Proud as a Peacock

We must always be cautious of the original sin:  PRIDE.  It is the root and origin of every sin.  The famous 19th century British author, poet and feminist Bessie Rayner Parks who campaigned for women’s rights in England wrote some beautiful reflections on nature.  She was the mother of the renowned historian Hilaire Belloc.  She wrote a small sentence that has always stuck in my mind:  “Large angels take a long time unfolding their wings, but when they do, they soar out of sight.”  I once quoted this to one of the young 7th grade students.  He never forgot it, and in fact quoted it to me often.  He obviously was inspired as much as I was by the profundity of this quote.  It of course tells us that the great and mighty take a bit more time maturing to achieve the exceptional greatness that God has in store for them.  But once they finally and patiently have developed into what God has designed for them….”they soar out of sight!”  Maybe you know people like this.  Maybe you are someone like this.

Peacocks are one of God’s most beautiful creations—and they know it!  They truly are exquisite creatures.  My friend Nick owns a few of them that live on his property, and each is unique in beauty.  The exceptional thing about the peacock is that, for all its beauty, it cannot fly.  It can only hop and jump enough to avoid being caught.  It cannot “soar out of sight” as Bessie Rayner Parks wrote.  For all its beauty, it will never fly like a simple, common and ordinary looking sparrow.  The peacock can never boast or be proud that it can fly, because it can’t.  The peacock can only be proud of its own beauty.  Pride!

But here’s the paradox.  When the peacock fills itself with pride it stretches out that magnificent plumage.  It struts its beauty by spreading out those wings, even though they will never enable the peacock to fly.  And once, filled with pride, the feathers fan out, something extraordinary happens.  That proud peacock reveals the scrawniest and ugliest legs in God’s creation.  It is pride that reveals its ugliness.  It is pride that reveals to us the ugly truth upon which it stands.  While the ordinary and unexceptional little sparrow “soars out of sight” into the heavens.


– Fr. Gerard Gordon