Transformed by overnight rain, the garden – a source of sanity for many weeks now – is suddenly a bit of a mess. The last tulip petals have fallen; the tall, slim branches of our young cherry tree, covered with pink blossom, are now bowed down under the weight of raindrops; and young starlings have pecked out half the soil in a couple of plant pots. Chaos is come again!
But only because I expect the small world around me to be the way I want it. Only, really, because I want to be in control. And in one way, this impulse to shape and order the world around us is a good thing. That great Victorian sage Thomas Carlyle said, ‘man is the missionary of order’, and in his time the world was coming more and more under our human control. But at another level the need to control is simply the desire for power: and we know all too well how that desire divides people, stirs up aggression, starts wars.
Today the Church recalls the life of St Catherine of Siena, who lived in the mid-fourteenth century in Italy. Catherine dedicated herself to a life of prayer and caring: she nursed the sick and supported the poor. Charity and affection were her keynotes. Instead of acquiring power, she sought to serve. How right that yesterday we paused for a brief minute to honour those who do that today.