I saw her a few days ago. She is a pigeon who has made a nest in a space above the door that opens to our chapter room.
It was a good choice. The space offers shelter from the rain and wind and it is high enough that the bird should be safe. She is nesting on her eggs, though I am not sure how many eggs there are. I am guessing maybe two, from other nests I have seen over the years.
She has been there most times I have passed the door and I now look up every time I go by. The monks pass that door several times a day, on their way to our abbey church and then back again. Basically, we pass it 40 times a day. And more can be added for extra trips.
I do not know how long the pigeon will sit on her eggs. Maybe weeks? It amazes me, the ways of nature. So much instinct comes into play. She must have felt something growing within her, and so she set about finding the right twigs and building the nest.
I have seen birds getting quite fussy in their quests for just the right twigs. They peck around the ground, selecting one twig after another and then discarding them until they come across exactly what they are looking for. Then there is the artistry of making the nest, weaving the twigs to together so that they form a comfortable and secure place of rest and eventual birth.
And the nest must be safe from harm. How do birds "know" things like height and shelter?
Then there is the waiting. Our cloister pigeon sits in her nest for a good part of the day. She will occasionally fly off to feed or stretch -- I am not sure which -- and then she finds her way back through some kind of maternal radar.
Then the day will come when the chicks hatch. There will be feeding, fussing, cleaning, and an eventual parting of the ways when the chicks are ready to leave the nest.
It all fascinates me.
We monks pray for a lot of things and a lot of people. The list grows longer every day. We pray despite the many disappointments in life, in the sobering realization that we really do not hear the voice of God answering our prayers and making all things better.
We live in times that expect so many things -- rapid solutions, easy answers, the best roads home and to paradise, the right to have comfort wherever and whenever we can find it. The myth of eternal happiness being available in the here and now is hard to evade. It lays claim on us here, too.
I have been watching that pigeon. There is something obedient about her as she lives her life by the best instincts with which she was born and, eventually, flew. She has all she needs to get by and more. She lives in some realm other than that defined by being sad or happy. She just does her thing, does it very well, and waits.
Things may go terribly wrong. A strong gust of wind may take all that she has made -- her nest and her eggs -- and shatter them to pieces. I have seen that happen before. Then I saw the cycle of life begin again, with the building of a new nest and the laying of fresh eggs.
I watch the pigeon, and wonder what God asks of us -- for we certainly ask plenty of Him. Mostly for our comfort, for a smooth ride here. Refuge from the ravages of the wind and whatever threatens our life.
Jesus came to us through the womb of a woman. Then He entered the wildness of this world -- our world -- and terrible things happened to Him. We did not want Him in our world and devised a way to get Him out.
But He came back, with wings and a glow, and reminded us to be patient, to judge not, to be obedient to each other by being of service, and to leave the larger affairs of life to God, to the same God who made pigeons who wait and the human who is so restless. I watch the pigeon and beg to learn something from her.
Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Ga. Highway 212 S.W., Conyers. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.