July 23:  NOTE:  It’s been quite the summer for my Dad.  I know he was really looking forward to getting away this week for a few days’ vacation with his brothers, but their Dad hasn't been doing too well, so I'm asking all of the squirrels, even the rabbits and you to pray for my Dad's Dad!  And we both thank you!!  In the mean time my Dad's helper, Terry Ratcliff, is editor-in-chief for my column today!! 

Dad says that those of you who grew up in the 1950s & 60s were always told that you should offer up your suffering for the poor souls in Purgatory.  I wonder how many dogs are in God’s “waiting room” in need of my help?     

They would be happy to know that so far my summer has not had many fun “dog days.” I used to run across the lawn to the old school building with Dad and wander around the parking lot.  But with all that building going on, Dad says it’s not safe (he loves me like that).  A few weeks ago he told me that the lawn between the rectory and the cathedral were also “off limits” because of all the scaffolding and men working on the roof.  I was still able to run and chase squirrels in the garden, but wouldn’t you know that last month I surprised a raccoon and he attacked me!

Then there were two big parties in the garden.  I heard the new Bishop was there for both of them, but to keep me safe and calm, Dad thought it best that I stay indoors (he did bring me some yummy hot dogs).
Just when I thought things were back to normal, some people in the neighborhood started setting off fireworks at all hours of the day and night.  It was so bad on the night of July 4th that I couldn’t sleep all night (maybe some of you were awake, too).

I will be really happy when summer is over and the new Diocesan Hall is finished and we have a nice, safe parking lot where I can run and play.  Meanwhile, I am willing to offer all this up to help the poor purgatory puppies.

July 16:  This must be the Sunday for lists! I notice that my Dad has a list of his top 10 things he learned from gardening. Well – I keep trying to tell my Dad he needs to simplify his life! When dogs (I mean people) really keep their lives simple, just how much easier their lives become. These are a few things everyone should consider:

First, buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
Second, reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
Third, develop a habit of giving things away.
Fourth, refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
Fifth, learn to enjoy things without owning them.
Sixth, develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.
Seventh, look at a healthy skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes.
Eighth, obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech.
Ninth, reject anything that will breed the oppression of others (except squirrels!)
Tenth, shun whatever would distract you from your main goals: “Seek first the Kingdom of God!”

July 9:  Do you ever wonder if squirrels get tired?  I mean it looks like they’re running to and fro all the time and hardly ever take time for rest.  In my squirrel class (Squirrel Theology 101) I learned that they are very, very busy all summer long collecting food and preparing for the colder winter months.  It’s in the winter they rest. 

Sometimes it seems people are needing more rest.  In our super busy and hectic world I’m thinking there are a lot of tired and fatigued people that would love more winter naps.  Well, here’s an interesting cure that may help a lot of people (including the squirrels) out!

The Mayo Clinic announced a sure cure for getting rid of that tired feeling. Tests revealed that people are chronically tired because they live unbalanced lives. And so they took Dr. Richard Clark Cabot's famous formula for life - WORK, PLAY, LOVE and WORSHIP. These are the ultimates of life that must be held in proper balance - work, play, love and worship. The Mayo Clinic made them a symbol, four arms of equal length. They said that whenever one or more of those arms becomes a stub, then the result in unhappiness, and unhappiness is usually the forerunner of fatigue. Thus, a business man's arm may be long on work but short on play and worship. A debutante's arm may be long on play and short on work. A spinster may be long on work and worship and short on play and love. The old saying that "all work and no play make Jack a dull boy" is psychologically sound. And so, “all work and no worship” leads to chronic fatigue. It's a simple, psychological and physical fact.

July 2:  A Squirrel in my Theology 101 class reports that her friend claims her Protestant Church takes the Bible literally, but the Catholic Church doesn’t.   Well, even the rabbits got in on this discussion, which I simply had to explain to them the truth!

Catholics interpret the Bible in a “literal” sense, while many fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and others interpret the Bible in a literalist sense. The “literal” meaning of a passage of Scripture is the meaning that the author of that passage of Scripture intended to convey. The “literalist” interpretation of a passage of Scripture is: “that’s what it says, that’s what it means.”

Let me give you an example to illustrate the difference. If you were to read a passage in a book that said it was “raining cats and dogs outside”, how would you interpret that? As Americans, in the 21st Century, you would know that the author was intending to convey the idea that it was raining pretty doggone hard outside. That would be the “literal” interpretation…the interpretation the author intended to convey. On the other hand, what if you made a “literalist” interpretation of the phrase, “it’s raining cats and dogs”?  The “literalist” interpretation would be that, were you to walk outside, you would actually see cats and dogs falling from the sky like rain. No taking into account the popularly accepted meaning of this phrase. No taking into account the author’s intentions. The words say it was raining cats and dogs, so, by golly, it was raining cats and dogs! That is the literalist, or fundamentalist, way of interpretation.

If someone 2000 years in the future picked up that same book and read, “It was raining cats and dogs outside,” in order to properly understand that passage in the book, they would need a “literal” interpretation, not a “literalist” interpretation. Now, think about that in the context of interpreting the Bible 2000-3000 years after it was written.

Literal, or Catholic, interpretation vs. literalist, or fundamentalist, interpretation…..  Those Squirrels are always impressed when I show them my smarts!!!