e-mail us

Starting Point

Fashion some fly-away beauty


The mother mourning dove and her chick were side by side, enjoying the shade of a bush in our cloister. He was only weeks old. He was smaller than his mother. Their heads turned as I neared, but the birds did not move. I stood and watched them for a while and then headed into church.

I have seen many cycles of nest building, egg sitting, hatching, chick-sitting and training in the years I lived in the country. Once I peeked into the foliage of a tree and saw a mother sitting on her chick, its tiny beak and eyes protruding from the underside of her wing.

The mother bird’s last job is to keep a watchful eye on her soon-to-depart young. There are no return visits once the young bird takes flight.

A pastor I know collects porcelain birds and he keeps them in little rows in a large cabinet. The brightly colored figurines are kept safe and dust free behind large panes of glass. The little statues are beautiful. My friend was easy to buy for at Christmas, and on his birthday I think of those two birds I saw in the cloister. In the wild the beauty that is life is so generous and yet precious. The mother and her chick are of a beauty unmatched by the finest piece that rests behind glass in my former pastor’s cabinet.

The beauty of the living is fleeting. It soon takes flight and does not look back. We cannot possess it. Artists fashion beauty from clay and oil and only then can we keep a facsimile of what flies beyond our grasp.

Time flies, and beauty takes flight with it. They do not look back. Yet to look down and see the soft living beauty of that mother and her chick gave me such pleasure. What a gift, really. A living gift. But beauty indeed takes flight, and there is not much that we can hold onto forever. All must grow and take flight to skies that beckon to hearts and provide destinies.

Angels and birds have wings. Two species at different ends of the spectrum of the living remind us that genuine beauty moves. It is a living movement. I have read that the universe itself moves along some mysterious path, and I then know that God has somehow affixed wings to all that God has made. Life has wings. We were made to take flight.

Fashion some beauty this day, the flyaway type, the kind you cannot keep but only give away. For it seems that true beauty has wings. We can hold onto it for just a while, but the beauty that is most real does not exist behind glass. It is a living mystery. It has places to go and beckons us to follow. Say a prayer for one in need. Write a card to a friend. Speak a word of love and hope to one who needs it. Give someone a lift with the wings of your heart.

Fr. James Behrens lives and writes in Covington, La.

National Catholic Reporter, May 10, 2002