Near the front door of my home lies a patch of gravel and grass. This past spring, as I returned home one evening from the office, a small bird started towards me. It had been sitting on something on the gravel and my approach was cause for alarm. This beautiful bird with stripes around its neck walked up to me, and then proceeded to run off to the side and flop around as if its wing was broken, and giving plaintive cries.
When I walked over to investigate, it promptly flew away. “How odd,” I thought and went inside for the night. The next morning, the same routine happened again. The bird, startled by my approach, performed its broken wing routine and then happily flew away. Inquiring as to the nature of this aspiring thespian, I discovered that it was a bird called a “killdeer” and that its acting routine was meant to draw me away from its nest.
Thus began an interesting, if somewhat tense relationship with the killdeer. I assumed the bird was a mother, although we were never really close enough for me to inquire. One day, when the killdeer was away “powdering its nose,” I was able to carefully approach the nest. Four beautifully formed eggs, looking just like the stones they were nestled in, lay gracefully on the gravel.
But after gazing upon the nest, I began to be filled with concern over my newfound friend. It had made its nest in the open space of a gravel driveway, protected by absolutely nothing, and very close to a public walkway with a rather curious priest. What a foolish thing to do! This killdeer seemed to be a real birdbrain. Soon, however, I discovered that my fears were unfounded.
One time, when I had walked slowly up to its nest, the killdeer walked slowly up to me. After we were about three feet apart, staring at each other in a game of chicken, I turned and retreated. This was one tough … bird. Time and again, I watched through rain and wind, this bird sitting on its nest and guarding its precious contents. What bravery, what perseverance. This bird just never gave up!
It seems today that those of us who strive to follow the way of the Lord Jesus are like this bird. We have built the nests of our families, careers and churches in a wide open space. The forces of an increasingly militant secular culture, anything but tolerant, are fast approaching. As Catholics, we are often told that we are old fashioned, ignorant, hateful and irrelevant in modern life. And the Evil one, who is behind so much of what ails us today, approaches. What are we to do?
Might I suggest we look to my killdeer friend? This bird was absolutely fearless in defending what was essential — its nest and its young. From distracting machinations, to plaintive cries, from a sheer persistence to a decisive showdown, this bird never gave up.
Keep the faith! Continue growing in love of God and neighbor. Never deny Jesus Christ in your life. Love your Catholic faith! Now is the time when we as disciples of Jesus must draw the line and say to the increasingly hostile world, “Here you stop and go no further!”
As Jesus promises us in the Gospels, he himself will provide us with what to say. We are to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. And, most importantly, “Those who persevere to the end will be saved.”
After watching my pet killdeer for many weeks, the day of triumph finally arrived.
On a beautiful Sunday morning, four small chicks bounded around the gravel driveway. The mother tried to keep them together for a few days of extra growth, and then they all flew off to destinations unknown.
What a blessing it is to see God’s creation at work. There is so much we can learn from nature about our own nature — that despite the many slogans, fears and threats which abound in our own time, God wins. Our story will have a happy ending. Believe it.