Thursday, October 2, 2008

Vale Grendel

As much as it pains me to admit it, I’m not very good at funeral orations. Partly that’s because they do not customarily include an offertory, but mainly because, like my fellow GAFCON leaders, I tend to find myself lost for words when not talking about myself and/or those with whom I disagree. Obviously this is not a weakness that has prevented me from becoming an extremely powerful figure of international renown, but the truth is that sometimes, in the still of the night, a quiet small voice reminds me of my failing, and dares to suggest it may indeed be proof that there exists those who are greater in the Kingdom of Heaven than even me.

Even more curiously, the form which I imagine that small voice as taking is invariably non-human; generally canine or feline. There’s no mystery to this: the humbling fact I have come to realise over the years is that Our Lord’s non-human children are frequently blessed with a different kind of wisdom, one which when we can dare to be honest with ourselves we ignore at our own peril. That these creatures bring us joy, companionship, laughter and messy stains which we often only learn too late are far more precious than the carpets which they have soiled is something we all know, but that they can also teach us to see God in ways that the Proud and Important like myself never can is something vital to remember. Not that I’d necessarily advise you to raise the subject when jockeying for power, position or money in your favourite ecclesiastical meeting, but don’t be ignorant of it either. One can fool one’s fellow church leaders most (if not all) of the time, but sadly not even I can fool God.

In saying all this I am avoiding the subject I most need to address, but the one which of things I would most like to not be true – that a canine beyond estimation, the Hound of Righteousness whom we knew as Grendel, has passed. He is gone, but beyond all the brouhaha of faith from which I have earned a fine penny is the Truth that he is also Not Gone, but rather just beyond the tyranny of time upon which we also find ourselves crawling, albeit only for an instant….

… there you go, just like a human I’m playing with words in order to avoid showing how I really feel. That’s a folly to which creatures like Grendel never succumb. If something’s good they’re happy, and if not they growl, and try to attack it: the one thing they never do is try to manipulate others to avoid showing how they really feel. To this end Grendel was a saint – we look at the picture below and cannot help but be drawn into his joy.

And yet this joy came in the wake of an earlier life of mistreatment. When I’m ill treated there’s no secret about the pride in which I feel at holding a grudge; surely on this basis Grendel had more than fair cause to despise our species in perpetuity. But he didn’t. On finding love he learned to respond not just with love, but also with true heartfelt joy. In so doing he lived forgiveness in a way I’m privately afraid Church Leaders like myself only feel fear at the thought of comprehending. He may not have been a little dog, but he was not a very big one, and yet he was, and in Christ is, far bigger than most of us.

Providing I don’t partake of the fruits of Bishop Qunine’s still too regularly, it will, I trust, be some time before I have the honor of meeting Grendel face to snout, but the awkward truth is that I shall, as will all of you. Personally I believe he may begin that meeting by laughing at me, for dogs and cats have a divine disrespect for the pomposity which I have found so temporally rewarding. Even so, it shall be a laughter in which my redeemed old heart shall share; again, one look at that face and I can’t say I haven’t been warned. Nor can any of us who knew him say we haven’t been blessed for doing so, or that we shan’t one day be so blessed again. Until that day may the Lord bless and keep you grace, mercy and comfort. And (& I’m only saying this because I can fear Grendel’s spirit is calling on the Lord to demand I do so) may you all be kept safe from the clutches of clergy like me. Faith involves running and laughing like a little dog – not arguing and cursing and hating. By all means growl and bite when necessary, but don’t ever become so obsessed with doing so that you forget to find joy in your gravy.

Please remember Aghaveagh and Liam in your prayers, along with all of Grendel’s family and friends.

And Be Loving. Accept Dogs. Do It Now.

Photo of Grendel taken from

He’s Grendel, and unlike most of us he really did teach the Bible. Even though he’d never read it.


Brian R said...

Oh, such wonderful wise words Father with which I (for a change) agree wholeheartedly.

Robert said...

Wow. Very powerful. You are a softy after all underneath that gruff exterior.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Please remember Aghaveagh and Liam in your prayers, along with all of Grendel’s family and friends.

Forever and ever...and that's the Gods TRUTH!

Two Cents said...

Good Dr - what a beautiful, wise and graceful testament. I am so sorry to hear of Grendel's passing - not for Grendel, for it is certain that all dogs go to heaven, but for you in having to carry on, for a time, missing his grace and love. I understand well the pain of loosing a companion such as Grendel - a pain tragically under appreciated due to our mistaken belief that the existence of thumbs gives us a spirit of greater measure than those without them. They are not just our companions, but our guides and teachers.
God bless you with comfort in your time of sorrow.