Posted by: ARC | May 4, 2010

Scottish Parliament reflects on the weeds and the wilderness

Wet and Wilderness. PHOTO: ARC/Victoria Finlay

I just had an email from Father Chris Boles, a Jesuit priest in Scotland who is passionate about making more links between Catholicism and the environment. He told me about a reflection he led last month at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. And after a prompt, he sent me the text. It is beautiful and thought-provoking, and I wanted to share it with you here.


I suppose most of you here walk down the Canongate to get to Parliament, so you regularly pass by the fascinating wall of this building that contains quotations from various people and sources. Like this one from the poem ‘Inversnaid’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

“What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness and wet;

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”

What you might not know is that Hopkins was, like me, a Jesuit priest, and he wrote ‘Inversnaid’ on a visit to Loch Lomond in 1881, while working in a parish in Glasgow. At the same time as Hopkins was writing, another of the authors on the Canongate Wall was himself living and loving the wet and wildness, not on Loch Lomond but in California. That’s John Muir and his quote on the wall is short and sweet:

“The battle for conservation will go on endlessly. It is part of the universal battle between right and wrong.”

How right he was. Hopkins and Muir were men ahead of their time. Both saw how impoverished our lives would be without wild places, and the chance to be in nature. These were also men of deep faith, and Muir in particular has important lessons to teach us about finding the sacred in nature, and our own place in the natural order. Nodding to another famous author on the Canongate Wall Muir reminds us that:

“From the dust of the earth, from the common elementary fund, the Creator has made Homo Sapiens. From the same material God has made every other creature, however noxious and insignificant to us. They are earth born companions, and our fellow mortals.”

Because we share a common creaturehood with all other species, we do well to tread carefully on habitats not our own. Besides, we benefit greatly when we enter the world of nature, as Muir, again, reminds us:

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”

If it’s true that we all need beauty as well as bread, then you in particular, through the work of this Parliament, have the responsibility to ensure both are provided in good measure.  This you already do, and on behalf of all fellow mortals I encourage you in your efforts.

“Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”

Time For Reflection April 21st 2010   –  Fr Chris Boles SJ  – Director of the Lauriston Jesuit Centre, Edinburgh



  1. thank-you so much for sharing this.
    It has inspired and given me energy to plod on trying to make difference to the tinniest speck within an over neaten church yard.

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