O loving Pelican!
O Jesu Lord!
Unclean I am but cleanse me in Thy Blood;
Of which a single drop, for sinners spilt,
Can purge the entire world from all its guilt.
St. Thomas Aquinas
from the hymn, Adoro Te Devote
More often than not, while sitting idly outside…
be it either early in the morning or even late in the evening, shrouded in silence but for the
chirping of a passing bird, my husband will often muse that if he could be anything other than a
human being, he’d like to be a bald eagle.
While I immediately counter that I’d like to be a pelican.
He practically screams with incredulous disgust.
“Those are nasty birds!
They sit around with dead rotting fish in their gullets”
“Maybe so, but how resourceful is that to keep supper and the supper for their children
always ready and waiting?”
I’ll cheekily counter.
Pelicans and humans have often had a contentious relationship as fishermen have perceived
these gregarious birds as rivals to their livelihood.
But the truth is that pelicans don’t actually compete for a fisherman’s catch…
they’re just a bit more opportunist than adversary.
Yet for over a hundred years or so they have been culled and their eggs destroyed–
to such numbers that several species have become dangerously endangered.
And yet, to me, these awkwardly shaped birds are synonymous with all things of the ocean.
Despite making no beautiful song of their own other than the odd
clacking of their bill or ballooning of their throat pouch, they are my troubadours of the sea.
I always know when I’m finally getting close to the longed-for destination of the ocean
when I spy my gangly looking friends perched sublimely on a pier’s dock or gliding
in regimental formation along the currents of the wind.
But I was surprised to learn the Christian history behind my beachy feathered friends.
It seems that in Medieval times, pelicans were actually symbolic of Christ.
It was believed that during times of famine and shortages of food,
a mother pelican would actually peck open her breast offering her own blood to her
young brood in an attempt to help sustain them when hungry.
A selfless act which reflects the same selflessness of Christ’s offering his own life’s blood
for our own survival.
St Thomas Aquinas, in 1264, wrote a hymn noting the similarity… “Adoro te devote”
And so it appears that my desire of opting to choose a pelican as my alter ego,
my choice appears to be much deeper then I could have ever imagined…
0 loving Pelican! 0 Jesu Lord!
In Holy Communion, Our Lord does not offer us only spiritual nourishment,
but gives himself to us as Food.
The Ancients thought that when the chicks of a pelican died,
the pelican opened his breast and with his blood fed his dead young,
in this way bringing them back to life.
Christ with His own Blood gives us eternal life.
When we receive Holy Communion with the right dispositions,
it rouses in our soul fervent acts of love, transforms us, and identifies us with Christ.
The Master comes to each one of His disciples with His love,
which is at one and the same time effective, creative and redemptive.
He presents himself to us as the Savior of our lives, offering us His friendship.
This Sacrament is the food of· all intimacy with Christ, for which there is no substitute.