Fathers and mothers are the true Good Shepherds.

Sunday, 4/29/12
Commonly we see the Good Shepherd as the model for our priests. They are called pastors, or assistant pastors, which is the same as calling them shepherds or assistant shepherds. Still, I think it wrong for priests to entirely appropriate the title of shepherd to themselves. In reality, fathers and mothers of families fit the model much better. Better than any priest knows his parishioners, parents know their children, and their children know them.
Parents never get the dramatic moment when they lay down their lives. It is more slow torture. They lay down their lives hour-by-hour, day-by-day, decade after decade.
A kid named Vince was two years behind me in grade school. A mailman all his adult life, Vince told me, “I used to like walking routes in choice neighborhoods, but now I don’t care where I walk. All I think about is making the money to keep the kids happy in school.”
I love bragging on my sister Peg. She and Joe had thirteen kids. Evenings you’d see them in their underwear at the kitchen table putting together and wrapping up the sandwiches for lunches.

In wedding scenes from English movies the parson says, “And forsaking all others you will cling to each other.” Peg and Joe never forsook anyone. They had a couch for visiting priests. For his last year they made my dad comfortable in their TV room. When a friend named Joe deserted his wife and kids, that wife, Audrey, and her kids moved in to Joe and Peg’s living room. 
Jesus said, “I lay down my life to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.” I love telling the story about how Peg said something like that. 

When I’d be visiting St. Louis I’d get up early with Peg, and we’d walk for half an hour. Then, we’d make the seven o’clock Mass.
Here is the part I like. I’d follow Peg up to Communion, and then I’d have to follow her toward the side door. She wouldn’t wait for the end of Mass. And people would be looking at us. I asked her, “Shouldn’t we stay for the end of Mass?
Only half turning to me as she pushed the door open, Peg said, “I’ve done enough.” No one took her life from her. She laid it down willingly.

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