October 14:  Squirrels don’t count money, they just count the nuts, acorns and food they gather for the winters.  Shelties don’t count money either!  We just like to count the “treats” people love to bring us!!!  However it’s different with people.  Seems like some like too much counting money and wealth! 
A few years ago an interchange of letters appeared in a nationally syndicated newspaper column.  Dear Abby:  We are not overly religious people, but we do like to go to church once in a  while.  It seems to me that every time we turn around we are hit for money.  I thought religion was free.  I realize that churches have to have some money but I think it is getting to be a racket.  Just what do churches do with all their money?  Signed, Curious in New Jersey. 
Abby responded:  Dear Curious:  Even priests, ministers and rabbis must eat.  Since they work full-time at their tasks, their churches must support them.  Staff and musicians must also be paid.  Buildings must be maintained, heated, lighted, and beautified.  Custodial staff members must eat and feed their families.  Most churches engage in philanthropic work (aid to the needy, missions, and education); hence, they have their financial obligations.  Even orchids, contrary to folklore, do not live on air.  Churches can’t live on air either.  Religions, like water, may be free, but when they pipe it to you you’ve got to help pay for the piping.  And the piper! 

October 7:  If there is anything a good dog (especially a Sheltie!) can teach human beings, it is unconditional love! AMEN?!!  But besides that, everyone must remember the unconditional love God has for everyone and sometimes we forget that.  Marriage is a reflection of God’s love for us!  BUT – there are times in our lives we fail to meet the expectations that Jesus has expressed as part of the Father’s will in today’s gospel.  And because humans fail at times to live out the vows that our lips might profess, this does not mean that God does not love us or that we are separated from the love that Christ gives us through the cross.  This point must be made again and again for Christians because of our tendency to place God’s law above God’s grace and God’s mercy.  Let me bark (say) it one more time:  There is nothing, nothing we can do in our lives or have done in our lives that can ever separate us from God’s great love.  If anything, Jesus’ words remind us that God wants our lives to be fulfilling and that relationships as husbands and wives as part of the plan God has and to share in a life of holiness and joy as part of God’s creation.  And that should make all of us extremely happy, or at least hopeful, in all we do!

There dwells within all of us the capacity to do great harm to other people when we insist on getting our own way, when we place our own fulfillment first, and we desire the adoration and worship of other people.

September 30:  My most favorite saint of all the world is St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of Shelties and all animals and even the environment! St Francis also could be viewed as the original Earth Day advocate. Francis' devotion to God was expressed through his love for all of God's creation, especially Shelties and even squirrels! St. Francis cared for the poor and sick, he preached sermons to animals, and praised all creatures as brothers and sisters under God. 

Just the other day I was telling the squirrels how he was born in Italy around 1181. He was wild as a kid but had a conversion experience that caused him to change his ways and give his life to God! Wealthy though he was, he decided to give all his money back to his family and practice poverty, humility, obedience, patience and compassion. This attracted a group of followers that to this day keep his namesake alive! They are known as the Franciscans!

St. Francis preached to everyone, even to animals! How cool is that! One of his favorite sayings is “Preach the Gospel at all times!  If necessary, use words!”  He even received the stigmata (the wounds of Christ crucified)! Francis died October 4, 1226 and was quickly canonized by Pope Gregory IX.

So today, let’s remember ALL the cool saints, but especially my favorite, St. Francis!!!!! 

September 23:  So I was asked what it means to follow one’s conscience.  Does that mean I can do anything I want and justify it with a clear conscience?  And that answer is “no,” we cannot do just anything we want!!  Understanding conscience is essential for the life of faith.  It’s like my Dad always says – know your faith!!  Then you’ll love, live and share it!!!!

Conscience is a natural facility of our reason that does 3 things:
1. Reminds us always to do good and avoid evil.
2. Makes a judgment about the good and evil of particular choices.
 3.Bears witness after the fact to the good or evil we’ve done.

The authority of conscience, and our need to follow it, come from its dignity. Pope John Paul II tells us that conscience is an “interior dialog of man with himself” about right and wrong. It “is also a dialog of man with God”: it is “the witness of God himself” calling him to obey the moral law, and is a person’s “witness of his own faithfulness or unfaithfulness.” 

Conscience is the means God has given us to make moral decisions. Our freedom demands that we use it: “When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.” (Catechism, 177)  Therefore, the proverbial WWJD is a good starting place for a guided conscience.  And is probably a good question to ask myself when beset with a moral decision in my life – and yours as well!! 

For more of Maggie's musings, see our online bulletin archives.  Maggie's column appears on page 3.