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On the track of the Snow Panther

September 2022 – A great friend of La Ferme, an Irishman, Phil Kearney is also a catholic priest. Phil contributes here with a reflexion he wrote after seeing a beautiful documentary called ‘The Snow Panther’. It is the story of an encounter, a special one indeed..

The Gospel of Matthew tells us: “Seek first of all the Kingdom and all these things will be given to you” (Mt 6.33)

La Panthère des neiges (The Snow Panther) is the title of a documentary film released in France in December 2021. It tells the story of two men’s quest for a very special animal. The two men are Vincent Meunier, a wildlife photographer, and Sylvain Tesson, a writer. The animal in question is the “snow leopard”, a very rare feline found only in certain valleys of the high mountains of Central Asia. In this case, it is in Tibet that our two explorers are tracking the creature.

While searching for this rare pearl, this elusive – indeed reclusive – animal, Vincent Meunier and Sylvain Tesson saw, admired, filmed and described a host of other animals and birds. The snow leopard was their first goal, but what they were given was so much more- a whole fauna, rich and abundant: simple rabbits, foxes, but also wolves, a bear family (a mother and her cubs), hinds and deer, the Tibetan bison known as ‘yaks’, wild cats, donkeys and horses, goats and marmots, hawks and owls, choughs and other birds which are as rare as they are magnificent! All this before the snow leopard and all this because of the snow leopard. They first sought her, the queen of this kingdom of the Tibetan plateau. But over and above that, all this abundance of life and living creatures was given to them.

As for us, let us first seek the kingdom of God. The King of this kingdom is also elusive. He is difficult to find. He is hidden, yet he is everywhere, watching us. Let us seek that which is most precious, most secret, most rare. Let us yearn for it. For He gives Himself to those who long for Him, those who accept the vulnerability of waiting, of listening, of unconditional acceptance, of the immense patience of true love, the fragility of real relationship. The reward is an abundant and amazing life.

We are invited to an ecological and spiritual conversion. And this conversion is not primarily a moral duty. It is a gift, the gift of reunion. It is the joy of this recognition of companionship between us, between all that lives. Animals and other living beings, are not objects but subjects. They look at us and they apprehend us. There is a relationship. They really are our relations. They observe us before we observe them. After our two adventurers, Meunier and Tesson, have just spent hours watching for the panther, which escapes after a quick first glimpse, Meunier takes a beautiful photo of a hawk (see photo). Months later, back in France, Meunier will look at that photo again, and finally he spots her: the panther’s head, so well camouflaged that it looks like a rock, yet is clearly visible. Quite candidly, she is watching the photographer!

And in the last images of the film, she is finally there! Far from running away when she sees the two men, the panther turns around, crouches down and looks at them. For a long time. Eye to eye. Meunier and Tesson feel a great wave of emotion. It is a sacred moment, a moment of deep truth, of mutual recognition.

The kingdom of God is like the snow leopard: let us seek it as our first priority, and then everything else will be given to us in addition. Everything and everyone. For a life together in this great community made up of all living beings. The life of the Kingdom.

Phil Kearney

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