Interview with a greyhound

Thursday 29 January 2015 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — first “Seeing Eye” dog-training institute established in North America (1929)

Awake or asleep, dreaming or not, I really don’t know — but I do know it was the middle of the night. The cold rain of another winter storm was pelting the windows. I felt a presence in the darkness. I awoke (or at least I thought I did). Beside the bed stood Transit, the resident greyhound. He was panting, as he often does now that he has grown ancient of days. His tongue was flopping out one side of his mouth, making him look quite silly. This tongue thing began after he went to the doggie dentist and had several teeth extracted. Since there are fewer teeth to hold his tongue in place, it just sort of pops out, flapping in the wind. I suppose there must be such things as doggie dentures. Surely they are available on the Internet — everything else is — but I refuse to Google it. No, doggie dentures will never be part of Transit’s future.

“Are you awake?” asked Transit. “I’m awake,” I answered, although not entirely sure that was the case. “Do you need to go out?” I asked in universal canine code. “No,” said Transit. “I just can’t sleep. I have too many things on my mind.” Greyhounds sleep an average of 80 percent of their lives, so these must be weighty matters. “Tell me what’s bothering you, Transit,” I said with some solicitude. “The future,” he answered. 

“The future?” I inquired sleepily. “The future of the Church,” he elaborated. “Since I retired from the racetrack, my life has revolved around the Church. I have now lived in five different rectories. And I have even adopted priests on three separate occasions. You’ve heard of a church mouse? Well I’m a church dog.” “I see,” said I, slipping into my counselling mode. “And what exactly is it about the future of the Church that causes your insomnia?”

“I worry about the increasing failure to make the connection between daily life and Church teachings and moral values,” Transit began. I acknowledged this is a problem. Have we lost all sense of sin? Is morality based solely on how one sees it? What has become of ethics? Does one have a responsibility or not to give time each week to worshipping God in community? What does Confirmation really mean to our students? Graduation? Will we see them in church sometime before their wedding day? “Not to worry, Transit. These issues have been with us since the beginning. The Lord provides. Now, go back to sleep.”

“I worry about the priest shortage,” Transit continued. Ah, yes, there is an increasing shortage of priests. This has a two-fold causality. First, there are fewer men entering the seminary. Secondly, the Catholic Church not only has the largest membership in the United States (more than all other Christian denominations combined) but is also experiencing the largest increase in numbers. “Not to worry, Transit. Accentuate the positive. Now, go back to sleep.”

“I worry about people who go church shopping,” Transit went on. Hmm. There is a lot of that going around. Parish boundaries don’t seem to mean much anymore. People tend to go wherever they want to go, without acknowledgement of local responsibilities and commitments. People tend not to act locally anymore. Whatever clergy or style or program or music or denomination suits their taste, there they will go - until they find something better. “Yes, Transit, the Church must address the issue of rootlessness. She is in fact already doing so. Not to worry. Now go back to sleep.” 

“I worry about the divisions among Church members in their understanding of the Church’s mission in the world,” Transit confessed. Yes, I see that too. Just as we have politically red and blue states, so we have sharp distinctions in the way Catholics think, act, and worship. There is reform, and reform of the reform, and reform of the reform of the reform. We need to be more accepting towards each other. “Not to worry, Transit, we are called “Catholic” because there’s room for many points of view and many worship styles in our Church. Now, go back to sleep.”

“I worry about the closing and merging of parishes,” Transit continued, showing no sign of drowsiness. This has become a fact of life in the United States as it has been for decades in other parts of the world. “Transit, the Church has modified its structure throughout history. That’s why we’re the oldest continuously-operating institution in the world. We adapt. Not to worry. Go back to sleep.”

It had been a long day of parish ministry with so many places to be and things to do. The morrow promised to be even busier. I needed to end this late-night conversation. I slyly asked Transit again if he wanted to go “out.” This time he fell for it. The discussion ended.

After that, I fell promptly back to sleep (or at least, I think I did). So did Transit.

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth. Contact him at frxmas@aol.com.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts