Thursday, October 31, 2013


Since he is a cat, Baxter takes catnaps.  He sits or lies still with his eyes half open, quiet and peaceful.  He tries not to drift off, but sometimes he can’t help himself.  His head tilts.  He raises it.  It tilts again.  He tries to keep it up, but then, he gives in and lets it fall.  He goes to sleep, but he has one eye opened and his ears cocked.  If a loud noise is made or a bright light comes on, Baxter is again upright and awake.

These catnaps are in contrast to Baxter’s full out, heavy duty sleep.  Now he is into serious shut eye.  He usually curls himself into a ball with his paws over his eyes.  He snores, or makes funny breathing sounds.  Almost nothing arouses him from these altered states of consciousness.  Noises, lights, calling his name, or even announcing treats, all are lost on his deep and total sleep.  Even when he finally comes back to wakefulness, it takes a few minutes for him to get oriented again.  He yawns, blinks and stretches before he realizes this isn’t part of his cat dream.  This is the real world.  Welcome back to life, Baxter.

In our faith, we sometimes take catnaps.  A brief prayer for help or in thanksgiving, a quick note to say we care, a phone call or a small kindness are all ways that we keep in mind that God is with us throughout the day.  These “little things” can mean a lot, as the old song says, because they make our faith very concrete, pointed to a particular moment, situation and person.  We see in the here and now the ever-present God of all eternity.  Like a catnap, these brief reminders keep our faith going through the day while we continue our normal routines.

Sometimes though, we need a full time-out.  A brief pause, a few words aren’t sufficient to nourish and refresh our faith.  We need to enter more deeply into the silence of God’s mystery and get lost in its depths.  We need to raise more penetrating questions about the nature of God and who we are as His children.  We need to confront in heart and mind what is not of God in our world—evil, death, deceit, destruction—and ponder who is God in the face of such darkness.  We need long periods of quiet prayer, a retreat time, a long walk in nature or substantial time alone before the Blessed Sacrament.  Like deep sleep, these periods rejuvenate our spirits to carry on the work of living the faith.

So learn from Baxter.  Take a moment when you have it.  Take a long break when you need it.  Then we will live our faith more fully each day.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Baxter can’t tell time.  I wish he could.  If he could, then I hopefully wouldn’t have to endure his cries to eat an hour before his feeding time.  On numerous occasions I have told Baxter it’s not time now for dinner, but he simply ignores my assertions.  When he feels hunger in his belly, he will not be deterred.  The time of day doesn’t matter.  Only the feeling in his stomach counts, and that feeling makes him shout in cat talk, “FEED ME!”  Nothing else matters when Baxter feels hungry.  The whole world becomes focused for him on the feeding dish which he demands to be filled.  He paces around it, pulls at it, and cuddles up to it with his head—all in hopes of satisfying his immediate craving.

We can’t tell time either, at least not God’s time.  If we could read the eternal clock of the divine, we might not be so anxious and upset about what is happening or not happening around us.  We want what we want when we want it, and we won’t take any reasons for a delay or substitution.  But God sometimes operates on a different time table.  He unfolds our lives at a pace measured by what we need now to grow in His grace and wisdom.  That sometimes means that we don’t get the normal object of our desires, so that we can desire a different object and begin to value things differently.  We find a new normal.  Lose a job, get seriously sick, fall in love, or discover a new talent, and we can be stopped in our tracks.  Suddenly, our priorities change, and some of what was once critical for our daily happiness and satisfaction is no longer sought after or even crosses our minds.  What drives our time and attention shifts, and we follow a new course in our daily living.

Such transitions are not always easy.  We may feel lost for a while, not knowing what we are looking for or where to find it.  We may feel unsure of ourselves, wondering what is going to happen to what we worked for long and hard.  We may worry about the unknown future and our ability to handle it.  All of this because we can’t tell time, God’s time.

God’s time allows us to learn what we need to cherish and hold onto, and what we need to relinquish.  God’s time is not even.  Sometimes events cascade quickly, and sometimes they are painstakingly slow in showing us what’s to come.  God’s time moves us.  We don’t determine its length or direction.  We must accept its course when it unfolds.  But one thing is sure.  God’s time will come for every one of us, and if we are watching and waiting for it, we will be changed for the better when it happens.  And when the last hour of God’s time strikes, we will be transformed forever into the timeless realm of eternity.

So don’t worry about what we are to eat or drink, our Father knows what we need and He will grant it.  Worry that we are ready for the time God has planned for us, and can enter into it with peace and hope.  If Baxter could tell time, he would know that another meal is coming without fretting and fussing about it.  If we begin to tell God’s time in our living, we too will know that we are cared for and loved no matter what comes our way.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Baxter is a mutt.  That’s not his official classification.  According to his veterinary records, he’s a domestic short-hair, but we all know that is a fancy term for “Mutt”.  He comes from common background.  His parents are unknown.  He was picked up off the streets as a kitten, and spent the first few months of his life in a shelter with other unwanted and unidentified felines.  So there is no blue blood to this beast, only common cat features shared by millions of others of the species. 

That is why his characteristics and antics speak to so many.  He doesn’t try to put on airs about his exceptional qualities and skills.  He has none.  He is a typical cat.  He loves to eat, sleep and play.  He sometimes craves affection, and sometimes he seeks solitude, not to be bothered.  He surprises me at times, and then he sometimes is so predictable.  He has his own peculiar quirks which distinguish him, but he also has the instincts common to any cat.  There is nothing extra special about Baxter—except to me.

Baxter and I have lived through some significant moments together--the death of my parents, three transfers, anniversary celebrations, holidays and parties.  These times shared have created a bond between us that, at least from my perspective, makes Baxter a special cat.  His pedigree doesn’t come from his blood-line but from the life-line we trace in common.  We share a history together, and the shared stories contained therein, where we played a part for each other, tell us who we are and how we matter to each other.

Now if that is what can happen between a person and his or her beloved pet, just think of what this can mean between us and our God.  We start out as God’s “Mutts”, lost, alone, frightened, and all thrown together in this common lot of human history.  But we gain our pedigree in baptism, and distinguish ourselves as disciples by living out our lives in faith.  So we share whatever life brings with God, and together we write another chapter to the story of salvation begun in Adam and Abraham and fulfilled in Christ.  That is, if we invite God into our lives as a partner, companion and friend.  If we bite the hand that feeds us His very Body and Blood, if we don’t come into God’s house for protection from the cold, harsh elements of our world, if we won’t allow God to name us as His sons and daughters in Christ, then we remain unknown strays, thought by many as common and disposable.

Mutts are lovable pets, and they become most loyal once tamed by care and safety.  That’s how God sees us and wants to treat us.  Give Him a chance to change your life, and lend Him a hand by helping others see God in your service. 

Archived reflections can be found at:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Baxter has certain odd behaviors.  One of his strangest is associated with his bathroom habits.  After Baxter makes his deposit in the litter bank, he jumps out of the box and makes a mad dash either under the bed or into the front room.  This reaction has become so routine that when I hear or see his Olympic sprint, I know what lies waiting for me to clean.  Why he makes this sudden run is beyond my understanding.  Maybe he is trying to convince himself that he didn’t do what he did.  Perhaps he thinks, “If I get away quickly, no one will know who left the deposit in the litter box.  I can pretend it was somebody else.  Maybe my house servant will think a strange cat visited and used my clean bathroom.”  Baxter has some strange thoughts at times--as do we.

We may think, “If I run away from my problem, it will go away.  If I pretend I’m not involved, maybe they will miss me and blame someone else.  If I leave a mess behind me, I can deny responsibility for it.”  We can try to play escape artist with our real life problems, and turn to another situation, another person, another set of beliefs and practices to avoid facing the consequences of our choices.  But it doesn’t work.  We can run away from a particular messy encounter, but we can’t run from the common denominator of our problems—ourselves.  If we have a problem and don’t take ownership for it, we are very likely to run into the same kind of problem again in a different circumstance.  We are agents of our own fate when we decide how we respond to whatever comes our way in the course of living.  Only by accepting that God gave us freedom and understanding to make our way through life, will we grow along the way by learning from our mistakes and changing our course of action.  We may find ourselves in a mess at times, but only we can clean it up and move on.  If we don’t, we get stuck making the same messes in new settings.

God says, “Use your head; make a decision; take action.  Seek counsel from a trusted confidant to confirm your insights and gain courage to act.  Be open to change.  Take responsibility for your actions and their consequences.  I am with you no matter what happens.”  With this message rooted in our faith, there is no need to run away from our problems and nothing gained by doing so.  Embracing them becomes the fertile ground where God will yield the fruits of grace in our lives.

So don’t run, Baxter.  We all know who did it.  Relax.  I’ll clean it up.

Friday, October 4, 2013


Although Baxter sometimes exhibits canine characteristics which are a mystery to me, the game of “fetch” isn’t one of them.  When I throw a toy for Baxter to retrieve, I only get half of the chase.  Baxter runs after the object, but once there, he loses interest and walks away in another direction that catches his fancy more.  I suppose he figures that if I threw the toy, it was up to me to get it.  After all, Baxter knows he is not my manservant.  He’s my cat—my master.

But then I found a new game that changed the terms of the chase.  If I take a piece of kibble and throw it in any direction, Baxter takes off after it.  Even if it slides under a piece of furniture, he keeps pursuing it, reaching with his paw to try to snag the morsel, rolling on his back to get at it.  Then, when he has chomped down that piece, he runs back to me, looking eagerly for another round of the game and ready to run at the next toss of food.  This is the best I can do to get Baxter to exercise.  It is his version of a treadmill.

What are we willing to pursue with energy and resolve?  How easily do we quit the chase?  What keeps us coming back for another chance at the race?  These are questions we have to raise about our faith and our call to evangelize others.  Believing in the God of Jesus is not easy today.  There are so many distractions.  The pleasures available in our modern world, the pressures of the work place and careers, the problems of contemporary families and communities all serve to derail the race towards something greater in life.  Like Baxter running after the toy, we soon lose interest in the holy by the allure of all these other concerns.  Unless, we are hungry.

A single piece of kibble can get Baxter to run, find it and come back for more, and so with our faith.  A small moment can trigger a hunger for more of God in our life.  Holding our infant child or grandchild, feeling remorse over a friendship lost or a sin unforgiven, sensing an emptiness inside that no job, hobby or pleasure can fill, these things can whet our appetite for the holy if we follow their lead.  They hold within them God’s call to come closer, probe more deeply, find the lost piece that can nourish our lives.

Pay attention to what living tosses our way.  It’s not just a game of fruitless chasing.  It holds morsels of divine life discovered when we bite into them with the taste of a seeker of faith.  Help others to join in the pursuit.  Encourage friends and family who have questions about where is God in this crazy world and what good does He bring to our living.  Our questions are God’s way of passing His life and love to us to stir our taste for them.  Unless we raise them and pursue them, we will never find the true nourishment of faith that can satisfy them
For Baxter, the secret to the game of fetch is to throw something ahead of him that feeds him.  Then he will come back for another round.  The same holds for us in our journey of faith.  Go for it!