Beyond the Edge of Knowledge: An Ecological Hope for Lent

The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster
The Bobcat
Friday, February 16, 2024

“Every single creature is full of God
and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spend enough time with the tiniest creature,
even a caterpillar,
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.”
Meister Eckhart

Bobcat standing on a log-hunting

My parents wouldn’t let me get a cat when I was little, so every time I went to my grandfather’s farm, I’d spend time in the old overgrown chicken coop where my grandfather’s outdoor cats would keep their litters of kittens. Finally one cold late fall day when I was eleven, my mom finally took pity on the runt of the litter, and indulged me. Sugar, the smallest little blue eyed white-and-gray-striped cat came home with us. She was a little wild, and barely nine pounds by the time she was fully grown, but she found her way into everyone’s heart.

I say wild but not bobcat-wild. Bobcats are the only native wildcat in Illinois. Bobcats are so very cat-like, ranging from ten to forty pounds with ear tufts and all the pouncing, purring, chortle-and-chirp energy you’d expect of a domestic short hair, with all the fierce, bold, majestic energy of a predator-carnivore. Territorial and solitary, they were hunted almost to extinction by the mid-1900s but after being named a threatened species in 1977, and thus according to the Endangered Species Act it became illegal to “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect” the bobcat. 

Bobcats were almost entirely gone from Illinois, but after twenty years of monitoring, scientists have begun to spot them, still yet rarely, in our state. Citizen scientists at the Urban Wildlife Information Network out of Lincoln Park Zoo even spotted a bobcat in Champaign County in 2022, the closest to home (our home, that is) they’ve been seen in decades. 

In her book Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World, Sharman Apt Russell says, “I feel the need to fall in love with the world, to forge that relationship ever more strongly. But maybe I don’t have to work so hard. I have thought nature indifferent to humans, to one more human, but maybe the reverse is true. Maybe the world is already in love, giving us these gifts all the time—the glimpse of a fox, tracks in the sand, a breeze, a flower—calling out all the time: take this. And this. And this. Don’t turn away.”

Fall in love with the world. Don’t turn away. Watch. One bobcat at a time. One call to action at a time. 

Want to become a citizen scientist yourself? Check out Nature’s Notebook, the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Budburst, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, or the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Information Network for information on how you can track the wildlife just outside your window, and be part of loving the world in a new way.

Let this be your prayer: 
Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.
—Joseph P. Whelan, former provincial superior for the Jesuits of Maryland in the United States

February 16, 2024

Join our Mailing List

Share This