Sunday, 23 June 2013

Of the Good Shepherd

"Christ Jesus as the Good Shepherd", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2013


As you can see, I have completed another drawing of Our Lord as
the Good Shepherd.  Christ as the Good Shepherd is one of my favourite images.  Even though I did not grow up around sheep farmers, I became acquainted with them and their sheep in my late 20s.  

I learned that North American "shepherds" are very different in lifestyle and attitude than those in the Middle East.  The ones I met on this side of the Atlantic rarely stayed with the sheep for long periods of time as did those that I met in the Middle East.  

The North American sheep had their own pastures through which they rotated and were often left alone for long periods of time with mainly only a trained dog keeping an eye on them.  This occurred primarily, I think, because these sheep lived on large farms or ranches and so there were fences enclosing huge numbers of sheep.  I did know of farmers who stayed very close to the ewes during lambing season and would sometimes be out with them all night.  Although I don't know for certain, I would imagine that things are similar on those large sheep ranches in South America and Australia.

On the other hand, while travelling in the Middle East on a couple of occasions, I saw and even met shepherds who lived very much as they must have lived during the time of Our Lord.  They had much smaller herds and so they stayed with them 24/7 except for the occasional break when they had to take some of the sheep to market, leaving other family members to look after the family's sheep as they often had their families with them.  They would be living in a traditional Middle-Eastern-type tent which they could move from place to place as they continually sought new pasture.  More often, however, they lived in a village (after all the government now expects children to attend school) and took their sheep out each day, keeping them in a sheepfold at night.  They knew their sheep as individuals and called each one by name.  If one strayed, unnoticed, the shepherd would leave the family with the other sheep while he would go looking for the stray animal.  Theirs was subsistence farming so every sheep mattered immensely.

One of the most noticeable differences I found between these Palestinian shepherds and the North American ones was their odor. Those in the Middle East seemed to always have the smell of their sheep on them all the time.  I rarely found this to be the case in North America.  

The reason for mentioning this rather indelicate subject is because our Holy Father, Pope Francis, said back in March: Those priests “who do not go out of themselves” by being mediators between God and men can “gradually become intermediaries, managers,” he said March 28 during the chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. When a priest “doesn’t put his own skin and own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks” from those he has helped, the pope said in his homily. “This is precisely the reason why some priests grow dissatisfied, lose heart and become in a sense collectors of antiquities or novelties — instead of being shepherds living with ‘the smell of the sheep,’” he said. “This is what I am asking you,” he said with emphasis, looking up from his prepared text, “be shepherds with the smell of sheep,” so that people can sense the priest is not just concerned with his own congregation, but is also a fisher of men.  For the complete text see 

And so, I continue to draw images of Our Lord as the Good Shepherd, always seeking to better capture another layer of this profound image.  So far, I have never been satisfied with the results of my artistic efforts; however, this is not a cause for despair, but, rather an invitation to keep trying.  So, you regular readers will no doubt be seeing more images of shepherds and sheep in the days ahead as I get the urge to try again!



Before saying anything else about sheep and shepherds, I want to show you a couple of new photos of Braden.  This first one always makes me laugh when I look at it as I can just imagine Braden's father rushing around, trying to get to work as soon as possible, and there stands Braden no doubt trying to figure out what his Dad is up to and the whole business of shower taking as a means of bathing.  I mean this is the time in children's lives when they learn almost 80% of what they need to know to function in the world as they grow in size and in the ability to communicate.  It is obvious from this photo that Braden has no lack of normal curiosity!

Braden busy having a discussion with his Dad as his father showers in preparation for work!
When you have children and they are still young, you no longer have such a thing as privacy.

Next we see Braden checking out a new set of wheels while visiting the toy store.  I sometimes try to imagine what a toy store of the type we now have would look like to a child his age.  I was never in such a store while growing up but I can remember how wonderful the toy section of the Sears and Roebuck Christmas Catalogue looked when I was a child.  I wanted almost everything I saw but knew I would only get a few toys for Christmas, maybe a new board game, some candies and a wonderful new book from my Great Aunt Tol.

Braden tests out a new set of wheels -- I think he likes them except for the colours!
He needs a bright red scooter -- it would fit his personality much better
than purple and gold!



Now, let's return to the Good Shepherd.
First, however, let me talk about the nun in a black veil and a deep red habit.  This is Sister Mary Cecilia.  She is a Redemptoristine Nun who is no longer able to live in the contemplative community because the one she was with for so many years finally had to close due to a lack of vocations and the age of the sisters who were still in the monastery.  Sister now lives in a convent here in Toronto with a couple of other sisters from her community.  As I point out under the photo, I have known Sister for at least 35 years now and in the past I managed to get into any number of escapades with her while we were both living in the monastery!  She has always had a most delightful streak of craziness in her, but she is also a very holy nun.
My dear friend, Sr. Mary Cecilia, with a young relative on the grounds of the convent where
she is now living.  We first met in a cloistered monastery 35 years ago!

Many of you may be unaware of the fact that I tried very hard to be a nun myself during a certain period of my life.  I was in the same contemplative community as Sr. Mary Cecilia.  The name that was given to me by the Mother Superior when I was first clothed with the habit was Sister Sarah Marie of the Good Shepherd!

My connection with the Good Shepherd was the fact that it was the Brothers of the Good Shepherd, with whom I was working prior to entering the convent, who were the ones who introduced me to the nuns.  They had a long-term friendship with the sisters and would often come to visit them on a weekend when some of the Brothers were able to get away from their work with the poor and the homeless.  

"Guess Who" is on the left and Sr. Mary Cecilia is on the viewers; right.  I am aware that some of  you may be a bit surprised by this photo, but it is for real, not faked.  We were celebrating moving from postulancy to the novitiate.  



Suki with that famous string that I almost always
find spread across the hardwood floor
when I come home after going out -- no
matter how long or short a time I have

been gone!
I have a new game that I am playing with Suki -- it has to do with hiding treats.  This is what happens...

Well, first I should tell you that there is one particular treat that Suki just plain loves!  If you offer her that treat she will practically tie herself in knots while trying to purr and eat at the same time.  The instant that she has started to swallow the treat she has just been offered, she immediately begins to try to rub against me while still sniffing the floor and my hands with great fervour!!  I find her behaviour to be almost dangerous to her health as I am sure she is going to twist herself inside out one of these days!

So, I decided to change everything around by quietly hiding about four treats in one location.  I try to do this when Suki is sleeping soundly and, thus far, I have been successful in not getting caught.  Meanwhile, suddenly finding a treat seems to take Suki by complete surprise each time it happens.  Normally she finds all four within a matter of minutes with that excellent nose she has, but sometimes it does take her a while to discover that the treats have been hidden in a certain area in the first place.  

I try to keep an eye on her when she is awake and playing as I know that she will probably, sooner or later, sniff out the hidden treats and I enjoy seeing what she does when she finds them.  Since at that point she does not directly associate the treats with me, she tends to leave me alone as she continues to search for more.  This is good, I think, as she can really become a nuisance when she associates me with the treats.  There have been times when I have been followed by Suki, watched by Suki, meowed at by Suki for long periods of time after I have given her a single treat!

I, on the other hand, have been trying to avoid extra treats as usual. I have been back at the gym now since Saturday of last week and although I did not go every day, I did workout on 5 days during the week.  I am enjoying it and gradually getting over the additional aches and pains associated with the first week or so of returning to exercise after being absent all this time.  

I did have a really good visit with Sr. Mary Cecilia on Thursday afternoon.  She took Wheeltrans here and stayed for 2 1/2 hours.  I am sure we could have reminisced for a couple of more hours without any difficulty except we were both starting to get tired after two and a half!  Then on Friday afternoon, late, there was a memorial get-together in the large meetings rooms here in honour of a young man who lived in the building and died recently following a cerebral aneurysm which occurred in his sleep.  His parents and family members were there and with their strong faith made everyone feel more joyful than sad.  The funeral was held some days prior to this memorial -- the memorial was mainly for all those who lived in the co-op.

This coming week is filled with feast days of wonderful saints whose intercession we should seek.  Monday, of course, is La Saint-Jean, Fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Quebec, or, as the politically correct now call it, La Fête nationale du Québec!  The day of my next posting, Wednesday, will be the feast of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer , the founder of Opus Dei -- a wonderful organization of holy men and women in spite of all the foolish notions put forth by Dan Brown!

I am continuing to do reasonably well for which I frequently give thanks to God.  I am so aware of how much worse things could be at this point and this knowledge helps me (most of time) have a heart full of gratitude for this life I am living.  As I indicated in the previous sentence, however, there are the occasional moments where things just seem too difficult again, but then the Lord reminds me of all my many blessings and my heart is once more filled with gratitude.  

Well, it is almost time for me to visit the gym so I had better go and get myself organized.  I pray that the peace of God will be with each and every person who looks at this posting -- let us continue to pray for one another.  May God bless you all.

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