Julian Tenison Woods Riding by Night, Oil on Clay, Marea Cox, Josephite Mission and History Centre Tenison Collection. Photograph: Daniel de la Motte.

Daniel de la Motte shares a narrative meditation inspired by Father Julian Tenison Woods, adapted from a formational prayer he wrote for the students of the Tenison House of MacKillop Catholic College, Mornington, Tasmania.

It is the night… The gentle breeze rustles the leaves of the eucalypt forest… Insects and frogs add a gentle beat to the rhythm and rustle of the trees… For the creatures of the night, the cool breeze is a welcome relief from the heat of the day… The moon bathes the landscape in a peaceful light revealing the mysterious movements of sturdy tree branches. The orchestra of nature is punctuated by the clip-clop of trotting hooves. A figure on horseback cuts through the night, every movement a mixture of determination, purpose and weariness. It has been a long day of riding for Father Julian Tenison Woods. He is nearing the place of his next mission.

The sound of a snapping twig and a darting shadow across the road causes Fr Julian to rein in his horse. All signs of weariness disappear as he excitedly dismounts and with renewed energy digs through his saddle bags. Pulling out a notebook and pencil, Fr Julian unhurriedly walks over to the tree behind which the shadow disappeared. Peering into a hollow, he sights an unfamiliar creature. It stares, eyes large, studying him with the intensity of a creature deciding whether to remain, fight or flee. Taking advantage of the creature’s stillness, Fr Julian begins to sketch.

Time passes and the sounds of the night reassert themselves. The scratching of the pencil ceases. Fr Julian stops to admire his work. The light of the moon illuminates a lifelike sketch of the creature elegantly labelled with scientific terms and notes of the creature’s appearance. With the gentled beating of his heart, Fr Julian feels a rising joy, gently creeping through his now-still mind and body. The weariness of the journey is forgotten. He is a thread held in the vast tapestry of the moon-silvered country. Gazing into the night he speaks the words being written in the still, small place of his soul: “Lord, when we live in harmony with nature and the way you wish us to live, we find happiness and purpose. These harmonies pierce the heart and lure it on like the sound of distant music until it has no eye or ear for anything except the works of its creator.”

Ears ringing with the inner music of gratitude, Fr Julian regains his mount and adds his little prayer of thanksgiving to the nocturnal symphony. Choirs of angels and saints join in harmony and beckon him on like a distant star.

With the renewed clip-clop of hooves, Fr Julian remembers the weariness of a long day and feels a twinge of longing. But setting his course by the light of the heavenly star he remembers the warm-worded prayer of an old friend reminding him “We are but travellers here”.

Daniel de la Motte
Education Officer
Josephite Mission and History Centre, Hobart, Tasmania