National Catholic Reporter
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Starting Point
Issue Date:  July 16, 2004

Starting Point


There is a little cat living here that we call Clementine. One Tuesday night she took off and got herself into some sort of trouble. When she came back Wednesday morning, she was covered with a thick coat of mud.

She is an elusive cat. I usually don’t try to pet her since she scampers off when I do. But the morning when she came back, she rubbed up against my legs and purred away. I had the sense that she was learning to trust me.

She is a cute cat, a calico with green eyes and a bushy coat of all colors. Clementine, like any of God’s many creatures, has warmth in her. But it takes time for the warmth to rise to the surface of her life -- the same kind of time that we humans make use of to get to know each other and to get to know God.

I would have given her a bath, but she would naturally refuse that. Over several days, she cleaned herself. I told her this morning that she would be OK. She looked at me and whined and then curled up in her blanket.

I looked at her and laughed to myself. But then I thought how all that God has made -- from the most intelligent to the smallest of creatures -- need time to become who they were meant to be. I suppose that growth and time are deeply connected and that you cannot have one without the other. Clementine is still checking me out. In time she will, I think, become used to me.

There is hesitancy to being. We want love and affection -- we want what is deep and real in each of us. But it comes slowly.

I am reminded of a talk a friend, Heather King, once gave about what it means to mature. It is not about being perfect, she said. It is about being vulnerable. You and I, Clementine, and all the creatures of God, the great and small, all are in need of love and patience and time so that what we are might be to the fullest.

Trappist Fr. James Stephen Behrens lives at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Ga.

National Catholic Reporter, July 16, 2004

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