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Posted: 04.11.20 in Articles category

A lovely tale is told about a bird-related moment in the life of Roland Walls, the priest who founded the Community of the Transfiguration in central Scotland in the 1960s. In his book, ' Travels with a stick', Richard Frazer recounts the story:

Roland felt very anxious about the wellbeing of the community, which was always very small and vulnerable and never had much money. He was worried that it might falter and fail. As he say in the garden reflecting on these anxieties, a small sparrow landed on his shoulder and stood there for almost a whole minute before it fluttered into the bushes. Roland became convinced that this was a sign that he should not be anxious - God would watch over his community. After all, even a sparrow does not go unnoticed, and if it was relaxed enough to rest on Roland's shoulder, so he should stop fretting too.

Why did the sparrow settle on Roland's shoulder? What was it thinking? Was the priest sitting so still that the bird didn't realize it was landing on a human being? And did God in some mysterious way cause the sparrow to land on Roland? Whatever the causes, Roland Walls interpreted the incident as having deeper significance... to be seen as a divine 'sign' reassuring him of God's love and purposes.

Is this how we should perceive incidents in our lives? Should we view the various things that happen to us with "the eyes that see", seeking to discern God's 'hand' at work? I am reminded of the prayers of Michel Quoist, another urban priest and near contemporary of Walls, who wrote about all life becoming a sign that reveals God to us as we search for him. Nothing is secular. We can encounter God anywhere, anytime and in anything - even through a small sparrow.

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