Winter in Andahuaylas means a deep and dry cold that only diminishes as the brilliant Andean sun rises and blesses the landscape with warmth and light. It was July, and I had been at the parish there for only six weeks. I arrived by bus after two days of travelling from Lima. The air is thin and the altitude is around 8,500 feet above the Pacific coast. The entire reality was beyond anything I had ever known or imagined.
At 7 o’clock morning Mass began, and I arrived each day around 6:30. Slowly the parishioners would come into the darkened church building, shuffling in sandals made from old truck tires, warmly wrapped in ponchos. Some women carried a child or two. Many were elderly, and women always wore their hats with long braided hair flowing behind. They are a beautiful people, these Peruvians, whose ancestors have lived in these regions for countless generations.
Each day in a few benches in front of me, an elderly woman would slowly come down the aisle saying her prayers and sit down. Very shortly after, an old dog would sort of tip-toe down the aisle and go to her. She would immediately shoo the dog away. The dog would obey, sort of, for he would simply step back and lie down under the bench behind her. I watched this game go on for months until one day the woman did not arrive.
Later that day, I heard she was ill and shortly after we celebrated her funeral. A few days passed, and one morning I sat in the half-light of the dawn in the church when I heard the unmistakable sound of the dog’s approach. Wagging his tail, he went to the bench where he always found the old woman. He looked around everywhere and even came over to me. Finally, he stretched out under her bench and with a sigh, waited for her return.
I recall the story vividly and continue to be touched by the beauty and the faithfulness of a dog. We have seen other accounts as well, sometimes of dogs who serve in the military and display astonishing faithfulness toward soldiers in life and death. Yet all of us who are blessed to be accompanied by a pet have our own stories and we know.
The pandemic prevents us from having our traditional Blessing of the Animals service. It is a beautiful service offering prayers and blessings on the gathered animals and all present who share the day. But the pandemic does not prevent each pet owner to offer their own blessing for their faithful pet. Here’s one sample that you can edit and make your own:
In Your infinite wisdom, Lord God, when You created the universe you blessed us with
all living creatures. I especially thank you for giving me my pet who is my friend and who
brings me so much joy in life. Kindly bless my pet. May my pet enjoy good health and be
given length of years.. May the love I have for my pet and the love my pet offers me remind
me of Your love for me. In the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen.
Not long ago a friend gifted me with a simple image of a black lab and a prayer that read: Lord, make me as good a person my dog thinks I am”. Indeed
Fr. Ronan had spine surgery on Friday, September 24th.
We’re told that he is doing well.
Please keep him in your prayers for a full recovery and a speedy return to the Parish life he loves so well.
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 2/3, 2021
In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches us about the sacredness of marriage;
a covenant that is a gift from God. Our relationships with our spouses, family, friends, coworkers, and those in our community of faith are all gifts from God.
Jesus reminds us today that it is the hardened heart that damages or breaks up relationships.
Good stewards understand the holiness of relationships and pray for the love, patience, understanding and kindness necessary to sustain those relationships.
Take time out to prayerfully reflect on your relationships this week.
Is your stewardship of these relationships as God intended?
What relationships need to be healed and reconciled?