19 September 2019, The Tablet

All too often modern science undermines traditional expressions of our faith

All too often modern science undermines traditional expressions of our faith

We have had a butterfly summer. I do not know how they have dealt with the gruelling heat in other parts of the country – but by and large it has been pretty wet and cool here. We have not just had extra numbers of our standard species, we have had butterflies that I have not seen here before – including the painted ladies who had a mass migration across the Channel this spring. (Don’t tell sensitive Catholics but some painted ladies are male – and gender-specific language does not seem to have hurt them.)


I love butterflies. I find them beautiful, silent and extraordinary – heart cheering.  I am not alone in this delight; butterflies have very positive symbolic roles in almost every culture. They are often seen as representing the soul – or its theological and social equivalent. For Christians for centuries they were symbols, or representations, of the Resurrection. And this, I think, is where things start getting interesting – because a butterfly is a far better, fuller image of the Resurrection than medieval scholars and artists can possibly have known. 

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