It’s been long overdue, but recently I’ve been dipping into the Holy Father’s encyclical letter, Laudato si: on care for the common home. As good as it is – and it is very good, being insightful and highly topical – sometimes just stopping to look around can bring about both awareness and gratitude. Simply staring out of the window at a richly coloured garden or catching a glimpse of a kingfisher before it disappears into a river, can stimulate the heart and mind into an appreciation of and a oneness with, the beautiful world we live in.

Which brings me to the Somali elephant shrew. How does one of God’s creatures go missing for over 50 years only to reappear again as if it had never been away? You may have seen the pictures in the tabloids of this rather endearing creature, not seen since 1968, but recently discovered alive and well in Djibouti. Another creature, but much larger, which has never disappeared but is in some danger of doing so, is the polar bear. A young member of this family of bears, Hamish was in the process of moving house and as a picture was taken appeared to be waving a paw goodbye. Apparently, Hamish who in 2017 became the first polar bear to be born in Britain in 25 years was leaving his Highland Wildlife Park home for a new one in Yorkshire. Let’s hope he settles in and while I think of it, let’s pray the shrew sticks around.

However, it was a photograph of Durdle Door on the coast of Dorset and the absolutely stunning Milky Way in the background which rather captivated me. I was transfixed and couldn’t help but stare at this breath-taking scene and of course reflect on God the creator and his wonderful creation. How little have I appreciated it over the years.

We all need a timely reminder on how precious is the world we live in and so I draw to your attention the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on Tuesday 1st September. Perhaps on this day we could spend time in prayers of thanksgiving and protection for our planet and for the human beings and animals with whom we share it.

And now for something completely different, to use a Monty Python catchphrase. Often, I walk round the church praying The Divine Office or the rosary and I have often wondered what happened to Fr Kevin Jean-Marie Donovan. His name appears simply as Kevin Donovan on the door of Our Lady’s Chapel, along with the names of other priests from Beckenham who were ordained here at St Edmund’s. They are Fr Paul Fennessy, Fr Anthony Barratt, Fr Gary Dyer, Fr Martin Edwards, Fr Paul Welsh, Fr David Rhys and Fr Tom Creagh-Fuller. But unlike these priests, Fr Kevin has a stained glass window – the beautiful one of Our Lady of Lourdes, to his name. The inscription reads, ‘Commemorating the Ordination to the Priesthood of Kevin Jean-Marie Donovan, 1965’. Perhaps parishioners who were around at that time might be able to shed some light on him. On this subject, I think it would be good to build up the archives of the parish so that we can all be aware of the people and events that have made and shaped our parish over the years. I would be interested if you can help or if you have any views on this.

Finally, back to the Somali elephant shrew. What was it that tempted this little creature back into the limelight for the first time in 52 years? Peanut butter and marmite! It’s a weird and wonderful world.

Have a good week,

Fr Steve