Reflection on a Bee Orchid by Fr Hugh O’Donnell

Fr Hugh O'Donnell is a poet and ministers with the Salesian community in the parish of Sean McDermott Street in Dublin. He completed the MA course in Religion and Ecology in 2004 at the Columban Ecological Centre at Dalgan. Out of that experience came his written reflection on the intimate relationship between worship and the earth, namely, 'Eucharist and the Living Earth' (Columba), which was revised in 2012.

His book of reflections, 'Songs for the Slow Lane', also appeared from Columba in 2014; it, too, focuses on our deep desire to be in tune with the earth. He regularly contributes to 'A Living Word', the RTE radio early morning reflective slot.

Fr Hugh shares the following reflection with us:

bee orchidBee Orchid

Walking across sand dunes on the west coast of Donegal, I think of Michael Longley’s poem written to commemorate the ice-cream man who was murdered on the Lisburn Road. He had heard about the shooting on his return from a field trip to the Burren; his daughter had placed a bunch of carnations outside the shop. In addition to the list of ice cream flavours which she knew by heart –‘rum and raisin, vanilla, butter-scotch, walnut, peach’, he also included in his poem all the wild flowers he had seen in a day.

Around us are masses of lady’s bedstraw, eyebright, yellow rattle, patches of common centaury, milkwort, sheep’s sorrel and then like a gift offered, the wonderful bee orchid. Two of them! And nearby three more!

‘We were drawn to It’, someone said, and that was closer to what had happened than our own discovering of this rare creature for whom we get down on our hands and knees for a closer look.

My botanist friend, John Feehan, describes his first meeting with the bee orchid at the age of thirteen as heart-stopping, as a moment of revelation.  Fifty years later I can sense what he meant.

Our footprint grows heavier upon the earth. Maybe wild flowers can heal us if we let them. Jesus understood as much when he said, ‘attend to them’ for in their beauty is revealed a glimpse of Original Love. In their presence we are invited to be still.