Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Two things frighten Baxter most - loud noises and changes in his surroundings. If he hears a loud noise, it will stop him in his tracks. His ears go up; he looks around; he might walk away from whatever he is doing. He is set on alert. If Baxter finds himself in a strange place, he has a different response. He cries and hides. He lets his discomfort be known to anyone in earshot, and then he finds a place where he is out of sight and often out of reach. Under a bed or in a closet are his favorite hiding places, although an empty box or large paper bag will do in a pinch. Fear causes Baxter to act funny.

Fear can cause us to act strangely as well. When we don’t feel safe about our surroundings and the people we are around, we aren’t our best selves. We become suspicious of others. We withdraw from interacting with them and engaging in activities. We fail to see all that is going on because we are always looking for something harmful to happen. So everything becomes a threat, and nothing can just be a harmless response. Fear plays games with us. It works on our imagination to see things through the prism of this emotion. Nothing is innocent or straightforward. We see and hear what isn’t there, and we miss many benefits and opportunities. Anxiety creates stress that has a broad effect on us, and we withdraw from many of the experiences that bring pleasure and meaning to our lives. Fear builds a self-imposed prison where we condemn ourselves to a lonely confinement.

“Fear is useless. What is needed is trust.” Jesus says these words when He is asked to heal Jairus’ daughter and members of the household think there is no hope for a cure. Fear kills hope, and without hope, we shut down. That is why we have to control our fear. We can’t just react to the threats our world poses. We have to measure them, take prudent actions to thwart them, and learn to live with some uncertainty. We can do this because our faith is meant to feed our hope and temper our fears. It brings to our lives the power of God’s goodness to transform hard hearts, to heal the wounds of sin and division, and to build trust again. The recent terrorist events of the past few weeks have tested this kind of faith. These tests can either kill our spirits or strengthen them. We must pray for the courage not to give into our fears but to build our trust in God and in people who believe in the true God of life and salvation. Bombs and guns will never rid the world of fear. Only a higher power, a stronger force can offer an alternative for our troubled spirits. All men and women who live in the grace of this divine mystery must work together to advance its effects in our world. Then fear will diminish, trust will grow, and hope for a better world will be restored.

A harmless noise or a new environment can set Baxter on edge. Cats are rather inflexible about those sorts of things. We are better than cats. Drawing upon our faith and how it can change our outlook, let us face our troubling world with trust in what the power of God can accomplish among those who hope in His love.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


I came home for lunch last week, and I couldn’t find Baxter. After a quick review of his favorite resting spots, I was at a loss as to where he was. I kept calling his name, but there was no response. Finally, I stopped and listened. I heard this faint “meow”, but I wasn’t sure of where it was coming from. I went to the garage. No Baxter. I went to the spare bedroom. No Baxter. Still the “meows” continued. Finally, I opened the coat closet door, and he came running out. I don’t know when or how he got in there, but he was certainly happy to be free. For a few hours, Baxter was left confined in a dark closet, without food or water, and he didn’t appreciate the whole experience.

We sometimes do the same sort of thing. We closet ourselves, and we may not know how to get out. Maybe it’s a problem we have that we don’t want anyone to know we have. Maybe it’s someone in the family’s problem that we are embarrassed to admit. Maybe we are closeting a past secret that we are afraid to face or have discovered. Maybe we are hiding something good and useful, a talent we have that we don’t share because we aren’t confident enough of ourselves or sure enough of its worth. Maybe we have confined ourselves because we feel safe in the space we have carved out, and a bigger world is just so uncertain. There are many reasons we stay in the dark, hiding parts of our lives.

But darkness is where demons live. When we hide things out of fear, they take on a power that can control our lives. We spend a lot of energy making sure no one knows this piece of our story. We pretend that our lives are happy and complete, but there is always this underlying unease. What if someone finds us out? We are lost in our confinement, and we don’t know how to get out.

Jesus calls out the demons. He brings them into the light and forces them to speak. When this happens, their power is gone. Our problems are put into their proper proportion. We are not alone with them. Others share similar dilemmas. There are people and ways to help. Our fears, generated in isolation, are now dissolved in the light of our common, weak humanity. We need each other, and there is no shame in that. Whatever talents and gifts we have become tools forhelping each other and enhancing the life we share. We see both our problems and our treasures differently in the light of Christ. They are valuable occasions of grace, bonding us to one another through the mutual respect we gain when we serve others with the gifts we were given.

Baxter learned a valuable lesson from getting trapped in a closet for a few hours. He won’t find a cozy hiding space where doors can be closed, trapping him inside. We need to learn a similar lesson for ourselves.

-Monsignor Statnick

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wanting the Wrong Things

Whatever I am eating, Baxter wants some of it. His craving persists despite strict orders from the vet not to feed him from the table. He even wants things that are dangerous for his health, like chocolate. If it appears as food, Baxter’s appetite is stirred, and he won’t give up on his desire until I have eaten it all and placed the plate in the sink. Later, when I sit for another meal, he’s back again pawing at my arm, mournfully meowing, and plucking at my heart-strings with his soulful eyes. Nothing deters Baxter from wanting anything that smells like food to him. He is driven by his nose to fill his stomach, even if he just had his portion of kibble.

We can get caught in the same kind of fixations. Sometimes they are physical addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex or gambling. We can’t resist the need to engage in certain behaviors that bring us immediate pleasures and calm our cravings for a while. Sometimes our desires are more subtle, and therefore unnoticed. We can’t resist telling someone a tidbit we found out about another person. We can’t stop ourselves from finding fault in something when others are complimenting it. We can’t overlook someone’s annoying habit or mistake, but have to point it out for everyone to acknowledge. We get into a negative frame of mind to highlight what is wrong with another’s behavior or the situation other’s created. We want things to be perfect, and we won’t settle for anything less. We are driven, and we don’t realize it!

A lesson from Baxter may help in this case. What turns off Baxter’s food radar is a distraction. If he sees a bird fly pass the window, if he hears a loud noise, if he goes to the litter box, he forgets about his craving for a while. If we get involved in helping others, in donating our time and talent to a good cause, in advocating for the less fortunate, we loosen the grip that our self centered desires have on us. We begin to think about what the other person needs, rather than what we want or what we think they need. We change the focus to see situations more clearly and completely. We add other points of view to our viewpoint which broadens it and allows for more empathy and understanding. Our conclusions are softer, leaving room to modify them or even reverse them. Instead of measuring others by what we want them to do and be, we measure ourselves by how well we help them be better persons. Now our drive is going somewhere, rather than running in circles for our own self gratification.

Jesus was driven by His mission to fulfill the Kingdom of God. His drive led to the cross and from the cross to the resurrection and the release of the Spirit. It didn’t lock Him into Himself, but freed Him to reach out to the least around Him, and eventually, through His followers, to the least everywhere. This is how a disciple lives and channels his or her desires by the grace of Christian conversion. We learn to want the right things for others and forget about ourselves. Funny though, in the end we get more than we ever imagined possible to feed our spirits and become well fed disciples.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Straight Shooter

Baxter is easy to figure out. His needs are few, and he is pretty straight-forward in asking to have them met. He lets me know when he is hungry. He climbs on my lap when he wants to be cuddled, scratched and petted, and he jumps off when he has had enough. He sits in front of a door, crying and pawing at it when he wants me to open it. There is no beating around the bush with Baxter. What you see is what you get, and if he doesn’t get what he wants, he lets me know that he isn’t happy. He either cries up a storm or sits with his back to me, pouting.

We are so much more complicated in our dealings with each other, aren’t we? We hide our true thoughts and feelings not to offend, or start an argument, or interfere. We tell others their ways or words are fine, that we understand or even agree, when actually we are upset over what just happened, and we can’t fathom why someone says those things or acts that way. We camouflage our reactions, and others draw the wrong conclusions based upon them. This kind of hidden misunderstanding then extends the problem. When we deceive each other, we can’t advance in our relationships. We play ring around the rosy with each other in an effort to be “nice”. Relationships can’t grow and mature based upon deception. Only honesty provides the good ground for the seeds of loyalty and trust to take root.

Jesus understood this well. His words and presentation in the Gospels are direct and clear, and they match. He doesn’t say one thing and think or do another, nor does He say one thing to one person and change His tune when talking to another. Jesus embodies an integrity when He relates to others, whether that person is Pilate, a temple official, a tax collector, an adulterer, or a poor blind man. Because of this quality to His relationships, others recognize that Jesus truly loves them and they in turn can love Him. Trust allows love to flourish. Sometimes Jesus’ directness puts others off, as when Peter tried to stop Him from speaking about the suffering of the Son of Man, or when the rich man departed after Jesus told him what he had to do to be perfect. However, even in these challenging situations, Jesus never closes the door to those who want to stay connected. Peter is welcomed back after he denies Him. We don’t know what the rich man did.

So let’s think twice before we twist our words to say what we don’t mean, or go along with other’s actions to keep peace. Those are quick fixes containing long term break downs in the future. What may seem easy now creates hard feelings in the end. Our relationships are kept fresh and growing when they are straight-forward and honest, when they deal with issues as they arise, and when the parties involved want each other to know the truth about themselves. Truthfulness is the rock on which God builds His Kingdom in our midst. Without it, we sink into a swamp of lies and deceit which drown any hope for us to trust each other.

Baxter is easy to understand and deal with because, like Nathaniel, there is no guile in him. Let’s make it easier to understand and deal with each other by straight talk and actions between us. That is the only way we can hear and see Jesus in our midst.