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A WHALE OF A MEDITATION
I attended Boston College in the summers from 1983 until 89. Boston was recognized by my family and friends as an interesting place to visit and so I had lots of company. Some of my visitors were intrepid travelers and ventured out into the city while I was in class. Others smiled and said, “I’ll wait for you.” Perhaps, these friends recalled the song of Charlie—the man who never returned from the Transit. One such visitor, I’ll call Sister Billie and I headed downtown to the harbor. There are hundreds of tours leaving the harbor every day. Your choice, of course, depends on what you wanted to see. Billie and I wanted to see as many of the islands in the harbor as possible. We chose a small boat, just room for another couple and ourselves. It was a hot, sunny day; the sun showing off the harbor and the downtown beautifully. Billie and I sat at the back of the boat, comfortably chatting with our companions. We were thrilled to be in the open waters, sipping our ice teas when the boat stopped never to start again.
One of the most remarkable experiences of my life followed. While the captain tried to remedy the situation, a whale and her calf noticed us. She looked directly into my eyes, seeming to understand that we were in trouble. Her dark eyes holding the depth of compassion as she swam around us for more than an hour, never looking away. This huge mammal seemed to be caring for us, sometimes swimming close enough for us to touch her and then forming a circle of protection a few yards away. Her motion was calming and graceful as she and her calf made sure that nothing entered our space. I felt amazingly safe though stranded in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in what would be considered a tiny, red boat. Our whale held us in her gaze somewhat similarly to that of a mother gazing at the child. To me her presence was consoling and protective. As she swam closer to us her eyes said that there was no need to be afraid. As we sat in our small craft each of us reflected on God’s providence. We shared our feelings with each other. Each of us was sure that it was God that sent the whale to us. Who else but a whale could provide such shelter in the middle of an ocean? She was a stunning species of power and strength, but it was her maternal heart that mattered to us at the moment. We each wondered what would happen after two jet skis arrived and our captain departed on one of them. So, here we were under that mantle of our whale.
Our whale stayed with us for almost two hours until the rescue boat arrived. She watched closely as each of us was transferred to the new boat. It was then, to our amazement, our whale swam in circles with obvious delight that we were rescued. She understood that we were safe now. She flapped her flukes, breached once and before leaving came close enough to be touched. What an amazing day. With gratitude we said good bye to our friend through our tears and cheers which seemed to please her. In many ways that whale had connected us to a universe in which we are all one, in which the lion and lamb sleep side by side and the whale becomes the hero in the lives of four unsuspecting pilgrims on a simple boat excursion.
God of all creation, continue to bless our world with your most amazing creation. Teach us to be aware of the needs of others no matter the species. Open our hearts to welcome the other in times of joy and need. May we always recognize those who come with graciousness to offer a helping hand or in this case helping flukes of love. And may we come to recognize the sacrament of the moment which leads to ultimate trust in the creator. Amen.