June 21, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, religious

Today's Readings

Jesus says “Do not throw your pearls before swine.” We can guess the pearls because of the other analogy Jesus uses: “Do not give what is holy to dogs.” The pearls represent what is holy.

As for the swine and the dogs, they are people. Jesus is not talking about animals. However, to say that such and such a person is a dog and a pig seems to imply that they are less than human, certainly less than the one speaking, but Jesus is only talking about one particular aspect of a person, not their whole dignity. Every single human person is created in the image and likeness of God. There are no people on this Earth who are not loved by God, and that is what gives us dignity.

So who are these people, fully human, but like a dog or a pig in one aspect? They are those who cannot tell the holy from the normal. A pig cannot tell the difference between a church and a basketball court. A dog does not know when people are talking and when they are praying. There are people like this too. They have no respect for what is holy because they cannot tell what is holy.

 I remember, a few years ago, a few hundred Catholic high school students were gathered in a church. They were arriving in batches, and prayer was going to begin as soon as everyone arrived. Some students were carrying cappuccinos, some were chewing gum, all were talking very loudly. The church sounded like a gymnasium.

And this is the problem. It is not as if some other people are dogs or swine. We are the dogs. We are the swine. Every time we treat holy things and holy places as if they were normal things and normal places, we are being swine. Human beings do not talk or eat or drink in church. Piety is the feeling, like fear, which makes us human. Piety is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We must teach our children piety. We must constantly pray for the gift of piety for ourselves.

“I should like church infinitely more,” think the dogs and swine, “if we carried on in a different manner. It would surely be much more fun if conversation instead of praying made the order of Mass.” More fun, I dare say, but it would not be near so much like a church.