Instant God: a Little Sermo Canis ad Anglos by Bro Duncan PBGV

I have never really understood why Human Beans think PBGVs (Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen) know all about laziness. The first sniff of a rabbit at five thousand paces and we are away. The merest chink of kibble in the food bowl or covert unwrapping of a morsel of cheese and we are by our Human Bean’s side. Even here, where we stretch out in the sunshine of God’s presence, waiting for Them to turn up at the Pearly Gates and make our heaven complete, every nerve is alive, on the alert for everything happening down below; and I must say, recent events have made me realise what silly-billies most of you Human Beans are.

After much thinking, I have come to the conclusion that it is because you are ever so slightly . . . lazy. You want instant solutions that require no effort or exertion on your part. If you have a ‘comfortable shape’, you want to attain your ideal body shape in a matter of days, without the pain of changing your diet or exercise regime. You believe that all your problems will be solved if you can rid yourselves of ‘difficult people’ — the ones you don’t like or fail to understand. You can ridicule them as ‘pompous fools’ or tell them to ‘go back where they came from’ or simply behave so brutally that they will want to get away from you as fast as their little legs will carry them. (In the case of PBGVs, whose legs are indeed little, that is very fast indeed: try saying ‘Vet!’ or ‘Time for your grooming!’ if you don’t believe me.) Then there are those Human Beans who want others to do all the work for them. I call them Instant Gratification Grabbers or IGGs for short. Rather than read a book or even scan a web page, they will send someone an email asking for all the information they require on a certain subject and be grumpy and grudging if they don’t get an instant reply. I have sometimes thought about taking such Human Beans hunting with me, but it wouldn’t be much fun. You need patience to catch rabbits, and lots of persistence, but those who want instant answers wouldn’t know about that.

The big problem, as I see it, is with Human Beans who want Instant God. They want God to be created in their own image and likeness, doing their bidding whenever they deign to notice him. So, they are happy to ignore him most of the time, but the moment something nasty or difficult occurs, there he must be, the kind of God they want at that minute, all trendy and treacle-y, endorsing the latest fashionable fad without so much as a Commandment or Gospel precept to trouble or challenge them. They don’t like the effort that goes into preparing for prayer, so they opt for short-cuts of their own devising, and as for a life of virtue! Well, that is but a fetter on a free spirit, is it not? Even worse, in my view, if they aren’t up to this themselves, they spend their lives condemning those who are. Laziness isn’t very nice, but condemning others for their laziness is even less nice (and I can only do it because I am Beyond and love everyone because I have fulfilled my True Nature as a PBGV and am writing this as a kind of latterday Sermo Canis ad Anglos).

So, my friends, may I urge you to take stock a little and see whether you have fallen into the trap of wanting Instant God? Have you become a little lazy in your thinking and doing, a little lazy in your preparations for prayer? You don’t need to become complicated about it. Take a lesson from me and my pals up here. I mentioned the way we stretch out in the sunshine of God’s love. That’s all there is to it, really. No one close to Him wants to be anything other than His joy and delight. Yes, it takes effort, but never was effort more richly rewarded. The results are not instant but they last for eternity. 🙂

Note from Digitalnun
I’m very grateful to Bro Duncan PBGV for blogging today. I’m delighted to say I can now see with one eye but I have a mountain of admin to catch up with and a daunting amount of correspondence, too. Thank you for your prayers and good wishes, all of which have been much appreciated.

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Ascension Day 2019

Forty days ago we began our celebration of Easter. It is not over yet, but today marks a special point. When Jesus ascends into heaven, all earthly limitations fall away. He, our High Priest, now  intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father. Today’s readings are all about prayer, and I find in them a huge encouragement, for what is monastic life if not a life of prayer? Our prayer is now united with that of Christ himself and as such has a power and efficacy it would otherwise lack. He is the King of glory, the Lord of creation, the one who makes all things possible.

A personal decision
The reminder that monastic life is first and foremost a life of prayer makes this a good day for a small personal announcement. I have decided to take what I hope will prove a short break from blogging and social media. You do not need to be told that the community and I are praying, although I know many of you appreciate our attempts to share some of our reflections, etc

I have great difficulty reading and writing at present and find I am spending a lot of time on my own spelling mistakes. I know my typos are as irritating to others as they are to me. Under normal circumstances, I’d be glad to be told of errors but having to cut, paste and magnify everything sent to me is irksome and, to be honest, sometimes a little discouraging. So, rather than struggle to read tweets and messages, only to discover they are about my awful typing, I think it makes sense not to provide matter for dispute! I am hoping to have surgery on my eyes in the near future, so I shall be back annoying you — though not with typos, I trust — ere long, D.V. Please continue to use our 24/7 email prayerline for prayer requests and email the monastery about any other matter. Quitenun will do her best to maintain the daily prayer intentions on our Facebook page.

Newsletter
If you did not see our May newsletter (the first for 18 months) you can read it using this link and, better still, subscribe to future issues: https://t.co/X1nHHfQ6CX

Dore Abbey
Finally, I’d like to mention something dear to my heart. We who live in the Golden Valley are privileged to have many fine churches on our doorstep but, like many small rural communities, we struggle to maintain them. Dore Abbey is a wonderful medieval survival badly in need of a new roof. Bro Duncan PBGV used to accompany us to Evensong there (dogs sit with their Human Beans in the pews) so I am sure he would endorse the appeal that has just been launched. I hope some of you will, too. Bless you! https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/doreabbey?utm_term=xnqZ7ndnY&fbclid=IwAR2zbSLvoLbWHMS-DXpmjBzMUpI0-Mn-TQ-DzTl6_blG1A8MaAOn-mOXJsg

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A Nose for Truth

Bro Dyfrig BFdeB investigates
Bro Dyfrig BFdeB investigates

Human beings seem to have more appetite for scandal than for truth. I suppose it is more ‘interesting’. After all, a blameless life is often one in which there is relatively little incident to record, but I do wonder whether our delight in gossip and all its fellows coarsens our sensitivity to the nobler qualities in ourselves and other people. Yesterday, to mark our Foundation Day, we went to Raglan Castle, where our intrepid hound investigated everything with the same obvious delight and enthusiasm. He did not judge; he did not discriminate; he simply followed his nose and registered the various scents and smells with joyful exuberance. We cannot live so simply. We must discriminate; we must discern; but maybe learning to be a little more positive about our experiences, being less judgemental in the censorious sense, would be good for us. I don’t know. A nose for truth is about more than just searching out the less admirable/pleasant aspects of life. What do you think?Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Grieving the Loss of a Pet by Bro Duncan PBGV

Bro Duncan PBGV in Desert-Father Mode
Bro Duncan PBGV in Desert-Father Mode

From up here in Beyond we see a lot of sadness down below. Human Beans just don’t seem to be able to get along together for very long. I think that is why God allows us dogs to be your companions. We are not with you for very long, but during the time we are, we make you feel very special. You are everything in the world to us and we like to show it with our waggly tails and little barks. We don’t mind if you are a bit thick, or smelly, or have horrible taste. We just like to be with you, in the same way that God does, because we love you. And, of course, we PBGVs have a huge advantage when it comes to being loved back: we are all floppy ears and whiskers and big black noses which make you smile, even when you don’t feel very smiley on the insides. (Don’t let God know: he doesn’t seem to understand that being pictured with a big white beard on a golden throne isn’t ideal PR). Anyway, Human Beans seem to like the way we are always up to mischief, and even those dogs who are not PBGVs — like that young sprog Bro Dyfrig BFdeB — usually become the besties of those they live with. That is why we leave such a horrible gap when we go.

We bound off into Beyond (no Purgatory for us!) and wait for you to join us. Meanwhile, you are sobbing your hearts out and trying to keep a stiff upper lip and saying things like, ‘He was such a beggar for cheese,’ or, ‘Remember that time he ran off and didn’t come back for five hours?’ and hoping everyone will think you’ve got hay fever or something. Then you torment yourselves thinking that perhaps you didn’t do everything you should for us and forgetting that we have one very special God-like quality: we forgive utterly. Yes, there may have been times when you did not understand that we NEEDED to investigate that pile of horse poo or go after that rabbit, but we forgave you. Or the times when you left us alone. You said it was for five minutes max but we know it was hours and hours and hours, but still, we forgave you. Then, when we got a bit creaky in the joints and the vets’ bills began to mount up, we wanted to say sorry to YOU for all the trouble and expense, but all you could see was the old boy failing a bit and we loved you all the more for not minding that we were now the smelly ones. When, finally, you let us go, we wanted to tell you how much you meant to us and that we’d be waiting by the pearly gates for you, but you had to do your bit and make sure you got there by living a Good Life and maybe a successor dog was what you needed to keep you on the Right Path and not to worry about us, because everything for us is perfect — except that we have to wait for you.

Sometimes I look down from Beyond at BigSis and LittleSis and think what a good job I did in making Them realise the importance of dogs to Human Beans. It’s all right to be tearful and miss us, but we won’t be parted for very long. If you are good, we’ll be together for all eternity. My friend St Dominic (Domini canis . . . hound of the Lord, how cool is that?) says that may not be quite theological but everyone will understand. I like St Dominic. He’s not at all fierce when you get to know him, and we’re having a brilliant party for his feast-day today. I just wish They were here, too.

Love and licks,

Dunc xxFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Mr Trump’s Hair and Other Weighty Matters by Bro Duncan PBGV

Human Beans never cease to surprise me. Up here in Beyond, where all is light, joy and peace, we smile over the preoccupations of Below. The number of column inches devoted to Mr Trump’s hair or the Winter Olympics cheerleaders from North Korea, the fuming and fretting over the government of the day, the feud between Brexiteers and Remainers, it all looks very different from here. So do your preparations for Lent. They are all so very serious! What you really need to do is to learn to be more simple and more dog.

Learning to be simple is natural to us dogs. We have a thought for each paw: food, food, sleep and food. Everyone is our very best friend, and we don’t hold grudges. We live in the moment. BigSis used to say that the sacrament of the present moment is the most neglected of all, and it’s true. You Human Beans are always regretting the past or worrying about the future and ignoring what is right under your noses. You make life complicated and never really enjoy anything because you are too busy having guilt trips. We don’t do guilt. Instead we do joy, lots of it! And our joy is infectious, because it’s impossible to look at our big noses and constantly wagging tails without feeling more cheerful. That’s why God gave them to us, and us to you.

BigSis says that joy is the key to making a good Lent: doing everything with the joy of the Holy Spirit. I asked St Benedict about that and he said she was quite right. Nuns always are. Then he coughed and looked a bit self-conscious and I realised he was thinking about his sister, Scholastica, whose feast day is tomorrow, and who taught the Father of Western Monasticism all about prayer and stuff. So I gave him a big Peeby kiss and looked very understanding until he was himself again. We chaps have to stick together, don’t we? Even Fathers of Western Monasticism have to put up with twin sisters who know and understand some things better than they do.

Anyway, the message to take from all BigSis’s spouting about preparing for Lent is this: Lent is meant to be a time of joyful simplicity when you Human Beans run free on the road to salvation. Of course, some parts of Lent are a bit like doing obedience work, but Easter itself is wonderful. It’s all about banquets and endless food and drink, a foretaste of what you will experience when you get Beyond. St Benedict says you Human Beans should look forward to it with the joy of spiritual longing. If you can’t manage that just yet, take a good look at your nearest dog and try to be more like him. We have the secret of eternal joy. Perhaps that’s why God lets us share his holy name in reverse. Perhaps.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Simple Goodness by Bro Duncan PBGV

From my vantage point in Beyond, I often wonder why Human Beans just don’t get it. They rush around trying to fix what can’t be fixed and become very complicated about things that are really very simple. Take goodness, for example. Dogs understand goodness perfectly. Everyone is our very best friend and to be treated as such. True, we may have a special soft spot for the most hopeless among them, the ones who are always getting things wrong, but we are very delicate in the way we express it. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sat beside BigSis and gazed at her with my big brown eyes to show sympathy and understanding or trotted along in front of LittleSis, my tail gently waving to reassure her that everything was going to be all right! Even the Ginger Fiend is learning that life isn’t all treats and tummy rubs. We have to be there for Them. Which brings me to my point.

I was asking St Aelred the other day whether there wasn’t a problem with Human Beans misunderstanding his teaching on friendship and stuff. He looked at me very shrewdly and, being a good teacher, asked me what I thought. Well, simples! Human Beans do get him wrong very often. Probably it takes a dog to get to the heart of the matter. Love of others should lead to love of God or it is not real love. My dearest wish is for everyone I knew and loved on earth to be with me in Beyond where we can rejoice with God for ever and ever. That is real love, I have no doubt; and it is very patient, humble and persevering. I know I have a big task ahead of me, but I put my paws together regularly and never lose hope.

Very few now remember much about St Aelred except his love of God and his love of his brethren, and that’s as it should be. Human Beans can learn from that sort of forgetting. It doesn’t matter how handsome or successful we are, how learned or ‘inspiring’, simple goodness — loving others — is what counts. But it must be genuine love of others, not covert manipulation or self-seeking (a bit like some of the Young Sprog’s earlier attempts to win a supernumerary Dentastix. ‘Nuff sed.). I think that’s why we dogs don’t have very long lives by human standards. We learn very quickly to love deeply, constantly and forgivingly. We’re good at simple goodness — thank goodness!Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Blogging from Beyond: Hallowe’en by Bro Duncan PBGV

BigSis was telling me the other day that she didn’t want to write about Hallowe’en ever again, so I said I would. After all, Hallowe’en doesn’t happen in Beyond: here it is All Saints all the time, everlasting Easter, and one huge party with enough to eat and drink to satisfy even the hungriest hound. Bliss!

So, where do I start? I have to admit I don’t quite understand you Human Beans and the delight you take in the dark side of life, nor your willingness to spend masses of money on it. Carving pumpkins could be fun, I suppose, though if you’ve ever been hungry, the waste of good food might stir your conscience a little. Plastic skeletons don’t appeal: give me a real bone to chew on any day. I’m not sure I like some of the costumes some of you wear. They don’t scare me — nothing could scare a PBGV — but they do upset me sometimes, especially those that make a mockery of Them. I’m just an old-fashioned gent, I suppose, and always gallant towards the ladies. And as for all that ‘trick or treat’ business, I do wonder if it is quite moral to teach your little pups to extort goodies from others and behave badly if they don’t oblige. We dogs know how to look irresistible but don’t go into a huff if we don’t get a treat. We just try again later. Still, I like to have fun as much as anyone, and if you want to have a party on Hallowe’en, have a good one; and I do mean good. Don’t meddle with things that seem innocent but can lead to things that are anything but. You may think ouija boards and tarot cards are ‘just a bit of a fun’ but, believe me, we have our work cut out up here praying for souls that have been led astray by such things into really serious evil. BigSis will tell you that an encounter with evil — real evil — isn’t fun: it’s deadly. Steer clear of it and you will be much happier.

One of the things I liked about living in the monastery was that Hallowe’en was scarcely noticed. At five o’clock They sing First Vespers of All Saints and then are safely on the other side, where all is light and goodness. They may not hear me, but I shall be adding my own ‘aroo’ to Their chorus of praise and thanksgiving this evening. Happy feast of All Saints to you all!

Love and prayer,

Dunc x

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The Mystery of Beyond

 

he Young Duncan: Ch. Soletrader Dunc 'N Disorderly: Photo © Gavin Robertson, used by permission
The Young Duncan: Ch. Soletrader Dunc ‘N Disorderly: Photo © Gavin Robertson, used by permission

Even the most casual reader of this blog will have gathered that I am a bit soppy about dogs, one in particular. Today is the first anniversary of Bro Duncan PBGV’s entry into Beyond. We got on very well, he and I, but this post is not going to be a sentimental trip down memory lane. He was too dignified a dog for that — even though he was a PBGV. No, this is about the mystery of Beyond, from where he confidently continues to blog and tweet, although he sensibly says very little about his present mode of existence.

Dog owners (and for all I know, cat and guinea pig owners) tend to get a little teary when it comes to the death of their old companions. There is much talk of crossing rainbow bridges and running free. I understand that perfectly. We do not want death to be the end. We may have no belief in an afterlife for ourselves, but for our pets, who have given us so much joy in their short lives, there must be something more.

I know the Thomists will disagree and assert that animals do not have souls and therefore their brief existence on earth is all there is, but I prefer to think of the immensity of God and his care for even the smallest of sparrows. Could such a God snuff out for ever and ever the life of a creature who had given and received such love and affection? I rather doubt it. In fact, although I can’t conceive of Beyond in material terms, I have a little private heresy according to which nothing is ever lost or destroyed, although it is necessarily changed. I would like Bro Duncan PBGV to be part of that changed existence, just as I would like the dinosaurs to be. (Imagine! Seeing a live dinosaur for the first time! But I digress.)

Today there are thousands of people in Britain grieving the loss of someone dear to them. Many cannot express their sense of loss save in extravagant gestures and the conventional phrases that reveal their inadequacy as soon as they are uttered. We cannot really mourn, cannot really allow our grief or sadness to be healed, as long as we do not let the mystery of Beyond touch and transform our lives. For me, as a Catholic, there is the pleasant prospect of purgatory and a final purification. I do not have to worry about the immediate prospect of heaven or hell for those I love; and I have the beautiful and meaningful rituals of the Church and of the monastic order to surround the harsh reality of death. They are a huge comfort because they help to make sense of what might otherwise seem to be sheer negativity. They point to what is not yet by proclaiming the value of what is and what has been with an honesty and lack of sentimentality I find refreshing.

For our pets there are no rituals, no solemn ways of acknowledging their going from us, so we make little jokes and cry our hearts out among the tomato plants or try to be ‘frightfully British’ about it all. I like to think that that is part of their gift to us. They make us realise the supreme dignity of being created human, the extraordinary graces bestowed on us by a loving God who has seen in us the lineaments of his Son, Jesus Christ. What I call the mystery of Beyond is something that surrounds us from our first moments of conception. It is our natural environment, so to say. We pass from one degree of glory to another, and although death is painful, it is the gateway to a fuller life and a happiness that has no end. Where Bro Duncan PBGV fits into this, I do not really know, but I am as sure that he is part of it as I am sure that the grass is green beneath my feet and the brilliant blue skies of Herefordshire are over my head.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Two Hairy Brothers: 5

Letter from Bro Dyfrig BFdeB to Bro Duncan PBGV

Howton Grove Priory
,
Herefordshire

7 July 2017

Dear Cousin Dunc,

I trust you are very cheery up there in Beyond. We don’t seem to have heard from you for a long time. Now I have a problem and need your advice.

I’ve been in a bit of hot water recently. Nothing too serious, but clearly They don’t think much of my eating Their supper (it was yummy!) or burying six bones, one after the other, in the flower-beds, or examining the contents of the waste bin by tipping it all over the floor, etc. They’ve begun referring to you as the Blessed Bro Duncan PBGV and I feel that a comparison is being made. I’m Touri the Terrible, the Ginger Fiend, Our Little Thug. Where am I going wrong? Don’t They love me anymore?

Love and licks,

Bro Dyfrig xx

Letter from Bro Duncan PBGV to Bro Dyfrig BFdeB

The Heavenly Houndland
Beyond

9 July, 2017

My dear Bro Dyfrig,

Nice to hear from you, young sprog, and my apology for the delay in replying. An awful lot of PBGVs seem to have come to the Heavenly Houndland recently, and we’ve been having lots of Peeb parties. Great fun!

As to your problem, oh dear! I think we have got to get a few things straight or you may go seriously wrong. Nothing will ever change Their love for you, absolutely nothing. I’m sure They call you Touri the Terrible or Little Thug in an affectionate tone of voice. Yes, They will get exasperated if you eat Their supper or dig up all the flowers or empty out smelly waste-bins and whatever else is implied by that ‘etc’ of yours. Human Beans are like that. But They are like our Heavenly Master in this respect. They know that we are the apple of His eye, and so we are of Theirs. The problem They have is They can go all gooey and forgiving when They see our big noses and hairy whiskers, but They are much harder on Their own kind. They tend not to forgive but only put others on probation: ‘do that once more and . . . .’ It is our job to help Them see They’ve got to be kind to those who aren’t blessed with four paws and eyes like melting chocolate buttons. We have to help Them become more dog, in fact, and love everyone — even the most trying.

Of course, I have to admit that eating Their supper is not a very good idea. I never did that, though I did share some goodies — mainly cheese and bikkies, as I recall. But I never stole them. You need to learn the art of staring reproachfully at Them, so that They give in and share with you. Human Beans do something similar when They pray. They stare at God (They call it ‘contemplation’) and He responds — not always in the way They’d like, of course, but He doesn’t ignore Them. I don’t really understand how They get away with it, not being as handsome or hairy as we are. It is all a great mystery, and I am content to leave it like that. I just know it works. Encourage Them in that.

Well, young sprog, I’ve got another party to go to. You’ll love it up here. Nothing but eating and merry-making all day long. Sheer Peeby bliss! And there’s a special spot for Fauves — and Human Beans — too.

Your affectionate old cousin,

DuncanFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Getting Down to Earth by Bro Duncan PBGV

This is my first blog post from Beyond. BigSis asked me to do one while she and the young sprog enjoy a protracted convalescence. There’s not much wrong with Bro Dyfrig BFdeB, by the way, he just likes lazing on the guest sofa, but I’m always happy to give a helping paw when I can; and I must admit, I do like the sound of my own voice which, as the breed standard says, is freely used. So, listen up, please.

It seems to me that Human Beans are getting worked up about all kinds of things at the moment: Brexit, the Trump administration, Mr Putin, Amoris Laetitia, refugees — you name it, you worry about it. Worry is not good for Human Beans. It gives you wrinkles and grey hairs and makes you very, very bad-tempered. Friends suddenly become foes, and you smoulder with barely-suppressed rage as the mildest comment is interpreted as criticism or betrayal. I’ve tried to suggest in the past that life would be much nicer for you all if you tried being more dog, but since you don’t seem to be able to agree on that, may I suggest that it is time you got down to earth and worried about something worthwhile: vegetable rationing. Yes, vegetable rationing.

According to the BBC, floods in Spain mean that there is, and will continue to be, a shortage of many of your favourite vegetables. Supermarkets are rationing broccoli and iceberg lettuce (why anyone should want to eat either is beyond me, but Human Beans are funny like that). Now, this isn’t just a simple supply and demand problem such as BigSis likes to pontificate about when she puts her ex-banker cap on, it is a Big Problem with metaphysical dimensions to it. You could call it the salad and civics question of our time, but however you like to dress it up, it is a question you need to address urgently.

You Human Beans like to think you can go it alone in so many ways. Yes, you will be a great nation; you will be lords of all creation; everything will be tickety-boo when the world is refashioned according to your own ideas, or so you say. But you forget something very basic. You have to eat. And if you don’t grow all your own food, you have to rely on others, which means trade and mutual give and take and perhaps having Human Beans from other countries doing some of the things that you can’t or won’t do for yourself. Even if you are remarkably self-sufficient now, the time will come when you are old or sick and you will HAVE to rely on others. My advice, therefore, is to think about these things now, and instead of worrying about a future that may never come or indulging in fantasies of grandeur and self-sufficiency, to live in the present, humbly and in touch with the reality you yourself can help shape and form. What you do now matters. How you treat other Human Beans matters. In fact, you really should try being more like us dogs — more loving, more compassionate, more down to earth.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail