Who's Says a Dog Can't teach You New Tricks
Last Saturday, after a bible study meeting with a new group we founded called "The Young Catholic New Yorker"; I went with my god-brother Robert to walk my dog. We went to the East River Park, where the renovated theatre was, right off the FDR Drive. We wanted to pray the rosary together, and ask the Lord to make clear our vocations, as well as to pray for the strengthening of the youth in New York. As we finished the rosary, I released the leash of my dog, so that he could be free to walk with us. But a big surprise came to me. I did not realize the severe blindness and deafness that my dog had been experiencing.
We walked across the bridge, heading east to my neck of the woods. I told Robert "Let's go for something to drink at Cozzie's", an old store that we used to go to when we were young. As we began to walk, I called out to my dog to come follow, but he did not respond. Jokingly, I cried out for my dog "Joe, come on boy", as in my mind I said, "Stupid dog isn't responding to me."
He was sniffing the ground and walking the opposite way going west from the entrance of the bridge. He seemed confused, until his ears went up and he darted back to the theatre. I began to follow him, calling for him to come back, but he was not responding to my call. He would turn back to my direction, but it seemed he could not see me at all, nor hear the sound of my voice. Once again, he darted fast towards the theatre. I ran up behind him to stop him from going further into the park. Finally he stopped and turned to me, but still could not see me -- even at 5 feet away. I came closer as his sight finally came clear; he looked to me with sad eyes as I reached down to pick him up. Holding him in my arms, I could feel his heart beating fast as though he was scared. He really thought he was lost. Surely he remembered where we were before, but when he saw no shadows, or even the sound of my voice near the theatre, he was lost and confused for good.
The story seems senseless, foolish, and a waste of time to read, but not for me; and, it should not be for all of us youth ministers. To find a dog lost in a park naturally we become saddened by it being lost. Let’s say if it were your own dog, how would you feel losing it? Now let me bring this to a higher thought, instead of a dog, what if it was a special kid, or special friend in your parish who was lost?
Consider this my dear friends; anyone of us could be like the dog that's lost, but thank God we are found! However, how many of the youth out in the crazy world of New York are lost to sin through spiritual blindness, deafness, and fear.
The lesson I learned is so simple, yet being so simple, I can miss it and find it completely ridiculous, ignoring the importance of the lesson; That lesson being "Lost in world of Sin". However, lessons are learned not only in loud bangs with great lightning bolts coming from the sky, they are also learned through the weakest of God's creation. The blindness, deafness, and fear of my dog helped me to see the value of life, most especially the value we should place on our youth who may be lost to sin.
Every youth leader has a mission, and that is to bring Jesus to our youth. It is every youth leader's vocation to respond to Jesus when it comes to the salvation of our youth. They are innocent, alone, scared of a changing world, and most especially, they have yet to encounter Jesus in the Catholic Church. We as youth leaders are called to be Jesus for the spiritually blind, deaf, and fearful youth of our community, lost in doubt and sin.
I do not know if I would have lost my dog. Just maybe, he could have crossed the Highway and gotten crushed by cars racing through the road, or even lost in the darkness of that big park. But I thank God I caught him just in time before I would have lost him. Youth leaders don't waste time in bringing your children, your youth, and your young adult brothers and sisters back to Christ. Act quickly with a steadfast heart and respond to their needs, that is to show them an authentic Jesus present in your life. In this, our youth may find their spiritual blindness, deafness, and fears - disappear!
Juan "Johnny" Rodriguez
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