On occasion, our Grace Before Meals movement will send out some “Blasts from the Past,” not only because the messages are still relevant today, but it also helps us remember how far we’ve come! Post something by clicking here.
Old Dog, New Tricks
Now I am not truly an “old dog”, though I feel like it sometimes when traveling non-stop or when doing a flying jump kick over some volunteers to break some boards (see picture below). But as the fall approaches, our Grace Before Meals team is preparing to launch some new “tricks” as discussed in last week’s blast, including the long-awaited release of my new book Spicing Up Married Life, coming out September 18.
And if I have to take the designation of being an “old dog performing new tricks,” as humbling as it may seem, I am glad to, as I know I am in good company- specifically, St. Dominic (whose feast day is August 8) and my former spiritual director, Fr. Frank McGauley.
I look back fondly on the many lessons I learned from this amazing priest, who passed away on July 15, 2008. He was 86 years old at the time, and yet, as you will read below, he was always learning something new about his faith and love for God, as well as God’s love for us. And much like St. Dominic, his faithfulness was inspiring and helped me to grow deeper in my own. So please enjoy this stroll down memory lane to remember this great priest and friend from whom I learned so much. And with St. Dominic’s intercession, we ask for God’s blessing on all priests and religious, families and communities, and all those, including Grace Before Meals, who seek to glorify God with their lives and devotion. May we please him by our faithfulness and true love.
St. Dominic – Old Dog, New Tricks
Originally Published August 8, 2007
My spiritual director is an 85-year-old Jesuit Priest who served in the missionaries of India for more than 30 years. He learned their languages and culture in order to serve the poor and local tribes as their pastor, spiritual leader, and friend. He’s worked with Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta and a host of other holy men and women who brought the Good News of Jesus to that part of the world!
His credentials were enough reason for me to “select” him as my spiritual director. But there are so many other reasons, such as his sincere joy, his holy fear of the Lord, his sensitivity and awareness to the battles against evil, and also his down to earth spirituality. Above all, he is humble!
I could jokingly say, he’s everything I’m NOT – but then, I wouldn’t be joking!
Every meeting, without fail, I receive so much spiritual food from his wisdom and counsel. But one thing I constantly marvel at is how this “old man” approaches suffering, trials and challenges – especially the challenge of growing older. He sees challenges as lessons in life, and he tells us that nothing goes to waste! He lives with knowledge and hope that even our problems can be useful in God’s hands.
In my last Spiritual Direction Meeting (I usually go once a month), I heard he had a nasty fall down a flight of stairs. He let go of the safety rail with his one hand because he was afraid of tipping over the plate of food he had in his other hand. Of course my ears perked up, simply because he mentioned food! (I secretly wondered if the meal was worth the fall!) But thank God his athletic skills from his younger days kicked in, so that he fell in such a way to avoid even worse physical damage. Though it could have been worse, it was bad enough to bloody him up and require medical attention. He thanks his angels for helping him out, especially at his tender age!
Yet in all of this, this man of God was able to learn a life lesson, which he conveyed to me. He mentioned that the plate of food could be a symbol of the many responsibilities, privileges, and issues that we carry. These things are precious to us and we are afraid to tip them over. BUT for him, the handrail was a symbol of GOD. No matter how tempted we may be to try and take control (i.e. use both hands) and manage our own affairs, we cannot let go of God. Look at what might happen if we do!
Here is a man who could call himself “a ragged old dog.” Yet he is so willing to learn new tricks! I used this phrase “old dog” because of the Feast we celebrate every August 8th – the Feast of St. Dominic, founder of the Dominicans. His name and the name of the congregations he founded literally means “Dogs of the Lord” – domini (Lord) canes (Dogs). An image of St. Dominic normally shows him in the beautiful white Dominican Robes pointing up, holding a book, and next to him a dog holding a torch in its mouth.
Even though my spiritual director is a Jesuit, I see in him a true “Dominican” – as he is ever faithful to the Lord, like the old dog “Fido” (which is a form of the word “Fides” – “Faith”). Sorry cat lovers, but that’s why they call Fido “man’s best friend,” because the dogs are ever faithful!
This old faithful – my spiritual director – reminds me that life should be a spiritual journey and that we can find spiritual lessons in every encounter – even if its challenging and full of suffering. After all, Jesus didn’t die on the cross to be jewelry, but to be a visible lesson and reminder of love, forgiveness, and the reality of human suffering, especially in our elderly population – who is so often forgotten. My spiritual director, and all of the elderly patients I minister to remind me of the importance to grow old gracefully and to realize that getting older presents its own challenges. We who are younger can learn tremendous lessons from them, even if the only lesson we repeat is patience, patience, patience!
I’ll close with this story I keep close to my heart whenever I consider working with the elderly. A young priest noticed the old Monsignor sleeping in his pew during prayer. One day the younger priest expressed his displeasure to the old man and questioned how he could sleep during his prayer. The old Monsignor explained that he tries to stay attentive to the Lord in prayer, but sometimes his age gets the best of him. “In those moments,” the old man explained, “I sometimes hear God say, ‘You’re not as young as you were, but your faithfulness is like a dog who sometimes serves his master best by simply resting at his master’s feet!”
With the prayers of St. Dominic, I want to ask God to bless my spiritual director with a long and faithful life – I obviously need that “old dog” around to teach me new lessons!
Orzo Ginger Chicken
The FDA has some ideas for healthy eating for our elderly community. Sometimes we have to wonder, how did people in generations past live such long lives without the FDA? I think they used common sense by eating appropriately, healthy, and festively – and they started young. So start now! But if you do have someone a bit older in your family life, you may want to make them a healthful and soul satisfying meal. Here’s an idea for a very simple and tasty dish that’s not only easy to prepare, it’s also really easy to eat! For the recipe [click here].
My spiritual director has taught me great ways of praying! He reminds me to make sure that “nothing goes to waste.” Therefore, if ever I have certain challenges, I try to reflect on them and ask, “What did I learn from this?” This examination of conscience not only reminds us that our challenges are not useless, but could also be helpful! My spiritual director’s fall taught him and me to always manage the “food on my plate” by not overdoing it, and to always, no matter what, hold on to the railing!
Let Us Pray: Lord, when life gets a bit more complicated, help me to take a moment to gain true balance, so that I can better walk with You and with Your people. Help me to be strong, but at the same time humble enough to keep me dependent on Your loving guidance. Help me to walk, hand in hand, with You! Amen.
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Posted in Blast from the Past, Chicken, Food for the Body, Food for the Soul, Food for Thought, In Memory, Menu Inspiration, Past Emails, Prayers, Recipe, Recipe-Meats, Recipe-Pasta, Recipes, Spicing Up Married Life | 1 Comment
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