Photo Thoughts

A simple post today composed of photos I took (a rare phenomenon).

The first photo is of Metairie, Louisiana’s only known ice stalagmite that formed on 1/7/14  outside my favorite local Café. For those who think it’s all palm trees and short sleeves here in the deep south, it really did get cold here once.

Once.

The second photo is my St. Francis-like youngest daughter’s touching tombstone for her pet goldfish, Fishy. Considering it was a “feeder” goldfish won at our parish fair, I told her that if you tallied its life in human years, it likely lived to the ripe old age of 100. But, as she was still very sad over Fishy’s untimely demise, I told her that in the Heaven nothing good we give to God is lost. So, I said, I think Fishy’s there now because you gave it back to God. Then I almost quoted Peter Kreeft, but refrained for fear of ruining a precious moment. But had I, this is what I would have quoted for her:

Though the blessed [in heaven] have better things to do than play with pets, the better does not exclude the lesser. We were meant from the beginning to have stewardship over the animals; we have not fulfilled that divine plan yet on earth; therefore it seems likely that our right relationship with animals will be part of Heaven: proper “petship”. And what better place to begin than with already petted pets?

Yes, animals don’t have immortal souls, but the immortal God who can make stones shout “Hosanna!” (Luke 19:40) and gives voice to the donkey (Numbers 22:28), who loves everything He has made (cf Wisdom 11:24) can raise Fishy into the Kingdom where love never dies, to wipe away my daughters tears. Such a trite gesture for divine love, maybe, but…

“Blessed be trite forever!” — Ellen Murphy

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5 comments on “Photo Thoughts

  1. D. Wilson says:

    I recall a talk by Dr. Brant Pitre that revisiting our pets may be hoped for in the “New Creation,” the “New Heavens and the New Earth.” A comforting thought.

    • Thanks for writing! It is comforting, and is also a fresh way of viewing our “baptismal priesthood” that empowers us, in Christ, to ourselves offer that Old creation into the New though the Sacraments, but above all in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We must even offer our pets, the whole animal creation and all creation — even the farthest stars! And this thought makes me think further of those remarkable words of St. Isaac of Syria:
      What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for all that exists. By the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful person pour forth tears in abundance. By the strong and vehement mercy that grips such a person’s heart, and by such great compassion, the heart is humbled and one cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in any in creation. For this reason, such a person offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm her or him, that they be protected and receive mercy. And in like manner such a person prays for the family of reptiles because of the great compassion that burns without measure in a heart that is in the likeness of God.

  2. Dismas Dancing says:

    Because of its length, I hesitated to post the following. However, upon reading your follow up comments and simply reveling in the fact that it comfirms my original thoughts, and finding great comfort therein, I will risk posting. Please feel free to admonish if I’ve taken up too much space.

    Dr Tom: How your post made my day!

    Thirteen years ago, the highly successful world I had constructed around me came crashing down. The circumstances were suspect and lent a significant amount of credibility to the cynical euphemism, “No good deed goes unpunished.” A great deal of bitterness began to infect my soul, for I had only recently guided our small business team in a winning effort to obtain a very large government contract. Such circumstances always conjure up the ubiquitous, “Why me, Lord?” For me, the absence of an answer, any answer, bothered me for days.

    At some point in my lengthy faith journey, I came to a realization that luck, serendipity, karma, happenstance, coincidence, etc., were excuses used by most of us to ignore, or deny entirely, the Hand of God (Divine Providence) in every second of our lives.(“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” (Jer 1:5)) I had also come to fully understand that, when we shut up and listen, God will indeed speak to us. A few days after emerging from the destruction of my secular house of cards, the Lord subjected me to a deluge of messages providing answers to my personal “Why me?” that I had been screaming to Him to answer. The messages were beautiful and the circumstances often humorous, the lessons dramatic and life-changing.

    Your post today is so similar to those earlier messages from Our Lord, I had to chuckle. (I sincerely believe the Lord does have a wry sense of humor!) A week ago today, January 6th, my wife and I had to euthanize one of our three Miniature Schnauzers. He was only six and a half years old. Like all human children, he owned a unique personality, was full of love and loyalty which he demanded in return, and had a great fear of thunderstorms. The heavenly roaring and shaking caused his small body to tremble, violently at times, such that nothing could reassure him, even though he clung desperately to one of us until the storm passed. We loved him in that fear, a love that was always requited. He had contracted liver cancer only a few months earlier. Last Monday, it was simply his time to be returned to the Good God, our mutual creator. We were still hurting when I saw your post. The picture of “Fishy’s” grave site and the heartwarming story of how you walked your daughter through her very real grief touched nerves still raw from our own recent experience.

    For decades, while serving in the military, it was difficult for our family to have pets. The frequent relocation requirements, including overseas assignments, simply made it too hard. As the wisdom of age crushes me with memories better forgotten, I recall with not a little pain, the few times we did allow pets into the home only to leave them behind when moving on to our next duty station. Our human children remind me often of the sometimes deep sadness they experienced when we had to leave a cherished pet behind. Ever the stoic, I never allowed myself the luxury of getting too close to those pets nor understanding the reason(s) behind the heartbreak my children knew so intimately in their saying goodbye. Not until my military career was over did I begin to realize, even then with some reluctance, that, for some folks, the love of their pets is sometimes all the real love they will know, especially as they grow older, the nest is empty, and their beloved children and grandchildren are locked tight in their own worldly house of cards—a very familiar place for me.

    In those past years, having observed so many pet owners, both family and close friends, in their interactions with pets, I have come to realize just what a wonderful gift God has allowed us to “own”, even if but a short moment in our earthly lives. Once I might have laughed, often derisively, at the occasional over-the-top behavior of some pet owners. I have frequently entered judgment upon some of them. Through my own previous cynicism and recent sense of loss, however, I have doubtless visited judgment upon myself, for I have become one of them in many ways. But having heard so many of these folks, through the pain and tears of their loss, speak of rejoining lost pets upon their own deaths, I found great comfort in your conclusion. I found great wisdom in your words (further amplified in the beautiful Kreeft quote) answering the oft-spoken question of a heavenly reunion, so innocently reflected in those of your daughter’s concern for Fishy. The possibility of such a reunion gives us license, if you will, to consider on a grander scale the absolute truths of Our Creator: “God IS Love. God IS Good.” In the story of creation, God gives life to “…man in His own image, in the divine image He created him; male and female He created them…’fill the earth and subdue it…Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth’…And so it happened. God looked at everything He had made, and He found it very good.” (Gen 1:27-31).

    The beauty of my own story is that, in finally understanding the necessity of pets in my own life, I have learned how to “live” real unconditional love, patience, forgiveness, unfettered joy, the great beauty of God’s marvelous creation—things I guess I’m not supposed to learn from the “lower” animals. In truth, the master has been the pupil and this pupil has learned much! Somehow in my oft-twisted logic I must conclude two things: (1) that you and Kreeft are far more right than wrong in that you magnify for us the God-given beauty of the symbiotic relationship between mankind and its pets. And (2), that God, Who IS Love and Who IS all Good intends, as part of the Beatific Vision, for us humans to see the entirety of His creation as part of His glory and majesty; and within that construct we will, as Kreeft says, find the answer to his question “…what better place to begin than with already petted pets?”

    Thanks so much for sharing your daughter’s precious story. It really touched a nerve. And, yes, “Bogey, too, will be loved forever!”

    • Wow. Aside from the stream of tears flowing down my face, released by the humanity and beauty of your story, it also opened in my memory a similar history of struggle and insight. Thank you, as last time, for taking time to grace my Blog with your eloquence, depth and life experience, as well as your “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). Wow.
      Your final comments remind me of an adage an old theology prof of mine shared with me as he commented on the heretical grounds of Jansenism: “You don’t have to denigrate creation to glorify the Creator; you don’t have to denigrate the beasts to exalt man.”
      “Bogey, too, will be loved forever!”
      To know what I write speaks to hearts makes the effort worthwhile.
      Thank you.

      • Dismas Dancing says:

        Thank you, kind sir. I share your sentiments re worthwhile efforts and their impacts beyond ourselves. I greatly appreciate how you remind, sometimes in the simplest of observations and terms, what Jesus told us we had to do IF we are to see Him and His Heavenly Father. We MUST approach him with the eyes and heart and innocence of a child. I firmly believe and trust in the tremendous love Jesus has for his children in their total innocence. Reading the story of Fishy and a child’s grief caused by what, to her, was great loss accopanied by an inability to understand the mechanics of what I always described to my own children as the “circle of life”, freed me to remember Jesus’ warning to all of us. Understanding her loss as a child sees it allowed me to remember that, by temporarily eschewing an adult’s uber-rational approach to everything, especially grief, I could bask in the great love of a God who tells me that it’s entirely OK to love as a child loves, for such love is unencumbered by all of the nasty baggage of a world that tells us we’re somehow less than sane if we say, “I’ll never grow up!”

        Obviously, I haven’t yet taken leave of my senses. But having existed for so many years in a world that is far too complex to allow anything in our lives to be child-like, it is so refreshing to be reminded that, in the final analysis, that is where God is begging us to meet Him. Thanks for sharing your daughter’s very personal story. Obviously it was both physically and spiritually palliative while serving as a necessary re-boot of a faith journey that was due for a GPS mid-course correction.

        Christ’s peace and good will be with you always!

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