It is SUMMER TIME! One of my cousins recently posted on Facebook, “Now that it’s June, do we think it’s safe to put our winter coats away?” As a person who lived in Kansas for many years and has experienced freak snowstorms as late as MAY, this made me laugh a lot. This year in Texas we actually did have to use our winter coats once, when we had our big winter storm in February. That freeze killed so many plants; some will never come back. Others took a while, but now that it’s four months later they are finally coming back! Around here you can see so many beautiful plants and flowers now! Who knows how long they’ll last in our super hot summer months, but they are here for now.
I’ve talked before about the cool ways flowers visually attract pollinators, but I’d never thought about how they attract them through scent. When I think of the scent of flowers, I usually first think of the most delicious smelling rose, but then I remember there is also the AWFUL smell of Bradford pear tree flowers. (The beautiful white ones that smell like fish. Eww.)
It turns out that there is a huge variety of smells and they all have different purposes. Not all flowers use scent to attract pollinators, but the ones that do release a complex mixture of highly volatile compounds and oils into the atmosphere. This general idea is pretty universal, but their strategies for drawing the pollinators to them varies greatly depending on their goal.
Flowers that want to attract bees and flies? They have sweet scents! Flowers that want to attract beetles? They have musty, spicy, or fruity odors! When they release their scented compounds is also important too. Since bees and butterflies are more active during the day, flowers trying to attract them release the highest level of scents during the day. On the contrary, if flowers are trying to attract nocturnal creatures like bats and moths, they release more of their scent at night.
These flowers have precisely figured out what is needed to draw in those pollinators. They know that the scent is enough, so they don’t waste precious energy on bright colors or fancy patterns. Flowers with strong scents are often plain looking, either white, purple-brown, or dark red-brown, but that strong smell can be detected at distances over a kilometer away so the pollinators will come from all around.
As silly as it may sound, these plain looking yet highly alluring flowers remind me of a Saint whose feast day is today.
His name was John Francis Regis, and he was a priest in France in the early 1600s. Although many people today look for very charismatic homilists in their favorite priests, he gave very plain sermons and yet still drew many to him. He did this through the sacraments.
During this time in France there was a lot of civil and religious strife. Many clergy were absent or negligent and so the people had been deprived of the sacraments for 20 YEARS OR MORE! Father Regis saw this and chose to be different. He would spend many mornings in the confessional or celebrating Mass. In the afternoons he would visit prisons and hospitals. He made himself available and brought the sacraments to all, especially the poor. His work successfully converted many people and brought others back to the Church.
After this past year of so much death and sickness and churches being shut down, it is easy to see why many people are not returning to Mass even though many of the restrictions have been lifted. They are jaded or upset. Churches all around the country are scrambling trying to figure out how to get people back in the pews, how to attract them back to this beautiful life-giving source. I’ve seen a number of …interesting… ideas, but Father Regis shows us that the answer is simple. It is the sacraments that will draw people back. It is the sacraments that we have been deprived of.
I can attest that after a few months without the Eucharist, that longing for it kind of faded away because I forgot how good it was. But once I was able to attend Mass again, once I was able to receive the Eucharist, I never wanted to be separated from it again. So many people are still in that state of apathy like I was. They have forgotten how beautiful and good the sacraments are.
We who have made our way back need to bring others back with us and it is through the sacraments that we will accomplish this. We need to follow Father Regis’ example. This is obviously the easiest if you are a priest and reading this. You can actually add Masses or hear these people’s confessions. This does NOT let us lay people off the hook, though! We can’t take the sacraments to the people, but we can bring the people to the sacraments.
This last year has been pretty isolating, we haven’t seen our friends in so long. Maybe when you finally get together with your friends, you could invite them to church with you! You could invite them to attend Sunday morning Mass with you and then go for a brunch to catch up. A lot of churches offer Saturday morning confession, so you could invite them to go there before you go to the pool in the afternoon. It is the sacraments that will draw people back to the Church, but just as the scent of the flowers travels on the breeze to the pollinators, we can be that link that brings the two together. You and I can help to fill those pews again. The sacraments are what the people need, we must help them get there.
If YOU haven't gone back, and don't have a medical reason to continue doing so, this is me inviting you to go to Mass. Let the sacraments draw you back in. Be reminded of how good and wonderful they are.