The dew was heavy on the tall grass as I sloshed my way to the goat pen. Ten inches of wonderful rain had fallen in the last week so even the mushrooms had mold on them! At the gate of the pen, LuLu, one of my hand raised orphans stuck her head through the bars to be first at the bucket. The white bucket is a well known flag for the goats and horses alike. It is the grain bucket. It is, for them, a sacramental.
Soon Pei Pei jostled LuLu out of the way and then Taddy barged her way in as well. The gate screeched a familiar complaint as they threw their collective weight at it. I put the grain bucket on a post, high above their reach because to enter in with it was to court injury. In the ‘body of goats’ there is no such thing as laying down one’s life unless they just happen to be trampled! They love that bucket for what it contains and devil take the hindmost if they are not first at the grain feeders!
The other day, as I was jockeying between goats with the grain bucket, I wondered if I treated the sign of the cross with as much concentration and gusto. I wondered if I treat the holy water font and incense and oils and all the wonderful sacramentals with as much dedication as my goats do the grain bucket. They love their grain and happily push each other out of the way to get to the contents. Am I willing to push incidental life out of the way in order to put it in God’s hands?
The horses, especially the ones on diets, reverence the white bucket with whinnies and hooves as I try to get each one fed in order. All night they have looked forward to the sight of the grain bucket.
Bert Ghezzi, in his book “Sign of the Cross” says this: “Every time we make the sign of the cross, we invite the Lord to bless us, and He always responds…..But most often when we make it, we don’t feel anything. That’s because God is using the movements of our body to reach our spirit and our senses cannot detect much of what He does there.” (page 11). In this wonderful book I have gained not only an appreciation of the sign of the cross but of all sacramentals that I very often take for granted. Working with people in RCIA, I find that their appreciation of what Catholics do inspires me to be more aware of what I am doing.
As I watch my goats and horses revere the grain bucket, their sacramental, I have tried to love and look forward to making the sign of the cross….and say to myself I belong to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Do I wait in the watches of the night to respond to the simple things our Holy Mother Church has provided for our spiritual nourishment?
Mr. Ghezzi continues, “A sacramental, on the other hand, does not directly confer divine grace; rather it prepares us to receive God’s blessing and disposes us to cooperate with it.” (page 10) I know that I need to immerse myself in the life of God. So much of my life is mere distraction from Him. I want my life to be predisposed towards whatever the Holy Spirit wants of me.
Now you might be saying that the goats get all this grain and they are hungry and that is why they love it so much. Not really. They only get grain because it emotionally stabilizes them. The way my farm Marygate is set up we have ample food for all our animals – in fact too much browse and grass! No – the sacramental bucket is icing on a rich cake and it has taught me to ask the Holy Spirit to teach me how the sacramentals can bring me closer to divine life. By stopping and taking time to realize what I am doing, I am fed so fully! I highly recommend Bert Ghezzi’s book as something so simple that can change us so dramatically in our Christian walk.