Those Mysterious Priests

When I was a seminarian I was on a Lenten retreat in a monastery in a small town in Italy. The local stray dogs barked constantly. It was a disruption to me at first, but then I thought of a fable that can help us appreciate what it was like for Christ to become man and to die for us. (Fulton Sheen gives us a similar image in his book, Those Mysterious Priests.)

Imagine there was a group of feral dogs in the neighborhood. They bark constantly, bite children playing outside, and tear apart lawns, mailboxes, and newspapers in the driveway. You are not just annoyed by this, you are concerned, for the dogs are clearly miserable in this state, not to mention suffering from lack of nourishment, shelter, and human companionship. Say, now, you have a unique ability to become a dog. You decide to enter canine flesh. You keep your mind, but your human body is dispossessed and you refuse to use any human abilities. This is humiliating. You bark when you could talk; allow yourself to be controlled by instinctual urges when you have will power; and you do not think about higher things, but only of food, sleep, another dog's rear, and other primitive things. As a human, you are a thousand times more sophisticated than a dog, but you choose to spend the rest of your existence as a dog. You do this to try and help the wild pack of dogs improve their life. You show them the path to control and to freedom. And guess what? The dogs reject you. They tear you apart and you let them.

The pack will finally change when you resurrect—still, though, as a dog. Sound familiar? Such is Christ's tremendous love for us.

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