Everyday Miracles

Some sisters like to say that our simple way of life makes us easy to entertain. It's another way of saying that our simplicity makes us childlike. It opens our eyes to the miracles that are of the everyday variety - like Chesterton's God who cries, "Do it again!" before each new sunrise.

Birds hatch all the time. But that doesn't make it any less of a miracle, especially when we come close and can see it with our own eyes!

This is our second year witnessing the growth of a killdeer family at our motherhouse. Last year, a killdeer couple decided to build their nest near our driveway. This year, they were a little more prudent and built it a little further from traffic - in the grass behind the professed house.

Now, one of the things about killdeer is that they build nests on the ground. Yes, on the ground. It sounds pretty vulnerable ... until you learn the other thing about killdeer. They have a system of defense that is nearly incomparable in the birdie class. The mother guards the nest (with a rather threatening and ear-splitting cry) while the father distracts all predators away with an elaborate "hurt wing" show. This is really quite entertaining in and of itself (It would also be admirable if it were not for the fact that the bird is not virtuous and performs this self-sacrificing act merely out of instinct).

This being the second year, some of the especially enthusiastic sisters attempted to predict when the four little killdeer eggs in the nest would hatch, based on last year's numbers, and were often found checking the nest as the climax approached.

That brings us to the evening of Mothers' Day, a few days ago. I was out planting the kitchen garden with Sr. Della Marie. We decided to move a particular bean plant to a place that faced the east and would get more sunlight. Sr. Della Marie moved it and happened to glance over at the killdeer nest (she being one of the aforementioned enthusiastic sisters). Her intuition told her something was afoot, er, a-cracking.

She called to me: "The eggs hatched!" I echoed her call to two nearby studious novices. I regret to say my temptation was a welcome one to them : ), and we all soon joined Sr. Della Marie in oohing and aahing at the 3 baby killdeer who were quickly morphing from wet, ugly aliens to cute fuzzballs with little dinosaur feet. The fourth stubbornly remained in its shell, and night prayer called us into the chapel.

But the next morning, as soon as we finished morning prayer (we have no more than 15 minutes' break between morning prayer and Mass), sisters went to the nest, summoned alike by that childlike wonder and desire to see. This time the crowd had grown, since news of the hatching had spread like wildfire at the motherhouse (I regret to add, some spread just before or during grand silence : ) ).

And it was just at that moment that the fourth killdeer chose to emerge. Well, since we know the birds are driven by instinct and not by choice, I must say our heavenly Father chose to grant His daughters a wonderful gift: witnessing a bird break freely into this strange, beautiful world.

It was a surreal experience. I felt privileged to see what seemed to me such a sacred thing. It spoke volumes of the awesome gift of life we share with all God's creatures - even more of the new spiritual life we have in Christ. It was really something to ponder. And you should have seen the joy we sisters shared in that 15 minutes!

I do have another regret ... we frightened the parents out of their wits (or lack of). But no harm was done; we went to Mass and they instinctively returned to the nest.

I wish I could say, "Do it again!" Maybe next year?

-Sr. Mary Gemma, T.O.R.

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