In our ancient Celtic legends stories of the loyalty of animals to several saints abound. Perhaps one of the best known is about Columba. Knowing that his death was approaching he made a tour of his monastery. As he paused for rest, the old white horse that carried the milk pails for the monks approached and laid his head against Columba’s breast and as if mourning he seemed to weep for his friend. A story is also told about Kevin of Glendalough, who allowed a blackbird to hatch her eggs on his outstretched hand where she had built her nest while he prayed!

So perhaps it is not altogether out of keeping that a bumble bee had much to say to me recently. I met him sitting on a wall sunbathing {it was still mid-March} An elegant looking fellow he was, complete with yellow decorations accross his back! What caught my attention immediately was his total stillness except for the rhythmic breathing of his little body as he received breath after breath from his Creator.

You will smile perhaps but it remains vividly in my mind as a moment of great beauty—this little creature basking in the sustaining love of its Creator.
The Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum tells us that “God who creates and conserves all things by his Word provides constant evidence of himself in created realities” If then, as St. Bonoventure wrote, ‘every creature is a word of God since it proclaims God’, what was this simple bumble bee trying to tell us about the breathing of God or indeed about the love story of God?
Sadly this divine initiative of giving us our breath is so normal it can be forgotten.
It is truly his own breath that we receive moment by moment, sustaining our life if only we had eyes to see and hearts uncluttered enough to experience:

How gently and lovingly —–you awaken in my breast
where you dwell secretly and alone,—-and in your sweet breathing
how delicately you inspire my love.

Of this breathing St. John of the Cross speaks, “it is so sublime and deep that it is indescrible nor can the human intellect in any way grasp it”.

However today it is not this gentle breathing of our Saviour that comes to mind,
rather it is the last dreadful gasping breath —-“bowing his head he breathed his last”. It is only someone suffering from asthma that can fully appreciate the anguish of trying to get ones next breath. Much of the agony of crucifixion for Jesus was his incessant quest for air as he was stretched accross the beam of his cross. How did he ever find breath to cry Father forgive them. And even to remember his mother close by “Woman behold your son son behold your mother”. His thirst too aggravated by lack of air.
Thirsting for our love.

We can leave it to Bishop Edward Daly’s lovely poem The Holy Hour to say it all so much better:

He stood wearily against the stone pillars,
And against man’s cruel heart.
Head bowed majestically, feet and hands——bound with chain and hatred.
Blood trickling off his brow, thorns—piercing his solemn head
beaten and spat upon, flinching at the blows,—the leering stare, the gaudy laugh,
The sacred body growing weak,–purple robes flung mockingly upon
trembling shoulders,—twisted and falling, rising to be kicked
over and over again—The Son of David being glorified,
Tearing off the purple garment and —hardened pieces of flesh and blood,
being rendered from the holy body.—Deep shuddering breaths as pain and love
Become one.—The weight of human contempt
Urging Him to stand.—Feeling the iron puncture of his healing hands,
Leaving His head fall to the —Father’s breast.

How can we ever thank this God of ours for his love and his adoption of each of us into his own Family.

But back to my bumble friend — as I bent to whisper good bye and breathed a gentle sigh he flew away — dear friend may we meet again.