Wednesday, October 28, 2015


I admit it. I talk to Baxter. We have conversations about various things: how the day went; what I am concerned about in the parish; what are my worries and anxieties; who is a delight to be with and who is less than that; what I am looking forward to. Baxter’s side of the conversation is rather limited. When is my next meal, where have you been for so long, scratch my ear, let’s play “fetch”, where is my “cat milk” or treat, make up the full repertoire of his interests. Nevertheless, we keep talking. I don’t get bored with Baxter’s concerns; maybe because they are so simple and straight forward. He has no hidden agendas. On the other hand, he seems to pay attention when I share with him my concerns. He’s a good listener. He doesn’t come to a conclusion before I have voiced my full story. He doesn’t shut me down by walking away or forcing his interests into the conversation. He sits in front of me or lies on my lap and quietly purrs, while I ventilate about my latest situation, dilemma or frustration.

Listening is a key to conversing. In today’s world with all of its sophisticated technology, we are not trained to listen. We are trained to look and find a quick and clever response. Short answers with abbreviated expressions or Emojis are the order of the day. We know how to convey information in tight packages of emails and text messages, but we don’t do a good job of communicating the human feelings and meanings attached to the message. Even exchanging pictures with each other doesn’t do it. We assume we know what the other means in what is displayed because of how it makes us feel. But we miss the subtleties, the nuances contained in a look, a tone of voice, a casual gesture. We can’t see the tears behind the smile, the pain hidden in the laugh, the worries dressed up in party attire. Only true conversation between caring persons reveals these tender dimensions.

Maybe we don’t know how to talk this way to each other because we don’t pray enough or pray well enough. Cor ad cor loquitur is a traditional description of prayer. Heart speaks to heart. In prayer, we open our hearts to God and God opens His heart to us. It doesn’t matter what is on our heart at the moment. Happy or sad, angry or peaceful, empty or full doesn’t register the quality of our prayer. The honesty and depth of our self disclosure does. In prayer we join our hearts to God’s, and in this meeting, we discover how much He loves us just as we are and how much we love Him, despite our weakness and sin. No matter what particular feelings we bring to the moment, this heart to heart conversation creates another feeling stronger than all the rest—trust, trust in God’s presence, goodness and care for us. On this trust we build our lives of faith, and without it, we simply engage in religious activities.

Prayer gives us a practice field for learning how to communicate genuinely, fully and deeply with each other. God is the best listener, and when we pray from our heart, His listening frees us to be ourselves. It gives us confidence to take these selves that God shows us He loves, and open them to others to create a relationship with them that is holy, because it is so careful, respectful and honest. How we are in prayer with God is meant to become the model for how we are with each other in the other moments of our lives. We pray well to live well, and we bring the stuff of our lives to prayer to learn how to live better.

Baxter is a good listener, but God is even better. Don’t be afraid to grow close to God in prayer, and He will teach us how to grow close to each other, no matter what life brings for us to share.

Monsignor Statnick

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sticky Stuff

If you own a cat, you can’t live without a lint remover. These ingenious inventions are simply a large roll of masking tape on a holder which allows you to pass the tape smoothly over almost any surface to pick up loose particles—lint, food crumbs, or if you own a cat, HAIR! If your cat owns you, this simple contraption is a must. If you don’t want to constantly look like a hairy version of Pig Pen from Peanuts, this device will keep you hairless without harm to most fabrics.

Cats are notorious for leaving a little of themselves behind wherever they have been. They rub against an object in their environment to leave their scent, claiming the thing as their own, and the streak of hair is an added bonus for those species that can’t smell the mark. There is no denying the splotch of fluffy follicles that stand out on the black pants, the dark rug or the door sill. Baxter was here and left his mark. Get the sticky roller to eliminate the evidence.

God marks us as well. In Baptism, He claimed us as His own, but unlike cat hair, nothing can remove His loving paternity over us. We speak of it as the character of the sacrament. We are a chip off the old block, or at least, we are meant to be when we have been initiated into the very life of God. We don’t wear this mark like a physical object—a tattoo, an emblem, a society pin. We wear it in the godly way we are called to live. With humility, for God made us who we are, and we didn’t deserve His grace or earn it in any way. With generosity and openness to others, for God calls all to His life and asks no questions about our pedigree for admission. With honesty and simplicity, for God forgives the past and allows us to begin again and again in our lives with a clean slate. There is no need to hide anything from our God who heals what keeps us from recognizing ourselves and each other as His children.

But there are often many sticky situations we encounter that can keep us from wearing God’s mark on us. We become so competitive with each other that we see each other as threats rather than supportive brothers and sisters. Our ambition and arrogance take over what we hold precious, and we ignore the weak, the poor and the lonely. Greed focuses our attention, and we can no longer see how rich we become when we share.

We hide behind titles and positions for fear that others will see our vulnerabilities and faults and know we share a common human core. All these tendencies are fostered by our world today, and they can roll over our character, wiping clean the living marks of a life baptized into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.

So be careful of the sticky stuff out there. Divine qualities will keep our baptismal garment clear of loose, worldly debris. Self-centered ones will remove the signs of grace in our midst, and create a harsh and hostile world around us. Stick to God, and He will keep you clean to share His life always and everywhere.

-Monsignor Statnick

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Handle with Care

Charlie has a rough and tough side, like most dogs. He digs in the dirt, chases rodents, and loves a rigorous game of tug-o-war.

But, Charlie also has a sensitive side. He can seem almost fragile at times. When getting his nails trimmed Charlie is skittish. Taking a bath also causes some nervousness in Charlie. His most sensitive moment is if someone touches his tail. When the tail is brushed with a foot or other object, he jumps and whimpers as though injured.

It can be comical, but mostly Charlie’s sensitivities are an annoyance. Clipping his nails and giving him a bath become difficult chores because he acts so fearfully. When a foot brushes his tail, his yelp startles us and makes our hearts skip a beat. Most times, his bark is completely unnecessary because he hasn’t even been touched!

Although sometimes irritating, it is good that Charlie has ways of reminding us that he is fragile. We need to remember that he is our dog, and he needs our care. We have to be gentle in the way we love him because he is a living breathing creature. Sometimes we forget that with one another.

These days, it’s not really acceptable to be considered fragile. Being tough and strong are attributes that people pride themselves in.

What we fail to realize in that way of thinking is that being fragile doesn’t mean we lack value. Sure, when something is tough and strong it means you can abuse it and test it and it will last through all of that. But, I guess the question is, should we be testing one another like that?

We like to think of our relationships as strong, but really they are fragile. We like to think of ourselves as tough, but we’re actually delicate. We should take a moment to recognize that in our dealings with each other and ourselves we need to “handle with care.”

We can think of this strong versus fragile like this: The plastic cups in my cupboard get stacked and shifted in all kinds of ways. They fall and no one thinks twice. My crystal wine glasses, on the other hand, are placed in a special cupboard. They are treated with the honor and respect they deserve. The same goes for clothes, jewelry, and other things we own.

If we can understand the value of things, why do we have such trouble understanding the value of one another? Maybe, unlike Charlie, we learn not to cry out when we are being trampled on. Perhaps it’s because we’ve learned that others just get upset when we let them know we’re sensitive. Or, maybe, we are giving into the father of lies when we tell ourselves we need to be tough, and that we’re not as fragile as we seem.

Maybe that’s why we have such a hard time understanding the Gospel.

We hear about the weak and sick that Jesus healed and think, “isn’t it too bad that that person couldn’t help themselves?” Or, “it’s good that I’m not like that! I can take care of myself!”

I know that it is scary to share the fragile parts of yourself with others. It makes us vulnerable. Sometimes when that happens we cry out, like Charlie, to keep others from hurting us.

It’s only natural to try and protect ourselves. But, as usual, Jesus is calling us to the super-natural.

Jesus tells us we have to share ourselves with others really letting them in, and showing them that we care too. That means being vulnerable. That means showing our fragile side.

We have to remember that God made us this way. He is always calling us to love and care for one another. We need each other, because we are fragile and delicate. It isn’t shameful; it’s honorable.

So, be careful of stepping on tails. We all need to be handled with care.

Right, Charlie?

-Christy Cabaniss

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Watch Those Bites

Sometimes I roughhouse with Baxter. I tickle his stomach and slap at his paws. I hold onto his tail until he goes after it. He rolls over and slaps back with his paws. He’ll jump at my arm or leg, and sometimes he nips at them. It is all in good fun, and after a few minutes I have to calm him down with soft words and gentle petting. Occasionally, I get a scratch or small cut from our antics together. I am sure to wash the wound immediately and put an antibiotic cream on it. I know that the love of cats won’t prevent an infection from happening, so an ounce of prevention is worth the effort.

Sometimes we roughhouse with each other as well. We use words to spar with one another. When it begins in jest, we usually know when to stop before our remarks get too cutting. We realize what we said and know how to put limits on its impact. However, when we get sharp with others because we are under pressure and irritated by the situation at hand, we begin to lose sight of the effects of our words. We can fail to see how others are responding to what we say, and we get on a roll that begins to run away with our biting comments. Now we can be in trouble. What we dismiss as meaningless remarks when we are calmer now wound those in earshot whohear the nastiness of our anger and frustration.

They back off, retreat from interacting with us, and draw conclusions about our character because they are hurt and afraid of getting hurt further. The situation becomes awkward, and everyone walks on egg shells trying to bring peace again.

Jesus in the Gospels is very conscious of the power of His words. He speaks pointedly and directly to others. His audiences may try to twist His remarks to their liking to trap Him or get Him on their side, but Jesus is always trying to clarify His intentions and meaning. He doesn’t back off from challenging others with the demands of God’s Kingdom, but He doesn’t do so to hurt them out of His own frustration. He wants them to reconsider their thoughts, actions and attitudes against the backdrop of God’s towards them. We are God’s children and should reflect our heavenly Father. Jesus’ words direct us to look at ourselves in this light and draw our conclusions based upon what our faith shows us, not what we want to see. Grace tames our anger and frustration to become an energy for good, rather than a force that unintentionally hurts others.

Still we are going to fail from time to time. A slip of the tongue, a quick barb, a habitual slogan may be heard before we realize we said it. That’s why the Gospel tells us to ask for forgiveness in the Lord’s prayer, and why we must forgive seventy times seven times. That is how we correct our grammar to follow the rules of God’s language. An apology can turn a biting comment into a sincere compliment, because with such words, we place ourselves at another’s service again. It can wash any wounds our words may create and keep them from becoming serious infections in our relationships.

When Baxter and I spar,it is fun. Our rough housing is a game that does no one any permanent harm. Be sure that the same dynamics come to play when we verbally spar with each other. God must have the last word.

-Monsignor Statnick