In 2002, Sister Carol Hoverman, OSF, became the first female editor of The Witness. She wrote editorials during her tenure, including the one below titled “Lessons from a Butterfly.” It appeared in the April 16, 2006 issue.
On March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, we were ecstatic to find a live butterfly fluttering on the windowsill above the sink in our kitchen. Mid-March is not the time of year one usually sees butterflies in this climate.
It all started last fall when we found a small striped caterpillar on the parsley gathered from a friend’s garden. We put it in an open jar with more parsley leaves and a stick anchored in styrofoam and watched as it ate and ate and grew fatter every day.
One day it began spinning its chrysalis and attached it to the sturdy stick in the jar by a single thin thread made from its own body. Eventually, we could see nothing but the brown chrysalis as the caterpillar was hidden from sight awaiting its miraculous transformation.
Throughout the long winter we wondered if there was anything living anymore inside that chrysalis. There were no signs of life. It looked golden brown and dry, but it was still held firmly in place by that single thin thread.
Finally, after all those months of waiting and wondering, a beautiful creature with blue-black wings, decorated with yellow, blue and orange spots, emerged in glory! The metamorphosis was complete. The worm-like creature that could only crawl, now had wings and could fly. It was no longer earthbound.
Its life was changed dramatically — not ended!
Spring is alive with so many similar transformations in nature. The trees that appeared dormant for months sprout new leaves. But first their old leaves had to wilt and die in the fall.
Wild flowers begin to push their way through the winter carpet when the sun warms them to the roots.
After being frozen for months, the grass comes to life again with new energy.
What an appropriate time to celebrate the Paschal Mystery — the death and resurrection of Jesus and its meaning throughout our lives. Symbols of life conquering death are all around us if we are attentive. It is a season of hope.
We often say that even though we must endure some “Good Fridays” in our lives, in time they will be followed by “Easter Sundays.” That span of time often is much longer than three days! It takes great faith to endure the darkness and believe that God is still present and transforming us. Don’t people often say they are “hanging on by a thread?”
But like the butterfly that emerges with a transformed life after months of darkness in its chrysalis hanging by a thread, people eventually receive the grace of new strength and insight to overcome loss of loved ones, tragedy or hardship and move into a new season of life.
Watching that seemingly lifeless chrysalis day after day for several months and seeing the winged beauty emerge brought this reality into sharp focus once again. This transformation occurred in the warmth of a kitchen, but knowing that nature’s miracles occur millions of times outdoors with the chrysalis surviving the freezing elements of winter makes the metamorphosis even more amazing.
As we celebrate the church’s observance of Easter, it is time to also recall and celebrate all of the Easters of our lives — the times we have emerged from our personal “Good Fridays” and know that the cycle is intertwined with the death and resurrection of Jesus. Life is changed — not ended. Happy Easter!