Category: Nature


Many of the Catholic parishes in the Highlands of Scotland were also ‘crofts’ – which allowed the priest to support himself and the parish by living off the land. A croft is a small free-hold of land which allows sustainable living. As communities have got wealthier, the need for the parish to sustain a croft has diminished. However I now in many places the vestiges continue. I have had the joy the last few years to go to the Outer Hebridean island of South Uist for a few weeks supply in the summer at this parish click here.  The priest still has his own flock of sheep, real not metaphorical, and last summer I was presented with my own lamb, butchered and prepared by the parish shepherd!  Here in Arisaig  the priest keeps over 40 chickens, and ably assisted by the wonderful Winnie (left) we have a regular supply of ‘holy eggs’ which parishoners pick up and are enjoyed at breakfast. I have really enjoyed feeding the chickens with Winnie and learning about poultry-care.

Even better of course is enjoying the fruits of their labour. The parish house is equipped with a magnificent double egg-cup – first time I have seen one!  Not only does it allow you to be greedy – but also to compare tastes. Today I tried the light blue shelled egg along side a Polish chickens classic brown colour egg.  The Pole edged it slightly – with one of the richest yolks I have every enjoyed. It is true that free-range tastes much nicer.

There is a serious point – the growing movement of eating locally sourced and in-season products. Not only does it support the local economy, the food is healthier and tastier!  Scotland seems to be leading the way with this and the influential Fife Diet.  Asking local people to sign-up to eating food from the region of Fife, for a year,  and to monitor their progress and share their experience. The project has developed from a voluntary network into a funded body and in its development has changed from a small amount of people dedicated to eating ‘from Fife’ for a year, to a much larger network of people trying to re-localise more generally and to explore what sustainable food might be. It has won awards for ethical consumption.  Seeing the parishioners donate money and pick up their eggs  on Sunday was very inspiring – particularly as the younger contribute a bit more so the older folk can get their eggs very cheaply.  This could be a great idea for other parishes to take up!

Using Time Wisely


We are making the most of the beautiful long mid-summer evening light here in Edinburgh. Yesterday at the end of our days duties I went for a spot of evening fishing with one of the other priests – we were fishing till 11pm and pulled in 13 mackerel.  It was a wonderful evening and will live long in the memory. With so many of us leading busy lives it is important to use free time well.  The psychologist Claudia Hammond has written a fascinating book, ‘Time Warped’,  about how we perceive time .  What I was struck about was her observations about the ‘Holiday Paradox’.  The phenomenon seems to be that you go on holiday for two weeks, packed full of new experiences, new places,  the days rush by.  However when you get back it feels as though you have been away for ages. This has an interesting impact on how we use our spare time wisely.  If you want your weekend to go slowly, pack it with new events and different activities but you will sacrifice rest.  If you use the weekend to rest then paradoxically it will feel as though it has gone fast. How we spend our weekend is important for many of us – particularly if we feel stretched by our jobs….

We often forget that time is man made, what Kant referred to as ‘Epistemological Spectacles’.  Time is the way we measure change, but instead of managing time, we often let time rule us. Reading Claudia Hammonds book is helped me to reflect on time perception. There is a very interesting passage about whether or not anxiety makes time pass more slowly or an incredible experiment by a young French man who chose to maroon himself in total darkness in an ice cave for two months.  Telescoping is another interesting phenomenon in her book, referring to the curious way that we often think that  significant historical events happened more recently that they did. For example  - if I ask when did Princess Diana die? Most of us would give the wrong answer – because we would say a more recent year………. (it was 1997).  This phenomenon is because of the illusion that the more clear a memory is then we think that it happened more recently.

As a result of this I hope to use my free time more wisely!


A supporter of murdered Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio becomes emotional as he lights a candle as other activists hold a banner demanding justice for the priest at the start of a nine-day candlelight protest in front of the Davao City Hall. (photo by Romy Elusfa,

The strategy of the enemy according to St Ignatius  “He goes around to lay snares for people to seek to chain them. First to tempt them to covet riches that they more easily obtain the empty honors of this world and then come to overweening pride. The first step then, will be riches, the second; honor, the third; pride, these three steps lead to all other vices”  Spiritual Exercises Week 2, Fourth Day

There were 0ver 400 views of the previous post No Greater Love  about two recent ‘martyrs’  in the Phillipines, The Jesuit scholastic Richie Fernando and this weeks murdered missionary Fr Tentorio( (FT). So I suppose it would be good to update you on the situation with FT.  It is important to stress that there is an investigation underway and there has been no formal allegations made. However following it in the Phillipino press from Manila, everyone in Mindanao, where the killing took place, seems to be making the same connections. It has also shown me how impressive the media is over here, free and forthright at times – but at a cost.  Anyway below in the form of bulletpoints are what I have gleaned so far.

  • Agreement seems to be that FT was killed by a professional hitman, implying powerful enemies
  • Extrajudicial Killings‘ is a major problem in the Phillipines, which led to Freedom House changing the countries status from ‘Free’ to ‘partially Free’ in  2008, a relegation that still applies
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists claim that the Phillipines is the third most dangerous country to be a journalist after Iraq and Somalia
  • FT was campaigning against the open-pit mining (Tampakan Project) proposed by a company called Sagittarius Mines (SMI)
  • The project claims that it will exploit the worlds largest untapped gold/copper seam
  • The Dioceses of Marbel, Digos and Kidapawan  are currently coordinating efforts to stop SMI from getting its Environmental  Compliance Certificate to operate its Tampakan Project
  • In their annual report they claimed to have contributed P2.5 billion to the Philippine economy last year, and paid P399 million in taxes and fees.
  • Workers from the mining company are regularly attacked and sometimes killed by the communist ‘New People’s Army’
  • In this climate, companies create politically sanctioned  agreements with the military to have ‘private armies’ protect their interests,
  •  According to Clemente Bautista of NGO Kalikasan, FT was already threatened by elements of the Bagani paramilitary group under the 73rd Infantry Brigade
  • Xstrata Copper owns 62.5 percent of the controlling equity at Sagittarius Mines and are based in Switzerland

Fr Tentorio had pointed to a particular mahogany tree among the hundreds he had planted at the back of the convent in the 1980s, as the one that would be used for his coffin when he dies

Fr Tentorio will be buried on Wednesday.  What is clear is that there is a culture of impunity in the Phillipines that allows the politically well connected to literally get away with murder.  As another Jesuit pointed out to me over dinner – Extra-Judicial Killings is a term usually used for the assasination of ‘criminals’ – It is not clear what Fr Tentorios Crime was. From what I can gather, he opposed irresponsible mining practices,  especially the plans of Sagittarius Mines Inc. to open-pit mine the minerals on the lands of the indigenous people of the Dioceses.

The second part of St Ignatius meditation of the Spiritual Exercises is as follows - Christ our Lord, the Lord of all the world, chooses so many persons, apostles, disciples and sends them throughout the whole world …….  there are three steps. The first poverty, opposed to riches, the second scorn or contempt, opposed to worldly honor, the third humility, opposed to pride. From these three steps Christ leads them to all virtues

The Clean Up Begins

They say that you only see somebody’s real character when they are really up against it.  This is also true of  a group of people,  The British often talk about the Blitz Spirit in the dark months of 1940-41 when the Germans bombed London (and many other cities) for 76 nights consecutively .

Well a relative newcomer like myself cannot help but be impressed with the people of Manila. This morning, the death toll has risen to 20 (according to USA Today and the Manila Informer) and my companions have told me the number will keep rising, with some fatalities never to be reported.  In spite of this, everyone just seems to pick themselves up and get on with life.  Standing on the roof at 7 this morning, looking Southwesterly over a large chunk of MetroManila, you could hear a symphony of scraping noises,  a myriad of people with brushes and pans out on the streets cleaning away leaves, branches and the various detritus that Pedring had dumped.  Schools are open again, the motorised tricycles swarming about looking for passengers and the horn-blowing jeepneys asserting themselves on the city streets that were abandoned yesterday.

Some people claim that this was the worst typhoon for 14 years – others point towards typhoon Ondoy a couple of years ago, when the local river the Marikani rose to 23ms breaking its banks and flooding the low lying shanty settlementswere.  There were many local casualties as the waters rose .  Last night – with much of the city suffering a blackout – I lay in bed listening to the torrential rain, feeling absolutely powerless.  We had the diesel generator running most of the night, due to the infirmary three floors below.  This allowed you sporadically to monitor the river levels via twitter and the announcements of MMDA – Manilas Development Authority.    26,000 people were moved to evacuation centers when the river rose to 19m at about 8pm.   It carried on rising but much more slowly, so it was a relief to follow the announcements on Twitter of the flood waters beginning to subside around 3am ish.  In spite of the power cuts and phones being down it was interesting to see how much you could monitor what was going on through social media – check this very interesting blog for an in-depth account.

So to finish with a Philipino proverb in Tagalog – after witnessing todays heroic and quiet resolve : 

Matibay ang Walis palibhasa’y magkabigkis   A broom is sturdy because its strands are  tightly bound

and if you object to me quoting Tagalog (which I don’t know how to speak!)…. then remember He who does not love the national language is worse than a smelly fish!!!

Appeal from the Red Cross in the Phillipines

Typhoon Nesat / Pedring

 It is the first time I have had twigs, leaves and branches in the shower with me in the morning, although I know for many others it is a lot worse. Now the wind seems to have calmed down now in Manila, the rain continues, Typhoon Nesat paid us a close visit today. Even though it landed 200kms north of us – Manila was still put under storm signal two, with 9 more unfortunate areas in the Phillipines under signal three.  As you can see from the image Nesats reach is huge – extending 100′s of miles. Here in Manila we have been hit by its flailing arms – almost continuous torrential rain and very strong gusts of winds.  Halfway through this mornings meeting with my fellow Jesuits one of the largest trees here in the Loyola House of Studies was just uprooted – falling conveniently into the gap between the chapel and our bedrooms (see the video clip below). If thats what it can do from over 200kms away, God knows the damage it is causing near the centre.  According the font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, there has already been $2.4billion damage this Typhoon season.

I’m told that Typhoon season can last from April – November with sometimes up to 20 being recorded, i,e those that have been upgraded from tropical storms. Winds over 100km per hour raises a storms status to a typhoon – and above 200km per hour to a super-typhoon.  We were perilously close to that but as you can see from the tracking image below the windspeed seems to have come down a bit when it hit land this morning.  The developing storm has been tracked since the end of last week – its international name is Nesat, but once it entered the Phillipines Area of Responsibility (about 400kms off coast) it was given the local name Pedring. is an excellent site for tracking events

So apart from the drama of the tree fall, and a sleepless night we are all ok. However over 100,000 were evacuated from Central Luzon, and as I write this Pedring is cutting a swathe through some of the most fertile farming areas just before harvest time. The other concern here in Manila are the rivers – two years ago our local river burst its banks and killed 60people from the shantys.  Referred to as squatters – the rubbish that is left in the drainage channels generally exacerbates any flooding – and as always it is the poorest who have the least protection.  I pray that they may be kept safe.

Below is a small clip taken from the roof here at ‘Loyola Heights’  to give you a flavour of the amount of rain and some of the milder gusts of winds (i.e when it was safe to film). Watching the force of the wind – I can see now why Bamboo is a good metaphor for being centered and flexible. Watching the huge Bamboo plants sway gracefully in the wind was mesmerising – whilst the biggest and stiffest tree was just snapped over in an instant.  Anyway when the wind settles I am going off to help with the clear up – and I hope there is no greater need down by the river.


#Update 4.30pm (9.30GMT) – Marikina River in Manila reaches critical level at 18 meters, forced evacuation in effect. Please pray for the people most affected. If needed Jesuits here will organise blankets and food later on for those who need help.


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