THE SPOTTED KERRY SLUG AND THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

The Kerry Slug or Kerry Spotted Slug, ( Geomalacus maculosus) is a species of medium sized to large air breathing land slug. An adult Kerry slug generally measures between 7-8 cms ( 2.8- 3.2 ins). The Kerry Slug is on my mind quite a lot these days, and yet I only heard of it about a month ago when I attended one of the best seminars I have ever been at. The seminar was in Dromintine just north of Newry and it explored Laudato Si, the letter of Pope Francis regarding care of the earth. I have been at many courses and seminars in my life and most of them fall into the bracket of dull to reasonably interesting. This one was riveting. It was extremely well organised from hospitality to ambience right through to content. Those who organised and those who gave input did a really superb job. It was informative, challenging and inspiring. As I said to Emer the chief organiser, whilst attending courses, I am a veteran snoozer, especially after lunch. There was no snoozing that day. I would happily spend another day on similar material.

During the course of the day I learned that the curlew, the bee, and my new friend, the spotted Kerry slug are all in serious trouble. I learned about eco systems and water and pollution. I learned about fossil fuels, and global warming. What impacted on me most was when I learned about plastic. I am not embarrassed to record that I cried and raged at the destructive havoc it is causing in our world. Early on in the day it struck me how terribly ignorant I am in this whole area. I mean it’s bad enough to be ignorant but to be ignorant on the issue of the care of the earth as a pastor and minister of the Gospel is far worse. I felt shame. I felt shame at my ignorance and shame at my living in this beautiful world and being almost oblivious to my part in the destruction of this sacred gift of God.

I am not sure why, of all the ‘scandals’ I heard about that day, I was particularly captivated by the Kerry Slug. I mean my friends in Tralee, Norma and Denis, and indeed the beauty of the said kingdom clearly have much to do with it, but even with all that there is something about my encounter with the said slug. It’s almost that with all the stuff that hits me in my head on the level of knowledge, all that pulls on my heart and my emotion, that this slug somehow has met me in my soul. It’s almost that the Spotted Kerry Slug is whispering to me of the Divine.

Another thing I got a glimpse of, was some understanding as to why young people are captivated by ecology. I am beginning to see why they are going on strike with regard to climate change. I now realise why Greta Thunberg is being spoken of as a contemporary prophet and why 1.4 million students in 112 countries around the world joined her call in striking and protesting. I now see their passion.

We, I mean us churchy people, often agonise over how might we reach out to young people. They are reaching out to us. They are after us. They are on our case. They are taking us to task. They are holding us accountable as the present custodians of earth, sea and sky. These wonderful young people that we so often lament as lost, or chastise as disinterested or label as indifferent are awake. They are alive and on fire with love and care for our planet. They put me to shame in their appreciation of the dandelion, their knowledge of pollinators, and their love of the honey bee. We could start by saying sorry to our young people for being such ignorant galutes. Then we could get behind them in humble solidarity and resolve to do our bit to stem the wanton ravaging of the splendour of God all around us.

If we were more faithful to Sacred Scripture and Church tradition as evidenced in people such as Francis of Assisi might we be a more attractive Church to our young people. If we took the time to have a look at the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin we would discover that the modern ecological movement and Christianity are not uneasy companions but in fact are mutually nourishing. Apart from acquainting ourselves with Laudato Si, it would be great to read de Chardin’s Hymn of the Universe, especially the chapter entitled Mass on the World.

Could it be that the whisper of the threatened Kerry Slug is one of a number of prompters to help us reassess where we going? Could it be the groaning of the ecosystem reminds us of our dependence on God, and that we either help each other or we hurt each other, every day.

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