The Messenger, the Muse, and the Redeemer

Why can’t I just turn away from the John Corapi story and leave it behind? All I can figure is that it is like the aftermath of a ferry boat accident. There are a lot of passengers that are still in the water and I have the conn of a lifeboat.

Or it’s like I’ve happened upon the scene of a passenger train wreck, and I’m stepping into the role of the Good Samaritan. I don’t know how effective I will be, but I’m trying to help move survivors back to safety.

As for John Corapi himself, it appears more and more to me that he has done as Shakespeare’s lines in Hamlet state: hoisted himself on his own petard. Perhaps he feels, though, that he is Hamlet reciting these lines,

There’s letters seal’d: and my two schoolfellows,
Whom I will trust as I will adders fang’d,
They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way
And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
For ’tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petard; and ‘t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon: O, ’tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.

–Hamlet Act 3, scene 4, 202–209

No matter. His orders from his superior are clear and he is in direct violation of them. Obviously the best thing to do would be for him to obey, return to base, and stand the ecclesiastical version of a court-martial. But that isn’t happening, as Deacon Greg’s latest synopsis clearly shows.

Leaving the errant messenger, then, I give you Johnny Cash. Johnny knows addiction, pain, and hurt. So Johnny, the muse, can help assuage your wounds now. These songs may help as he points you toward the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who also felt the betrayal that you feel now.  The Lamb of God took that burden all the way to hell and back.

Sing it Johnny,

Ring of Fire.

YouTube Preview Image

I See A Darkness.

YouTube Preview Image

Hurt.

YouTube Preview Image

Why Me Lord?

YouTube Preview Image

Dom Lou Tseng-Tsiang once wrote this about the faith,

In every period of transition the two opposing currents are very violent. To escape from them, one must be prepared to be judged unfavorably by both. So one must learn to be alone. The Christian life, for its part, does not escape this rule. Our Lord Jesus Christ is so often all alone on His Cross.

Solitary Man.

YouTube Preview Image

And by reader request (thanks!),

Redemption Song.

YouTube Preview Image

Redemption Day.

YouTube Preview Image

Haul yourself into the lifeboat and head back to the barque of St. Peter.

For Thoughts on Our Adversary by Fray Francisco de Osuna

No, this isn’t about Uncle Sam, patriotism, or anything like that. This is part two of a series on the work of on-going personal conversion that I started yesterday. Milk drinkers beware, because meat and potatoes are coming your way.  Bring your knives and forks and spoons. Napkins are optional.

Last December, I wrote of a minor miracle regarding me and Fray Francisco de Osuna. Come to think of it, St. Anthony of Padua probably had something to do with it too, as I thought a book was lost, and it was found. Francisco, see, was a Franciscan, and he wrote the book I misplaced, The Third Spiritual Alphabet, that had a huge impact on St. Teresa of Avila. Information like that gets my attention, pronto.

For me, Fray Francisco became a mentor of sorts. Sure, he’s dead and gone, and not an official saint, but if reading his book helped out the Carmelite superstar mentioned above, then I figured he could help me out too. I didn’t know too much about Franciscans at the time, except that they were founded by the peace-loving St. Francis of Assisi. But for a guy that was cloistered, Fray Francisco sure seemed an expert on human nature. And his command of the scriptures, as you’ll soon see, put this RCIA attending “soon to be former” Protestant “Bible-expert” at ease.

As for his “peace-loving” Franciscan side? Well, don’t you dare try and stereotype my mentor. Besides, the combat he refers too is spiritual, though it involves the physical as well. In my mind’s eye, I picture him as Sir Alec Guinness playing Obi-Wan Kenobi, but with a Spanish accent. However, instead of spouting modernist, Manichean, New Age, Star Warsian psycho-babble from under his brown wool habit, he’s teaching Catholic orthodoxy. The kind that, with me anyway, never goes out of style.

Take for instance the following passage from the seventh letter of “the Alphabet.” What’s this section all about? “How We Are To Cast Out Evil Thoughts, Saying: Thoughts Start War if the Gate is not Closed.” What follows is from the first chapter of this treatise. Remember my affinity for the military genius from ancient China, named Sun Tzu? My mentor Fray Francisco could teach him a thing, or two.

Chapter 1: The Devil’s Army

Astute captains always keep soldiers in reserve so that when they rush into a losing battle, the soldiers who thought themselves overwhelmed will take heart at the support, and their joy and renewed efforts will discourage the enemy. This is exemplified in the valiant, gentle captain Joshua who in the fight against the city of Hai placed five thousand men in ambush on one side of the city and thirty thousand on the other side, while he with the main body of soldiers stood openly against the city. He pretended to flee before the citizens, who ran out in pursuit, while the thirty thousand came and took the city, and the five thousand resisted those who returned to defend it; thus, with some helping others, they all enjoyed total victory. (Joshua, Chapter 8)

Just a quick note from your Marine Corps trained editor. See what I mean? Fray Francisco speaks the lingo that resonated with the recently retired Leatherneck. And now, we meet the adversary.

This strategy of clever warriors is no less known by that skilled soldier, the devil, to whom the words of the Maccabeans are applicable: “He fought many battles and took the fortresses of all, and killed the kings of the earth. He went through even to the ends of the earth and took spoils of many nations; and the earth was quiet before him. And he gathered great power and a very strong army, and his heart was exalted and lifted up. And he subdued the countries and nations, and princes became tributaries to him.” (1 Maccabees 1:2-5)

This passage describes the unjust, exceedingly prideful Alexander (Ed: Alexander the Great), who through great force became lord of what was in no justifiable sense his. He represents the devil, not only in deed but in name, for his name means the very strong, and so it can be said of him that he was a very strong and warring man, the son of a whore (Judges 11:1) His evil guilt and sin are expressed by his wicked mother whose son he became when he obeyed her and heeded the counsel of iniquity.

This devilish and most strong Lucifer, like the other Alexander, fought and fights each day many unjust battles; he took the fortresses of all when he conquered our first parents, leaving us vanquished like the subjects of a captured king. He killed the kings of the earth, who were our first parents, whom God created to rule all inferior things, when he caused them to offend God Your Majesty and be sentenced to death. He killed them, as it were, because he said they would not die for their offense, but that in itself was the reason they perished.

And it says he passed through to the end of the earth, which is human flesh corrupted by iniquity, and God says that this end has come before him in lament (Genesis 6:11-13). This passing through the earth is original sin, which goes from one to another like a perpetual burden, as slavery is handed down from mother to child, or corrupton spreads from the roots of the tree, or force of yeast affect the entire dough, or the poison of the salamander invades the tree’s fruit, for Pliny says that if the salamander touches the roots of the tree, its entire fruit and all the tree will be infected.

See Isaiah 14:12

Thus the devil passes by to take possession of mortals and steals immense wealth when he leads into sin many who previously were rich in grace. And if they do not resist, the earth becomes quiet before him, which in itself suffices to make them his. The devil gathers a great army from among the defeated, forcing them to fight against those as yet unconquered, and he protects them and arms them with cleverness like his own so that they constitute a crowd of sinners whose hearts burst with deviltry and who are more skillful than the devil himself.

He can muster such an army because there is no earthly power to equal his (Job 41:24). He took countries of nations, especially because the Gentiles worshipped him (as Alexander probably did), and as Christ explains, the tyrants became his tributaries when he named himself prince of this world (John 12:31). The tyrants are lesser devils who serve him continually, albeit against their will, for if they do not consent to honor God in heaven, even less do they wish to be subjects of Lucifer.

This extraordinarily strong warrior who, like Goliath, is trained for battle since youth (1 Samuel 17:33), fights in the style I began to describe: that is, he keeps soldiers in reserve and divides his army into three groups for a more clever attack. He orders one squadron after another into the skirmish so that if his enemy succeeds against the first, the second will defeat him, and the third, as seen in the image from the book of Kings: Three companies went out from the camps of the Philistines to fight (1 Samuel 13:17).These Philistines, who are demons, pitch their tents in the field of malice and assemble their trops in three battalions.

Luxury is the first battalion and it marches forth heavily armed and provided with everything necessary to win. St. Bernard says this battle engages every rank or class of people: all ages, the ugly, the beautiful, the great and small, the healthy and the sick –in short, the entire human race.

Many manage to escape from their ferocious opponent, but then the battalion of Pride rushes in, armed with offices, riches, honor, and such things, and those who did not wish to sully themselves in what they considered the obscenity of the first vice now fall victim to the second precisely because it seems so clean in contrast with the first and less blameworthy for the reason that so many people commit it.

If they overcome the second battalion, the third surely defeats them, for these soldiers are more ferocious and cunning, being the demons themselves who have come to battle men by thrusting into their imaginations a whole throng of spiritual vices, as expressed by the image of Sennacherib (Tobit 1:18), who launched his entire army and power against Jerusalem.

St. Paul advised the faithful about this: “Take comfort, brothers, in the Lord and the strength of his power. Put on the armor of God to counter the devil’s tricks. For now we do not contend just with flesh and blood, but with princes and powers, the rulers of the world of darkness, the evil spirits over heavenly things (Ephesians 6: 10-12).”

The apostle’s words prove the seriousness of the battle in that first he warns us that the battle will be strenuous and we will need the armor of God’s favor and effort, since our own is inadequate against such infamy, and second, he refers to trickery, which implies malice as well as strength. Third, he emphasizes the grievousness of the battle by stating that it is no mere contest of flesh and blood and by naming the demons with lofty titles so as to evoke their tremendous power to battle spiritual opponents for what he calls heavenly things, those which the commentary explains are the virtues and souls of the faithful against whom the third assault is launched.

The first two attacks are physical, clear to see, and involve the body rather than the spirit. But the third hurls a host of evil thoughts to irritate and wear us down, and our letters says concerning these: “Thoughts start war if the gate is not closed.”

It seems that in the first two battles the devil leaves the fighting to his soldiers, those who take his side: that is, the flesh, which is the first vice to plague man, and the world, which supports the devil against Christ. But when the devil sees that his companions and vassals, who are other demons, are defeated and that person has withstood successfully the siege of these two vices and lives chastely and totally devoted to God, then it can be said of him: “He sent against them the heat of indignation, anger, and fury, and tribulation, a multitude of agents of misfortune; he opened a way for his anger and he did not save them from death.” (Psalm 77:49-50)

Is your milk getting curdled yet? Perhaps it is fitting to recall that Blessed Pope John Paul II recommend the following to the flock,

“May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle we are told about in the Letter to the Ephesians: ‘Draw strength from the Lord and from His mighty power’ (Ephesians 6:10). The Book of Revelation refers to this same battle, recalling before our eyes the image of St. Michael the Archangel (Revelation 12:7). Pope Leo XIII certainly had a very vivid recollection of this scene when, at the end of the last century, he introduced a special prayer to St. Michael throughout the Church. Although this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

For the Work of On-Going Personal Conversion (Part I)

I’ve written in the past about the deleterious side effects of cults of personality. If I wasn’t clear before, let me rectify the situation and say that I believe in the only cult of personality that really matters. It is the same one that all of the saints point us towards: the Person of Jesus Christ.

The Church is built around this, and this alone. One of the reasons I am a Catholic now is that I believe I became ready to move past the milk and head on to the solid food of the Faith. Prior to my conversion, I was a milk drinker for so long that I grew tired of it. So I left and as a result, I almost missed the feast that awaits Christians that persevere along the Way.

One way I have found that helps me stay grounded in the faith is to follow the advice of St. Philip Neri,

It is very useful for those who minister the Word of God, or give themselves up to prayer, to read the works of authors whose names begin with S., such as Saint Augustine, Saint Bernard, etc.

Or in the case today, the works of St. Catherine of Siena. What follows is from Chapter 63 of her Dialogue of the Seraphic Virgin. How do I know it’s chapter 63? Because something I was reading that was written by Father Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. identified it as such in his The Three Ways of the Spiritual Life. How did I find out about his book? From the tip I received from the Chinese “Chesterton”, and author of The Three-fold Way of Love, John C.H. Wu. See?

Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

The common thread among these folks, and the other saints (such as St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas, and others), is that Christianity is not just a “one-and-done” conversion. Far from it.

As Christians, see, through no merit of our own, we help spread the Good News, while the saints help us to persevere in the faith in that which we cannot see. In the passage below, God gives information through a vision of St. Catherine that points out how after our first conversion, the second must be attained, which leads unto the third. Come and see,

How the Soul, after having mounted the first step of the Bridge, should proceed to Mount the Second.

“Thou hast now seen how excellent is the state of him who has attained to the love of a friend ; climbing with the foot of affection, he has reached the secret of the Heart, which is the second of the three steps figured in the Body of My Son. I have told thee what was meant by the three powers of the soul, and now I will show thee how they signify the three states, through which the soul passes. Before treating ‘ of the third state, I wish to show thee how a man becomes a friend and how, from a friend, he grows into a son, attaining to filial love, and how a man may know if he has become a friend. And first of how a man arrives at being a friend.”

“In the beginning, a man serves Me imperfectly through servile fear, but, by exercise and perseverance, he arrives at the love of delight, finding his own delight and profit in Me. This is a necessary stage, by which he must pass, who would attain to perfect love, to the love that is of friend and son. I call filial love perfect, because thereby, a man receives his inheritance from Me, the Eternal Father, and because a son’s love includes that of a friend, which is why I told thee that a friend grows into a son. What means does he take to arrive thereat ? I will tell thee.”

“Every perfection and every virtue proceeds from charity, and charity is nourished by humility, which results from the knowledge and holy hatred of self, that is, sensuality. To arrive thereat, a man must persevere, and remain in the cellar of self-knowledge in which he will learn My mercy, in the Blood of My onlybegotten Son, drawing to Himself, with this love, My divine charity, exercising himself in the extirpation of his perverse self-will, both spiritual and temporal, hiding himself in his own house, as did Peter, who, after the sin of denying My Son, began to weep. Yet his lamentations were imperfect and remained so, until after the forty days, that is until after the Ascension.”

“But when My Truth returned to Me, in His humanity, Peter and the others concealed themselves in the house, awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit, which My Truth had promised them. They remained barred in from fear, because the soul always fears until she arrives at true love. But when they had persevered in fasting and in humble and continual prayer, until they had received the abundance of the Holy Spirit, they lost their fear, and followed and preached Christ crucified. So also the soul, who wishes to arrive at this perfection, after she has risen from the guilt of mortal sin, recognising it for what it is, begins to weep from fear of the penalty, whence she rises to the consideration of My mercy, in which contemplation, she finds her own pleasure and profit. This is an imperfect state, and I, in order to develop perfection in the soul, after the forty days, that is after these two states, withdraw Myself from time to time, not in grace but in feeling. My Truth showed you this when He said to the disciples ‘I will go and will return to you.’”

“Everything that He said was said primarily, and in particular, to the disciples, but referred in general to the whole present and future, to those, that is to say, who should come after. He said ‘I will go and will return to you;’ and so it was, for, when the Holy Spirit returned upon the disciples, He also returned, as I told you above, for the Holy Spirit did not return alone, but came with My power, and the wisdom of the Son, who is one thing with Me, and with His own clemency, which proceeds from Me the Father, and from the Son. Now, as I told thee, in order to raise the soul from imperfection, I withdraw Myself from her sentiment, depriving her of former consolations.”

“When she was in the guilt of mortal sin, she had separated herself from Me, and I deprived her of grace through her own guilt, because that guilt had barred the door of her desires. Wherefore the sun of grace did not shine, not through its own defect, but through the defect of the creature, who bars the door of desire. When she knows herself and her darkness, she opens the window and vomits her filth, by holy confession. Then I, having returned to the soul by grace, withdraw Myself from her by sentiment, which I do in order to humiliate her, and cause her to seek Me in truth, and to prove her in the light of faith, so that she come to prudence. Then, if she love Me without thought of self, and with lively faith and with hatred of her own sensuality, she rejoices in the time of trouble, deeming herself unworthy of peace and quietness of mind.”

“Now comes the second of the three things of which I told thee, that is to say: how the soul arrives at perfection, and what she does when she is perfect. This is what she does. Though she perceives that I have withdrawn Myself, she does not, on that account, look back, but perseveres with humility in her exercises, remaining barred in the house of self-knowledge, and, continuing to dwell therein, awaits, with lively faith, the coming of the Holy Spirit, that is of Me, who am the fire of charity.”

“How does she (the soul) await me? Not in idleness, but in watching and continued prayer, and not only with physical, but also with intellectual watching, that is, with the eye of her mind alert, and, watching with the light of faith, she extirpates, with hatred, the wandering thoughts of her heart, looking for the affection of My charity, and knowing that I desire nothing but her sanctification, which is certified to her in the Blood of My Son. As long as her eye thus watches, illumined by the knowledge of Me and of herself, she continues to pray with the prayer of holy desire, which is a continued prayer, and also with actual prayer, which she practises at the appointed times, according to the orders of Holy Church.”

“This is what the soul does in order to rise from imperfection and arrive at perfection, and it is to this end, namely that she may arrive at perfection, that I withdraw from her, not by grace but by sentiment. Once more do I leave her, so that she may see and know her defects, so that, feeling herself deprived of consolation and afflicted by pain, she may recognise her own weakness, and learn how incapable she is of stability or perseverance, thus cutting down to the very root of spiritual self-love, for this should be the end and purpose of all her self-knowledge, to rise above herself, mounting the throne of conscience, and not permitting the sentiment of imperfect love to turn again in its death-struggle, but, with correction and reproof, digging up the root of self love, with the knife of self-hatred and the love of virtue.”

More from St. Catherine’s Dialogue can be found on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf. I’ll post more on this subject with thoughts from my Franciscan mentor, Francisco de Osuna.

Because Christ Is In Every Book of the Bible

Interestingly, I missed this video (below) last week when Deacon Greg Kandra ran it over at his place. Maybe there is a reason for that. You see, earlier this week some friends of mine got into a discussion regarding books of the Bible. [Read more...]

Christian Thoughts On Private Property: What Ayn Rand Missed, Part II

Still in my library, I found the following selection on the subject of private property, and of “the state,” in Life of Leo XIII And the History Of His Pontificate. Ayn Rand missed this book as well as Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum. Perhaps this is just a case of too much writing and too little research. That’s what I think anyway. Of course, she was a novelist, so facts weren’t necessary (head-slap). [Read more...]

Christian Thoughts On Private Property: What Ayn Rand Missed

It’s been a couple of weeks since publishing my last post on Ayn Rand.Things have settled down a bit here and now I can turn my attention to what she missed regarding a concept that is near and dear to all of her devotees: the concept of private property.

Given how much ink Rand spilled on this subject, you would think she came up with the idea of private property in the first place. Alas (for her fans), no. [Read more...]

Let Me Tell You About “Herding Dogs”

Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf 

Without a strong master, they are worthless. Destructive. Bored. Good for nothing but trouble. These descriptions, for those who have owned (or do own) herding dogs, would be the end of this post. Their experience with dogs like these would make the truth of these statements self-evident. Frank knows herding dogs.

For those of you who have not owned dogs bred to herd animals, you may need a little more convincing. And where has Frank gotten his bonafides on cattle and sheep herding dogs? Experience. Since 1993, I’ve owned three dogs: two of them were Australian Cattle Dogs, and now I own a Border Collie. None of them are “black sheep dogs” with malevolent stares, though they all have had black coloring in their coats. Yes, this is a post that is tangentially about the Corapi kerfuffle. Because you need to know.

Put down your pitch-forks and torches for a second and come meet my dogs. Besides, that kind of stuff (scary Hollywood style mobs, milling about earnestly looking to lynch someone) doesn’t scare Joe Six-Pack, USMC. Nor does it scare my dogs.

St. Davy at age 12

First up is Davy, also known in my household as “St. Davy of Queensland.” Why, pray tell? Because Davy, my first Australian Cattle Dog, could do no wrong. He simply was Our.Best.Dog.Ever. Davy was my and my wife’s first born, see. We bought him the same week we bought our first home, back in the Fall of 1993. He was six weeks old when I brought him home to surprise my wife less than a week after moving in.

Mad Max & his dog

At the local pet store, the sign in his cage said he was a “Queensland Heeler.” I had no idea what that was, but he looked a bit like a Corgy as a little pup and I wasn’t enthused about that favorite of the Royals. I headed to the local library (yes, this was before the days of Google) and did a quick bit of research on this breed. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was the dog that Mel Gibson had at his side in Road Warrior. Cool!

Here’s what I learned about the breed from the Readers Digest Illustrated Book of Dogs,

The Australian Cattle Dog was developed to be a strong biting dog, one able to drive cattle over long distances. Its speckled coat camouflages it when nipping at bovines’ legs. Its punishing jaws are essential to a cattle dog in mustering and moving wild livestock. Protecting its master’s family and home is a responsibility the Australian Cattle Dog takes as seriously as driving cattle.

When Australian stockmen required a herding dog to help control half-wild cattle and sheep, they set out to breed one. The process began in the 1830′s when a stockmen named Timmons crossed a Smithfield, a tough but noisy working breed, with a Dingo. The resulting “Timmons Biter” had the Dingo’s silent ways but proved difficult to manage.

A further cross with Border Collies enhanced tractibility, but barking became a problem once more. Again, the Dingo was used. Later, to improve temperament, Dalmatian stock was introduced. To further develop working ability, the Australian Kelpie was interbred. This final cross produced just the versatile canine the stockmen were searching for. Their creation, possessed stamina, reliability, and uncanny intelligence.

So consulting my checklist, Smart? Check! Medium sized? Check! Not too yappy? Check! Cool looking? Check! I headed back to the store and bought him immediately.

When fully grown, Davy weighed 45 lbs, so he was indeed medium sized. If there is a MENSA equivalent for dogs, Australian Cattle Dogs would be one of the most numerous members of that society. Davy was simply the smartest dog I have ever had (and my family had several dogs while I was growing up). He was house broken in one week, and for the rest of his life (and he spent all 13 years of his life with us) he never had an accident indoors. He’d let you know when he needed to go out. And be advised, he was an outdoors dog. We lived in Southern California for most of his life and he lived and played in our fenced-in backyard, sleeping in a wooden kennel outdoors.

Within his first six months, he could pee and poop on command. My wife and I went to the Universal Studios tour and among the attractions, we saw the animal talent show there. I took the tricks I saw performed there back home to Davy and in a matter of weeks, he could sit, shake, roll-over, and speak (bark) with hand signals alone. Dogs like these make their masters look like professional animal trainers (think “Cesar Milan“). Life was very good.

Davy died about a year after we moved back to my hometown. I still get teary-eyed thinking about it because he was such a loved member of our family. He was great with our kids when they arrived. He would herd me along when I came out with the laundry heading to our washer and dryer out in the garage. He loved catching frisbees and loved going on walks on the two mile circuit my wife and I staked out around our neighborhood. He loved the water. Quiet? He only barked when something was out of the ordinary.

True story time: Once, when he was about a year old, he saved our neighbors car from being stolen. One morning, about 1:00 o’clock, Davy awoke and sounded the alarm by stationing himself at the gate to our backyard, barking his head off. When Davy barked, you knew something was up. It turned out someone had smashed the window of our next door neighbors car in a bid to steal it. Davy saved the day.

Bull Mastiffs love me too.

Here’s another one from when Davy was 5 years old. I had just rejoined the Marines as a Reservist and was getting ready to head to Colorado for annual training with my artillery battery. The Friday evening right before I left, Davy started barking. Herding dogs are smart, and vary the pitches of their barks in a way that is difficult to explain, but you know it when you’ve experienced it. He had this higher pitched barking sound whenever a possum wandered into our yard along the top of the fence, for example.

So I went out back to investigate. He had boxed something into the far right-hand corner of our back yard, somewhere between the block wall that fronted the back of an apartment building, and the oleander bush in the corner, next to our cypress trees. As such, he was sweeping in an arc around that back corner and barking with his “I’ve caught a possum” bark. He wouldn’t stop, so I went back in the house to get the flashlight and a broom (to knock it off the fence, and the flashlight because it was about 10 PM). When I came back out, Davy still had it cornered. When I flashed the light toward the oleander, a man’s voice cried out with “Man, can you call your dog off?!”

My hackles immediately went full tilt and I said “Hell no, I’m calling the Police!” and I scampered back inside to do just that. I knew this dude would never get past Davy. He evidently climbed back over the back wall and ran away, because Davy quieted down and the cops found nothing when they arrived shortly thereafter. My wife was less than pleased that I was leaving her alone with my 2 1/2 year old son for two weeks the next morning, but we were confident that Davy would guard my family’s safety. That is how life is with a well-trained Cattle Dog.

After Davy passed on, I didn’t want to get another dog for a while. But I missed having one around. So I went looking for another Australian Cattle Dog and found one at a Cattle Dog rescue place about an hour from our home. This is where Riley came into our life, a few short weeks after St. Davy left.

Riley, loyal to Frank (only).

It turns out that one of the reasons Davy was so saintly is because a) he was six weeks old when I bought him, and b) I spent a lot of time with him. I trained him, and he was very obedient to me and my wife. We both worked outside the home at that time, and Davy was fine when left to himself in the back yard, foraging avocados, and figs, and the occasional squirrel. When we came home, he was with us the whole time, you know, fetching frisbees, learning new tricks, and hanging out until bed time. Riley’s story is completely different.

First off, he was about 1 1/2 to 2 years old when we got him. You see, he had run away from his owner in Kentucky and the owner had never come looking for him at the pound. So the Cattle Dog Rescue place swooped in and saved him and we adopted him. As a result, training Riley was a bit tougher than training Davy, but the characteristics of the breed still won out. Though he was crate-trained (something I had never had to do with Davy), house breaking him was a chore.

He had trouble obeying my wife, but since I was around, I ignored this warning sign. Because in short order, Riley was catching frisbees with the best of them. He was so athletic, and jumped so high, our next door neighbor would invite folks over just to watch him go. He too loved the water, and throwing frisbees into the lake nearby, he would happily swim out for them 25-30 yards from shore, swim back and demand that you throw it out there again. He was an Olympian.

Riley was silent for the most part too, much to the dismay of UPS truck drivers and the post office letter carriers who brought us packages. He would not bark until he was right on their heels. So we were added to the “do not deliver to” list promptly. Our neighbors happily received packages for us whenever they came.

As long as I was around, all was well. Then I went back to work outside of the home again about a year after he joined the family. He took this hard. See, when I went back to work, the master who kept things on an even keel with him was gone. Riley tried then to take my place on the Alpha Dog roster, growing ever more disobedient to my wife and children while I was away at work.

When I got home, all would be well. But when I was gone, which was 5 days a week, for close to 10 hours a day, he tried to fill the void. Loyal only to me, he started growling at my family, and when he snapped at my daughter, he went right back to the farm where I had picked him up. Our relationship with Riley lasted 2 years. Then we went without a dog for about 1 1/2 years of decompression. Enter Cody, the Border Collie.

Cody at 6 weeks old.

The long dog-less dry spell ended last June. My youngest son and I picked up this dude when he was six weeks old, just like with Davy. Unlike Davy, and Riley, Cody has grown up with a family of 5 from the get go. House trained pretty rapidly, and only a few mistakes since, he’s a fun addition to the family. Spirited, he barks more than the Cattle Dogs ever did, but look at that face! Look at those eyes! Not a malevolent stare capable in this brown-eyed handsome dog. Don’t let them fool you though, because though a pushover with his family, he’s fearless with outsiders.

And he’s as smart as his Cattle Dog cousins, and has a whole vocabulary of sounds. I’m learning to translate them now. Sam Sheepdog (see the photograph at the top of this post) is really a Bearded Collie. Lots of training and supervision have been needed by Cody, and we have provided it. That and lots of exercise, which he gets mainly by running around the borders of our yard. Want to see the effect of genetics on a breed? Ride a bicycle in the yard and he will herd you around like you are a lost sheep. Your bicycle is alive, as far as he’s concerned, and he will not stop trying to get you to go where he knows you need to go. No matter how fast you pedal, or for how long.

And that brings me full circle to the point about herding dogs that I started this post with. Left to themselves, they aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Bored, they will be destructive, troublesome and worthless for their intended job. They need strong shepherds. Period. Someone to tell them what to do, and where to take the flock.

Which brings me to the part of this post where I’ll share these wise words written by Fr. Joseph Jenkins about the Corapi kerfuffle entitled Black Sheep Dog or Black Wolf? He covers everything that anyone needs to know about this situation.

As you read it, keep in mind what I have shared with you from my own long experience with herding dogs and how important their relationships with their masters are both to their own happiness and to that of their families (the pack). Light your torches and bring your pitchforks if you must, but you won’t make it into my yard. That much I can assure you of.

Pax!

Cody, the next generation

The Rose of Sharon

The Rose of Sharon
by Anonymous. Arranged by Barney E. Warren (pub. 1911)

Lord Jesus, my sweet Rose of Sharon,
My Prophet, my Priest, and my King—
To Thee I will sing all my praises,
For blessings Thy mercy doth bring.
All glory and honor to Jesus,
Who offered His life on the cross,
To open a fountain for sinners,
And purchase a world that was lost.
(refrain)
Sweet Rose of Sharon,
Blooming above for me.

Oh, come help me sing of my Savior,
For He is the joy of my heart;
Come join in His service forever,
He will His rich graces impart.
I gaze at the wounds of my Savior,
From which that great fountain doth flow;
His word is my shield and my buckler,
By faith I’m made whiter than snow.

Sweet Rose of Sharon,
Blooming above for me.

In love’s verdant vale I am resting,
In Christ all my hope I confide;
My heart and my life He is blessing,
As humbly I walk by His side.
I’m living low down in the valley,
Where sweet Rose of Sharon doth bloom;
Oh, glory! its heavenly odor
With fragrance my soul doth perfume.

Sweet Rose of Sharon,
Blooming above for me.

Come, sinner, thy heart like the desert,
With sweet Rose of Sharon shall bloom;
’Twill blossom as flowers of summer,
His Spirit thy heart shall illume.
He paid all thy debt on Mount Calv’ry,
He suffered that you might be free;
Oh, look, guilty one, there is mercy,
There’s life and salvation for thee.

Sweet Rose of Sharon,
Blooming above for me.

My study…

Because Jesus Is The Unjust Steward

This first ran back in September, 2010 during the Feast of Our Lady of La Salette. I think it deserves another look…

Today I heard the best explanation of the parable of the “Unjust Steward” that I have ever heard. Or maybe it is the parable of the “Shrewd Manager.” Either way, thanks to the homily of my pastor today,  I think I may finally understand this parable.

The title of this post gives it away. Jesus, Our Lord and Savior is the unjust steward, the shrewd manager. How else to find favor in the hearts of us all than to write off or write down our debts completely? How else could this steward’s master find favor with him, unless Our Lord is the steward and God is the rich man? Let’s look at the passage from today’s gospel reading.

Luke 16: 1-13

Jesus said to his disciples,

“A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said,’What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship,because you can no longer be my steward.’

So far, so good.  The conventional wisdom appears to be holding sway. Prepare yourself for a contrarian twist.

The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do so that,when I am removed from the stewardship,they may welcome me into their homes.’

He called in his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said,’How much do you owe my master?’

Now. Start thinking this is Our Lord speaking of himself.  You know the popular “What Would Jesus Do” question? WWJD? This is it. Back to the debtor (insert character of yourself here).

He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’

He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’

Note the lack of any complaint or push-back on the part of the debtor. This guy knows a good deal when he hears it. A little while later,

Then to another the steward said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’

He replied, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.’

The steward said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.’

Another bargain, and another taker. Right about now, the conventional wisdom lover in you is getting angry, right? This son-of-a-mule is undermining his masters wealth and business. Bad manager! Only one problem. The bad manager gets commended for it.

And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”

Read that sentence one more time. Go ahead, I’ll wait. He says the worldly are more prudent in their dealings with others than are the special ones, these “children of light.” Is this cutting you to the quick a little? It did me.

I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

Remember how the Scribes and Pharisees were always chiding Our Lord about him hanging out with unsavory types, you know, those nasty sinners, publicans, and tax collectors? Ahem, yes, the saavy ones instead of the “righteous” ones. Be clever like the former and not disdainful like the latter.

The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?

Do these two sentences have your head swimming? What a paradox, right? Sentence A = conventional wisdom, and we nod our heads in agreement. Then, Sentence B turns sentence A on its head and we shake our heads and yell “no!” We’re all left scratching our heads so He says,

If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

Because we individually don’t own anything, see, but we are all, instead, in debt up to our eyeballs. We are indebted to God, because everything we have is a gift. A gift which we must be stewards of. Good stewards, who pat ourselves on the back for our good work? Or unjust stewards, like the model we see here?

Quick, lean your head back so you can breath (!) or else you will drown in debt. And then give thanks to God that He sent His Son, the unjust steward, to write down all of our debts to zero.  In that way, through the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, can our lives be truly restored. For He also said,

Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners. (Matthew 9:13)

If you knew what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned these innocent men. (Matthew 12:7)

He taught us to pray “forgive us our debts” which he does for us so easily, and as the unjust steward did, so readily, so cleverly. But he also asks us to pray these words: “as we have also forgiven our debtors.”

Now this is agape in action.

Speaking only for myself, I know I need to work on being more forgiving. How about you?

So There I Was Driving Home…

from work. Glad the week was over. Looking forward to a busy weekend (a birthday, weeding, cutting the grass, preparing to send a child to camp, etc.) It’s been a busy week, both at work and here on the blog. Lots of news to digest.

But maybe it doesn’t need to be digested. Oops, lookie there. My little yellow fuel tank light just went off. Looks like I need to stop in at the gas station. Ease up on the throttle and set the cruise control to double-nickels.

Slow-lane time. Hey, how about some tunes? Nah, I don’t want to listen to Matt Maher. I did that on the way into the city. What’s on the radio? Do you think the Holy Spirit works through the radio? With God, you know, anything is possible. Here’s what came on,

Foo Fighters, My Hero. This band is led by the former drummer of Nirvana, Dave Grohl. Dave can play every instrument, and did so on his first solo album after Kurt Cobain committed suicide. What event do you think this song made me think of?

YouTube Preview Image

Guess what came on next? I kid you not. Dig the background color.

Duran Duran, Hungry Like the Wolf.

YouTube Preview Image

And then I said a quick prayer, stopped for gasoline, and continued on home.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X