Madonna House

Called to Be a Sheep Dog

by Kathy McVady

Part of our apostolate in Winslow, AZ, where I served for many years, involves our work with the Montessori Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. This leads many of us to ponder our own relationship with the Good Shepherd as one of His sheep.

One day, sensing there was something else involved, I heard a little voice inside me say, “Yep, you’re a sheep dog, too!”

A sheep dog! What does that look like?!

Well, thankfully, we have a little dog at the house who is at least part Australian sheep dog, and I so began watching Simba in a different way.

First of all, Simba is very alert. For whatever reason, this dog seems to think she has to be alert not just for our one house, or even three houses, but for the whole surrounding block of our neighborhood. If anyone or anything approaches, she lets us know.

So, if we are sheep dogs for the Good Shepherd, we have to be alert, aware of each person coming to us, listening for their individual needs.

The other thing about Simba is that she has to herd us all together. If we are swimming at the nearby creek and one of us takes off for a longer swim, she begins to run along the shore, barking, barking, trying to get that person back with the rest of the group. So we will be herding for the Good Shepherd.

As I pondered this, I began to think of a number of people with whom we have become friends over the years and how our relationships have developed.

One is a man who has known us since he was probably about ten or eleven years old. He began coming to our house with his friends, and we not only welcomed them into the home and into catechism classes, but we began “nipping at their heels,” so to speak, in getting them to the classes, getting them to Church.

This man says quite openly that he would probably not have received his First Communion, made his First Confession, nor been Confirmed had we not done this.

In his teen years, like so many teenagers, he seemed to drift off. But later on, as some of his friends began coming to the men’s prayer group and Scripture class, he renewed his contact with us.

By now, he was the father of a young family, but he was struggling with addictions and resultant problems. These pulled him away from “the flock” for a number of years.

When I returned to Winslow after an absence of eighteen years, I would meet him periodically around town and invite him back to the Scripture class; his friends were doing likewise. He had a number of “sheep dogs” nipping at his heels.

His replies were non-committal or vague.

So we prayed.

He had never let go of the Bible he had received while originally coming to the Scripture group. In fact, he treasured it.

One day, he picked up the Bible and opened it at random to the Book of Lamentations, chapter five, and read: Make us come back to You, O Lord, and we will come back. You know our ways as in times past.

That was it. He returned and hasn’t left.

Now, if I were trying on my own to attract someone to return to the Lord, I doubt that I would have chosen the Book of Lamentations. But the Good Shepherd knew exactly what was needed. Our friend heard the Voice of the Shepherd in what he read that day.

His path after that was not an easy one, but it is one to which he has been faithful.

None of us spoke the Word that mysteriously touched his heart. That was the work of the Good Shepherd.

Our work was to keep on asking, nipping at his heels, herding him back into relationship with the rest of the flock, and, once there, to help to guard against the wolves, to send up warning “barks.” Then we waited for the Good Shepherd with his crook and staff, with the sound of His Voice, to do the rest.
Being a sheep dog for the Good Shepherd is a pretty good life!