Most of you are familiar with the often quoted phrase of Pope Francis that the good shepherd needs to have the smell of his sheep. Well, this shepherd had the opportunity to spend Monday with some of his flock, er, ranchers on horseback in the mountain rounding up the last of the cattle in preparation for fall shipping.
There is no better way to understand the day-to-day life of my people than to spend time with them in their natural surroundings and simply visiting with them and listening to their stories, and literally ‘sitting in their saddle’ or ‘walking in their boots.’ It was an absolute delight!
And yes, I’m still sore!
Even though a great deal of the conversation and observations led to a much deeper understanding of the ranching life, there was also time for some conversation about faith. I’m convinced that the best way to learn about the challenges people face is to enter into their life, and during the course of those kinds of visits, it is amazing the things they will share, and the things a pastor can learn about the life and challenges, the faith and beliefs of his people. Of course, in the process, it is a clear unspoken message to the family that ‘you are important.’
I learned about the some aspects of ranching and the various components of the beef industry. Perhaps more importantly, I was grounded once again in the reality of family life, of parents who care deeply for their children and grandchildren, and the desires they have for them and their future.
I saw the joy of a young married couple now expecting their first born child. I heard the light-hearted camaraderie of a family that cares for each other and works with each other daily. I witnessed ‘little acts of love’ as one prepared a meal, another shoed a horse for someone else, one worried about when the other riders were going to get back to the cabin, and another expressed his deep concerns and desires for the future of his family. And, I witnessed the hard work involved in making a living day-to-day. Such are the realities of most every family.
I listened and learned of the values and people that were important to this family. I learned of some of their struggles and listened to them dream of future possibilities.
In the end, it is not a matter of how much or how little any family has. What is important is love, relationships and caring for one another, in short, the family. What makes a life worth living is having hopes and dreams for tomorrow while discovering God’s dream in the midst of being faithful to one’s responsibilities today. Ranching is hard work, but a life in which one discovers one’s own dignity in relationship with God.
Keep working hard. Keep living the faith.
A PRAYER FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
Dear Lord, bless our family. Be so kind as to give us the unity, peace, and mutual love that You found in Your own family in the little town of Nazareth.
St. Joseph, bless the head of our family. Obtain for him the strength, the wisdom, and the prudence he needs to support and direct those under his care.
Mother Mary, bless the mother of our family. Help her to be pure and kind, gentle and self-sacrificing. For the more she resembles you, the better will our family be.
Lord Jesus, bless the children of our family. Help them to be obedient and devoted to their parents. Make them more and more like You. Let them grow, as You did, in wisdom and age and grace before God and man.
Holy Family of Nazareth, make our family and home more and more like Yours, until we are all one family, happy and at peace in our true home with You. Amen.
(taken from Catholic Rural Life Prayer Book)