The other day, I watched a wonderful documentary on PBS about the training of sheep dogs. This brought to mind the French mystic Paul Sedir (real name – Yvon Le Loup, 1871-1926) and his spiritual teacher, Nizier Philippe (1849-1905) both of whom referred to themselves as “dogs of the Good Shepherd.” For those interested in independent sacramental history, Sedir was a bishop in Jules Doinel’s l’Eglise Gnostique, although he eventually left orders and titles behind after meeting Philippe. Here is part of an essay by Sedir:
You, sweet kind dog put me to shame, I who vaunt myself of belonging to the Master of Shepherds. How many more tender-hearted attentions does my Master shower me with than I ever give you? How ugly is my surly laziness compared to your touching zeal? I, who claim to bring back to the Unique Shepherd the lost sheep and the docile ewes, how far I am from your zeal, you kind loving dog with such soulful eyes! When shall I disregard, as you do, fatigue, sleep, hunger and thirst? When shall I love hard work? When shall I be able to inflame my indolence, to make supple my humor, and concentrate my dispersed forces? When shall I be able to smile equally at indifference, at ingratitude, at insults?
Yet, I know that that which requires no exertion is worthless. The life of an idea exacts that one suffer for it. And when that idea is Jesus, what ought not we sacrifice to His Service? Nothing should appear too difficult. The hardships or difficulties we encounter earning our daily bread take last place at the end of the line. The struggle is nothing. Lack of success is nothing. Success is nothing. Only effusion of the effort from a heart fluidified by the flames of love counts.
I know all that; then why don’t I move ahead? Also, it is too late to change course: I am committed. Even if no one knew me as a servant of Christ, on the other side of the Veil there are phalanges of creatures yearning for the Light who, in anguish are awaiting the living water, the Uncreated source which is still enclosed within the rock of my heart.
“How long shall we have to toil, there is always new work to do! ” murmur some voices wearily. Does the dog ever weary of the long tedious treks as long as he feels he is useful to his master? Should we be less courageous in serving our Lord Christ? Love is measured by the patience we exercise.
If we love Jesus, any advice becomes useless: pride, confidence, methods, energy appear as nothing but words used by those who do not know how to love. To the one who dares because he loves, results are not important! There always is a result somewhere.
Let the sun shine within us. Let us smile at life; let us welcome difficulties: they constitute the most solid cement for building. They are precisely the labors for which we are most qualified. Let us relieve our Jesus of having to take care of us, that He might be able to rely upon us, once in a while.
Let us be aware that the weight of His formidable Hand upon our shoulders, be it but for the fraction of a bolt of lightning, will cause us to stumble, throwing us unto the ground. But you shall get up – we shall get up, though contusioned, yet with indicible joy in our heart, because in that ineffable second we shall know that we have been accepted among the faithful and tireless dogs of the Good Shepherd. (Sedir Biography: The Man and His Work, pp.134-135)
Despite the somewhat labored translation from the original French (by Mme Zadah Guerin-McCaffery, who met Sedir in her younger days, and died at the venerable age of 96 in 2001), there’s a lot in this passage. Maybe it will prove helpful, as we let the Good Shepherd train us, during this Lent.