Baxter has a keen ability to help me relax. He crawls on my lap, or he just rolls over for me to pet him, and he begins to purr. Something about that sound and the funny vibration that accompanies it creates a peace and calm that is hard to resist. It is like a psychic massage, a soothing sound and touch that makes me forget the problems or concerns I might be carrying. It says: “Forget about the rest of the world for a moment. Concentrate on our time together. Listen to my peaceful sound and find your center through me. I won’t add to your burdens, but I will help you release them for now.” Add to this message a nose and head rub, and soon the world is all right again. The calm brings clear thinking and settled feelings. I am ready to start over.
Maybe episodes like this are part of the reason so many people prefer their pets to fellow humans. Pets help us decompress by giving us time just to settle down and forget about our troubles. They seem to sense when we need a time out, and they provide the opportunity to take one. At these moments, they don’t ask for anything for themselves except to be close to us. Their closeness gives us perspective on whatever is occupying our attention. It eases our anxiety and provides spaces for us to think again and differently about our issues. A purring cat invites us to pay attention and settle down.
God calls us to the same attitude and frame of mind. In prayer, He comes close to us and invites us to release our burdens, to forget about our troubles for a while, to feel the warmth of His love next to us. Prayer is not a time to solve our problems, but to drop them for a moment. Prayer helps us to recognize that before we have issues with which to deal, we first have appreciation to offer for the gifts what life contains. These come without any strings attached, simply because we are God’s children sharing His life in our living. We hold them in the packaging of our relationships, and we must package them carefully if we are not to damage our sense of gratitude for life.
So our prayer is meant to spill over into the way we deal with each other. Too often we are just problems for each other or functionaries who provide each other things that we need. Prayer shows us we are companions on life’s journey. We are meant to help each other over the rough spots, strengthen each other when we are weak, comfort each other when we are hurting. We do this not by solving anything but by paying attention, feeling close and allowing others to relax in our presence. This is the way we humans purr.
However, we get so wrapped up in our issues, in getting things done, in making demands on each other that we forget to pray that we learn to purr for each other. It’s the greatest service we can offer.
Pope Francis and a few other authors have agreed to give Baxter a break for the summer. So this is the last reflection he will inspire until the weather cools and the new school year begins. Baxter hopes his feline frolics and foibles are helpful to his readers, but he has his agent looking for a new ghost writer to convey his wisdom. Baxter feels his present scribe is entering his dotage and might need to be placed out to pasture for his twilight years. If anyone is interested in applying for the position, please call 724-CAT-FOOD, and ask for “More Kibble”. (Baxter will do anything to circumvent his diet.) Happy summer and see you in September!