was in fact a baby ringtail possum. The raven flew off and I offered my jumper to the little guy, who seemed relieved to jump in. We took him to the Veterinarian Clinic with the hope that the Wildlife Rescue Shelter might nurse it back to health. When we moved him from the jumper to a cage at the clinic we were asked if we wanted to name him. My son Perry decided to call him Geoff.
The day before this event was the feast of St Francis of Assisi. Perhaps saving this tiny creature was a test, much like the time Francis was tested by the vision of the leper. Francis was from a wealthy family, lived the life of a noble knight and hoped to win fame and fortune. As a young man his behaviour was far from holy. His transformation was different to Ignatius however, in that rather than being injured in battle, he was taken prisoner and when ransomed he began to change as a person.
After a time earnestly seeking God, Francis renounced his previous life and claims to his family's wealth, attracting all manner of attention from locals. Those who admired his way of life began to follow him as his companions, thus forming the beginnings of the Franciscan order. He is best known to us through the accounts of his care for creation and great love for all of God's gifts. He died in 1226 and was canonized in 1228.
Some three hundred years later Ignatius of Loyola furthered this understanding of care for creation and offered us his great spiritual legacy. The phrase "God in all things" encourages us to pause and observe creation and in doing so seek the presence of God. Rescuing Geoff was a wonderful experience for my children and myself. His tiny beautiful face, his tenacity in trying to defend himself against the raven and response the protection we offered allowed us to find God easily in that moment.
We sometimes find it difficult to 'see' God in others. The challenge is for us to have faith, pause and then look again. Sometimes the people who frustrate us or have hurt as are the ones who bring us closest to the presence of God. Maybe the person who we choose not to see, the homeless, the refugee, the -estranged family member, are the people who can help us find God in places we may not have believed possible, if only we slowed down took another glance.
My dear brother Geoff was a gift to us from our loving God. I was able to stop and respond to an event that I so easily may have missed. Instead, I found God's presence and passed on this most precious insight to my children.
That night my children decided to pray for Geoff and ask for God's love. Their response is further proof that God moves in all of us and prompts us to reach out to him. I hope I can expand upon this understanding in the future and help them find God in those things and people where He is hidden.
Brendon Nicholls is the liturgy coordinator at St Ignatius College, Geelong.