April 8th is the feast day of St Walter of Pontoise. Obviously, this isn’t a picture of him, I’ll explain what it is in a minute or two. Walter was a professor of philosophy and rhetoric who joined a Benedictine monastery, hoping for a life of quiet contemplation. The king, Philip I, had other plans for him though, and asked him to be the first abbot at a new monastery at Pontoise. There, he found discipline to be very bad and priests that were corrupt. Walter hated it. It wasn’t that he was afraid to confront people, he was actually quite good at it and received a lot of praise for his efforts. But this was exactly the sort of thing he’d hoped to leave behind when he took up the monastic life. He ran away to become a monk in another monastery at Cluny, but was discovered and forced to return. Then he ran away to hide on an island in the Loire, but was again led back. Next he escaped to an oratory near Tours where he was recognised by a pilgrim and again, found himself back at Pontoise.
At this point he decided to go to Rome and appeal directly to the pope, Gregory VII. He presented a letter of resignation but the Pope refused to accept it. He told Walter that he must use the talents God had given him and never leave again. So Walter returned to Pontoise, resigned to his fate. There, he campaigned against abuse and corruption among the priesthood. He faced angry opposition and was even beaten, arrested and imprisoned. But he continued his work after his release.
Saint Walter is the patron saint of all those suffering from job related stress.
Today is also International Draw a Bird Day. It is held in memory of a little girl named Dorie Cooper. In 1943 her mother took her to the hospital to visit her uncle. This was during World War II and he had been wounded. He had lost his leg to a landmine and was feeling very low. She asked him to draw her a picture of a bird. Even though he was feeling so terrible, he did as she asked. He looked out of his window and drew a robin. When he gave it to her she laughed and said he wasn’t a very good artist but that she would hang his picture in her room. Both her honesty and her complete acceptance lifted his spirits and also cheered up the other soldiers on the ward. After that, every time she visited, they drew birds for her too. Within a few months the whole ward was decorated with pictures of birds.
Sadly three years later she was knocked down by a car and killed. Her coffin was filled with drawings of birds from the soldiers, doctors and nurses who had been on her uncles ward. Every year on her birthday, the men and women at the hospital who remembered the little girl, who had cheered up a ward full of wounded soldiers, by drawing a picture of a bird themselves. Now, people all over the world draw a bird on her birthday, and the one above is my contribution. If you want to take part all you have to do is draw a bird and share your picture with anyone you choose so I’m sharing mine with you. The idea behind Draw a Bird Day is to put a side your worries for a while and remember how important it is to find joy in the simple things in life.