Thursday, May 30, 2013


There is no question about Baxter's appetite.  He is ready to eat at any time in any place with almost any faire someone is willing to offer.  You could say that Baxter lives to eat.  He orders his day around the two regular feeding periods, and he always seems to wake up and find me when I am at the table for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  It doesn't matter that these are not his meal times.  If there is a meal in the vicinity, it is Baxter's time to eat.  He certainly has a hardy and insatiable appetite.

But this bottomless pit that is Baxter's stomach can get him into trouble.  He gobbles down his food.  There is no savoring the taste.  It is all about quantity and feeling full.  Keep the kibble coming and he's happy.  But sometimes, Baxter eats so much so fast that he can't digest it, and he ends up "losing his lunch," as we say. I read once that cats have many less taste buds on their tongues than we humans have, so Baxter is not all to blame for his ravenous and gorging appetite.  He doesn't have the apparatus to appreciate the full taste of his food.

But we do.  Especially, we have the faculties to savor the most precious and tasty meal of all, the one that feeds our spirit, the Eucharist.  I am not talking about the physical aspect of the Lord's supper of course.  I am referring to the full ritual that feeds many aspects of our spiritual lives in the liturgy of the Eucharist.  Do we appreciate and savor all that the Eucharist offers us each Sunday?

It brings us together as God's family.  We do not eat alone.  We share the Body and Blood of the Lord.  Ours is a common food, so that through the one bread and one cup we can become one in Christ.  We hear God's Word at this meal.  The readings from Sacred Scripture are not appetizers to nibble at before the main course is served.  They are part of the substantial nourishment God offers to feed our lives of faith.  We need to listen carefully to them, ponder them, raise questions about their meaning, and find the current message for us in these ancient texts.  The Eucharistic meal is a sacrifice.  It is not just fellowship with each other that is celebrated at the altar.  It is fellowship with God, hard won on the cross of Christ, that is recalled and renewed at each Eucharist.  We are one because Christ's death and resurrection released the Spirit to us and the whole world.  That Spirit works at every Eucharist to allow us to share the very life of God in this sacred meal.  Given this gift then, we are charged to take God's life into the way we live each day in our homes, work, and civic community.  At each Eucharist we celebrate, we are taken into God's sacrifice for us in Christ, so that we can live in the same sacrificial way in the world and continue God's salvation as our lives become His instruments.

Baxter loves to eat a lot of food quickly.  We need to take the time to taste deeply of the food that feeds our souls at the Eucharist, so that we can cherish its richness and receive its full nourishment.  We hunger for the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.  Don't leave Mass malnourished.  Make the effort to savor the Lord's supper prepared for us


Baxter is threatening me with a law suit for unfair labor practices unless I give him the vacation time he has due.  So his lessons in faith and life will be missing for the summer months.  If you need a dose of Baxter through the summer, the reruns are on his blog.  Come fall, he will be back with more of his foibles and antics.

Baxter wishes his readers a pleasant, peaceful and refreshing summer.  He knows that he is blessed with a good home, a loving care giver, and fans who follow him.  He thanks God for all of these blessings, and he hopes you do the same for yours.  A grateful life is a happy one, and Baxter is one, happy cat.  He hopes you are too.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Pet owners are volunteers.  They not only volunteer to have a pet, but they volunteer to do all that it takes to care for the pet. That's a load.  For starters, each of us has to be a cook, a plumber, a chauffeur, a personal shopper and a nanny.  We feed our furry friends, clean up from the daily bathroom routine, walk or drive them to various appointments, buy toys and treats according to their preferences, and train and educate them in the practices of civility to make living together pleasant.  We do all of this without getting a dime for our services.  We love our pets.  That's why we do what we do for them.  I wouldn't think of billing Baxter for my services.  (I wouldn't have much luck collecting my fee anyway.)

We expect to offer service for those we love, but with one exception.  We love God, and we love the Church God gave us to carry on His work in the world.  But volunteering to do God's work in the Church is another matter.  We are all so busy.  We have our work, our families, our children's and grandchildren's sports and performances, our social life, and our own interests.  How can we find time for more?  We go to Church each Sunday.  What more can anyone ask?
The Church depends on the good will of its members to carry out its mission.  This mission is very broad and diversified.  It involves service at the altar, care for the sick and less fortunate, formation and education of the young, and special attention to the needs of the elderly.  It calls for help with larger community efforts beyond the boundaries of Church membership, and the Church needs to support itself financially in all these efforts like any nonprofit organization--paying staff, utilities, maintenance and repairs, and the cost of materials to execute its programs.  For all of this, volunteers are the backbone of the Body of Christ.  They hold it together and keep it moving forward in its mission to announce and witness to what God has done for all humanity in Jesus' life, death and resurrection.

Baxter usually doesn't ask for the services he desires (with the exception of more food).  I just provide them knowing his needs.  But it can't work that way in the Church.  We can only do all that the Church is called to do if we each and all do our part.  After all, the Body though one has many members, and each member, Saint Paul reminds us, is part of the one Body.  So we are connected.  We can't pretend our contributions don't matter.  We either do our part, or a part will be missing from the work of the Body.  We are needed, and we need to take our part seriously and offer our service freely, generously and cooperatively.  Ours is a common effort with separate parts.  So we work together, but with each one's different talents and gifts contributing to the overall project.  There is no room for competition or one-up-manship in the Church.  Like the pet owner's service to his or her charge, we do it out of love, not counting the cost.

The Church needs this kind of volunteer just as your pet does to survive.  Sure it's a burden and effort at times, but it is also a joy and blessing, knowing that we are doing something good, not expecting to be rewarded except with the love we generate in serving others.  We do it for our pets.  Won't we also do it for our God who loves us and lives in His people, the Church?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Baxter has favorites.  First on the list is salmon.  He goes crazy when I unwrap the package and get the filet ready for the grill.  He can hardly contain himself.  His nose is in the air trying to get a full whiff of the delicacy.  Then he starts begging and crying.  Even before it is cooked and served, he is craving a piece.  He won't let the delight out of his sight.  He sits and stares while I am heating the grill and marinating the portion.  Then when it is ready to be served, he swerves around my legs turning on the charm to have me hand over a generous morsel.  He always wins.

We all have our favorites.  Whether it is particular foods we love, or clothes we like to wear, or people we enjoy being with, or activities we like to engage in, we are attracted to these favorites, and no substitute quite fills the bill as well.  They bring joy to our lives.  They brighten a dark day and bring comfort to a difficult situation.  They help us relax.  Nothing can substitute for them.  Others might try to convince us to go for something different, but if we do, we often go back to the tried and true.  Once we have found a favorite, it's not easy to give it up for another alternative.  Our favorites become part of what makes us who we are.

God has favorites too.  Not food or clothes or hobbies, but a special part of His creation—people.  We humans stand out from all the other works of God's hand as made in His image and saved in His grace for a special place in God's Kingdom.  But when God picks favorites, it works a little differently than we might expect.  You see, God picks every person as His favorite.  No one is loved more than another in God's eyes.  We are each loved fully and totally for who we are in His sight.  No one is better or worse in deserving God's love, because no one can earn this love.  It is free and unconditional.  Our closest way to get a handle on this love is to think of loving parents.  No matter what their children do or whatever happens to them, good parents love their children still.  They may not like what they did.  They may object to their life style or company, but there is no abandoning one's children, no disconnecting from the relationship created at conception, no condemning who they are, even if their behavior is judged wrong.

God is the Father of every human being.  So we are all His favorites.  There are no comparisons here.  God can't love some one or some group more than another, any more than parents can love one of their children more than the rest of them.  But God's love is a challenge to His children.  We are called to treat each other as God treats us.  This is a tall order for us who pick favorites by excluding what we don't like.  How can we include everyone with respect and good will as part of our family?  We can't do it on our own devices.  We are too selfish, fearful and insecure.  But with God's grace, we can have a taste of loving as God loves us--freely and unconditionally, where everyone is a favorite and no one is excluded.

I bet when God looks at the whole expanse of humanity He has created or will create, He gets excited to take all of us into His life.  Baxter's excitement pales in the face of God's on this point.  What a wonderful God is ours!

Thursday, May 9, 2013


One of the characteristics that has endeared me to Baxter is his adaptability.  He has been through five moves in his twelve years with me.  Knowing cats' love for routine and familiar space, I was always a little anxious each time I introduced Baxter to a new home.  Would he feel safe and secure again so that his eating, sleeping, grooming and bathroom habits that I came to count on would continue?  Each move I worried that I would end up with a "troubled" cat--one who would stop eating (Fat chance!); would groom excessively and harm himself; would "mark" his new turf; would become hidden and aggressive when sought after.  Baxter never came close to any of these neurotic symptoms.  He might hide under the bed for a day or two when he first was introduced to his new digs, but after that, he was back to his old self, exploring the new terrain and staking out his favorite sleeping spots.  With each change, Baxter found and made a new home.

Now I helped him in these transitions.  I made sure that he knew I was sharing the new space as I had done the old.  I would talk to him, pet him, play with him and give him a little extra attention at first.  I tried to notice what he preferred--where he wanted me to place his food bowl, his litter box, and his scratch pad with the cat nip--and I tried to accommodate these preferences.  Baxter and I helped each other make a home for ourselves.

That's a secret to all sorts of transitions we need to make in life.  We have to make changes from time to time.  It is the nature of being alive.  But we can help each other through these changes if we are just sensitive to what the other person might need.  In that regard, we aren't that different from other living creatures.

We need to feel safe.  We need to know that we will be cared for in the new setting.  We need time and space to adjust, but we need to avoid self-destructive behaviors in adjusting.  We need some touchstones of the familiar in our new digs, especially people who stay with us throughout our lives.  But there is something different about us human beings from the other creatures of this earth.  We need to know that God goes with us and is as present, powerful and loving in this new setting as He was in the previous circumstances of our lives.  In that sense, God is the home we take with us no matter how strange the new situation might be for us.  Our Catholic Eucharist reflects this truth because its basic ritual is the same throughout the world, even if the language and style may vary.

The Book of Ruth reads, "Wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge, I will lodge".  This is God's promise to us whenever we face some major transitions in our lives.  The familiar, the reassuring, the comforting presence is just a prayer away.  The helping hand of a fellow believer should be just an ask away.  And with these two pieces in our luggage, we can find a home again when our world changes.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Because Baxter is a house cat, he never has the pleasure of being on the hunt.  I can see his stalking and prowling instincts at work sometimes, but toy rodents and birds only go so far in keeping these active and alert.  Maybe that is why he makes up his own cat and mouse game trying to capture me in his scheme.  Here's how it works.

Baxter's automatic feeder revolves with a new meal at 4:30 every afternoon.  I keep the food supply replenished and reset the timer in the feeder to be sure this happens.  I have often witnessed the mechanism work to deliver the 1/4 cup of kibble to its eager client.  Yet, if I am not present for a particular feeding, Baxter starts to play tricks with me when I come home.  He tries to deceive me into offering another meal.  He begins with his mournful look followed by his piercing cries of hunger.  One would think he hadn't had food in days, when, in fact, it was an hour ago.  Then he rubs up against me and the feeder to charm me into an unplanned portion.  Sometimes his act is so good, I begin to doubt myself.  I open the lid to check the number of empty and full compartments.  Sure enough, the feeder is as efficient as clockwork, but Baxter is trying to trick me into another meal, one that is unplanned, undeserved, and certainly unneeded.  Instead of hunting for his food, Baxter's domesticated instincts now drive him into tricking for more treats.  He pretends the scheduled meal never happened and feigns hunger pains and neglect, hoping this masquerade will get him more than he needs.

We can play the same game with each other and with God.  We make ourselves out to be neglected and abused, thinking that others will feel sorry for us and give us what we want.  We play the "poor victim" card, trying to trump any other needs and concerns with our own.  We want attention, and we do whatever it takes to get it.  We play ourselves off against others, so that our interests and demands are heard above theirs and dominate the agenda.  After all, how can anything be more important than my needs and concerns.  Otherwise, no one loves me or cares about me.  Like Baxter, we can play this part well.

But God is up to our tricks, and He won't play along.  He doesn't feed self pity or the deception to get it.  To God, everyone is precious and deserves respect, but no one is the center of the universe.  God lives and acts from the center as our Creator and Redeemer.  We are here to serve God by serving each other's real and genuine needs.  This may not always please or satisfy them, but it will help to keep them well spiritually and personally. Refusing to be tricked or manipulated into satisfying our own or others' selfish egos allows God to use us for genuine service in His name.  The areas of real poverty in body and spirit need fed by us, not the overindulgence of our pride seeking arrogant recognition.  Feeding such instincts only leads to spiritual heart attack and eventual death.

Cat and mouse games are for feral creatures and unevangelized humans.  Disciples don't play games with each other, but they serve each other as Other Christ's, fed together at the one table of the Lord and sent to invite others to that feast.