Today’s blog features a guest post by Fr Charlie Burrows, an Irish priest working in Indonesia, on ‘Wonder.’ Fr Burrows is a priest with Oblate Mission Development, an office of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He has served in Chilachap on Java’s southern coast for the past 40+ years, organizing a sustainable development program in the region which has included building roads, dykes, schools, a maritime academy, and establishing banks.
I first wrote about Fr Burrows after watching a documentary about him on RTE’s Would you Believe programme in 2011. Since then he has written several guest posts on topics ranging from Muslim-Christian relations to evolution.
In this post, Fr Burrows reflects on the importance of allowing a sense of wonder to develop in children, and nurturing that sense through the adult life. For him, this is what ‘heaven’ is all about.
Fr Charlie Burrows on Wonder
My first experience of “wonder”, I can remember, was when my father, a commercial traveler for a seed merchant, brought home a duck and a drake – and let them run around our back yard / garden. The next morning I went out to see the new arrivals, and low and behold, found a new laid egg. Retrieving this I ran, very excitedly, back to the house, shouting loudly “Mamey, Mamey”.
My mother came running out, expecting some catastrophe and I shouted – “look look the duck laid an egg” – showing her my “wonderful” find. My mother, “in shock” and now very much annoyed somehow, did not share my enthusiasm for my “wonderful” find and made this known with some “deflating” words.
Now I try, in my home masses, to get “the Faithful” to “wonder”. I tell them of my first experience and say if their children have such as my experience, they should foster the sense of wonder in the child – how the duck, eating table scraps could turn this into an egg. Some of the “Faithful” seem to react much like my mother!!! As someone said “I tell it like it is, and they yawn as if it wasn’t”.
Undaunted, I tell them Heaven is a state (not a place) where we are totally “wondering” and enjoying all the things God created for man to wonder at and enjoy. But while alive we are too busy looking inward – “navel gazing” as someone put it – and don’t really enjoy life. I explain – the soul, constrained by the body – in death – is freed from “space and time” and hence only then has “time” to gaze at, really pay attention to, see all things as “wonderful”. Only then can the soul really appreciate creation and enjoy now really seeing creation with “newly opened eyes” – experience deep gratitude and find real joy and fulfillment.
Another of my experiences of “Wonder” was when the head of Mooncoin Vocational School – A Mr. Jim Doran – showed us a documentary film of life in a bee hive – explaining, among other things – how a worker bee – on discovering on area of heavily pollenated and nectar flowers – when returning to the hive – does a special dance telling the other worker bees of the co-ordinates of the pollen and nectar find. They then can all go there and collect large amounts of food for the winter etc. They had their global positioning device (G.P.S.) system long before we had – probably before we existed.
The film was made by some religious group and they went on to explain how the structure in the hive to store honey in their wax frames was found to be the precise measure for the strongest possible structure and is now used to build the shells of the most modern fighter planes.
Mr. Doran, probably afraid of proselytizing, turned off the projector after the first sentences on this but I had got the “picture” – “wonder” at how the bees “worked out” so many things to make life as a bee possible. Mr. Doran got hundreds of his students interested in bees and I am sure helped get better fruit crops etc. in the area – as well as having an extra income from selling honey. And most important he installed a sense of wonder in his students by explaining bee life.
Way back in primary school we were told that Heaven was the “Beatific Vision” – looking on the face of God forever and ever – and the only picture in the Catechism was a sketch of God touching the hand of Moses – so I was not all that interested in “going to heaven”.
Now if Heaven, as I believe it is, is an unending opportunity to gaze on, really be attentive to, hence wonder at – appreciate and enjoy all that God made to be enjoyed – now I am interested in that “wonder” and so get a taste of heaven.