by Father Mark Goldasich
After a burial a couple of weeks ago, I was approached at the cem- etery by a relative of the person who had died. This man said he’d like to talk to me at the funeral dinner. There, he slipped me a sheet of paper with a couple of stories that he hoped I could use in my column here. I couldn’t help myself: I laughed in his face.
One of those stories was attributed to the preacher Dwight Nelson, who tells this “true” tale about the pastor of his church where he grew up.
Apparently, this pastor had a kitten that climbed up a tree in his backyard and was then afraid to come down. Even though the preacher coaxed and offered the cat warm milk, it would still not come down.
The tree wasn’t sturdy enough to climb, so the pastor decided to tie a rope to his car and then pull until the tree bent down, making it easy then to reach up and get the kitten. Ever so slowly, always checking his progress in the car, the pastor pulled that rope and watched the tree bend. Sadly, as he moved the car some last few inches, the rope broke.
“Boing” went the tree and the poor kitty was instantly launched through the air and sailed out of sight.
The pastor felt horrible! With a heavy heart, he prayed, “Lord, I commit this kitten to your keeping.”
A few days later at the grocery store, he met one of his parishioners and was amazed to see cans of cat food in her shopping cart. This woman was an avowed cat hater and everyone knew it.
Puzzled, he asked, “Why in the world are you buying cat food when you hate cats so much?”
Breathlessly, the woman poured out the story of how her little girl had been begging for a cat, but she kept refusing. A few days ago, when the girl started up her begging again, the woman told her, “Well, if God gives you a cat, I’ll let you keep it.”
Looking intently into the pastor’s face, the woman then whispered, “I watched my child go out in the yard, get on her knees and ask God for a cat. And really, Pastor, you won’t believe this, but I saw it with my own eyes. A kitten suddenly came flying out of the blue sky, with its paws outstretched, and landed right in front of her!”
The pastor left the store with an amused look on his face and learned to never underestimate the power of God and his unique sense of humor!
Naturally, being a diligent journalist (and a confirmed skeptic), I looked up this story on the urban legends site, snopes.com. Sure enough, there it was in several different versions under “Catapulted Cat.” So, even though the “truth” factor of this story is doubtful, it’s still a funny tale and the reason that I laughed in the face of the man who gave it to me.
Maybe all of us can learn a lesson from that little girl and pray with a confident childlike faith. After all, didn’t the Gospel last weekend tell us to ask, seek and knock? St. Luke didn’t say that we’ll perhaps receive, or we might find, or maybe the door will be opened. No, God doesn’t work that way. He gives, opens, and helps us find every time we ask. Granted, the response may not be exactly what we had in mind, but we’re called to trust that it’s what God knows is best for us and for those we pray for. And, yes, sometimes those answered prayers even give us a glimpse of God’s sense of humor.
Often we forget the great power to be found in prayer. While it’s certainly important to pray for our own needs, there’s a great connection that happens when we pray for others and their inten- tions.
Why not devote the month of August, when it’s really too hot to do a whole lot of anything, to becoming a more diligent prayer partner? Use any high- or low-tech tool to help you out. For example, on my iPhone I have two apps: one is called PrayerList; the other, Promise2Pray. Since I usually have my phone with me, it’s easy to add people by name and intention to my prayer list. . . right when they’re talking to me. The low-tech way is simply to carry a small tablet and pen in pocket or purse and do the same. Seeing a person’s name and particular intention written out keeps me faithful to my commitment to pray for them.
We need God’s daily help, we need each other, and we need prayer. So, let’s get to it! And don’t be surprised if it starts raining cats and dogs.