Sacrifice is Love

“I don’t know.” There may have never been a time when the entire globe felt the same way. We don’t know what to make of empty storefronts, masked neighbors, and an uncertain economic future. We want to know when it will end, when normalcy will return. We simply don’t know.

But I know what I know. I know that we need family and friends to thrive. I know we don’t need much to survive when food, water, shelter, and clothing are available. I know our psychological well-being is essential to remember that this is all we need. Most of us are encountering a radical confrontation with (and consequent shattering of) privilege; namely, the expectation that our wants will always be met on our timeline. The other day at the grocery store, they only had 2% milk available. Privilege. I have a house large enough to shelter my mother-in-law, wife, two boys, and dog. Privilege. I am trying to donate more to my parish. Privilege. I can’t physically visit with colleagues, friends, and other family members but instead call, video chat, and otherwise socialize online. Privilege. Being aware of this creates the space in our hearts and minds to allow for greater sacrifices as acts of love.

The sacrifice we are all enduring is an appropriate act given our commemoration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, marking the start of Holy Week. Symbolically, this marks the beginning of the (penultimate) end. The sorrow of Good Friday leads to the patience of Holy Saturday only to be transformed by the grace of Easter Sunday. The darkness always passes by just as grace appears to be fleeting. It is the waiting that is most difficult. But in remembering the loving nature of our individual and collective sacrifices, we can all the more appreciate the warmth that Sunday morning will bring to us.

It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!

Preaching to Animals

Today marks the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi who once said, “Preach the Gospel and when necessary, use words.” It’s a powerful reminder about the power of actions and the limits of language. This became all the more apparent during our “Blessing of the Animals” prayer service today where children bring their pets to school running the gamut from stuffed animals and pictures to turtles and barking canines.

The beauty of this prayer service lies in its simplicity. Blessing and remembering animals reminds us of the unconditional love (“agape”) in our lives; in one way, it is the model prayer service par excellence. Other forms of love (physical “eros” and friendship “philia”), by definition, are conditional. They rely on a mutual exchange between individuals but are limited somewhat in their capacity to lose oneself in another. We can recall the words of St. Paul (also a reading from our wedding day), “Love is patient, love is kind…It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Animals are a window into this infinite rippling pool of relationships.

Since we “speak” with animals through behaviors, it makes sense that we are limited in how we communicate this love for them. The Latin phrase spectamur agendo translates as, “Let us be judged by our acts” and reminds us that our actions teach us more about loving others than words can. We are reminded of this in the way our world calls us into relationship through the abundance of life God has created: a beautiful day, a cool breeze, and the sights and sounds of creatures we live with. Let this feast day remind us about our relationship with the non-human world and how it should reflect the way we care for one another.

It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!