Tag Archives: Snakes

Of snakes and souvenirs

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There is a couple of miles high up in the mountains in which it is as likely as not to see a Timber Rattler, alive or dead, on the curvy simple road that is made of loose gravel sprayed with oil.

Locals have a penchant for running over snakes and turtles and anything else they can steer into perhaps without wrecking their vehicles in order to do so. As often as not, if it is a snake, especially a rattler, they’ll cut the head off, and the rattle, for souvenirs.

Jesus has His own souvenirs after His own encounter with the snake mentioned in Genesis 3:15. Jesus’ souvenirs are in the form of five wounds in hands and feet and in His side, His Heart. But Jesus otherwise doesn’t parade around a snake head or tail.

What a strange lot we are. But God loved the world so much that…

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Why some exorcisms fail

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The other night, coming back from the day-off, very near the hermitage, I once again encountered a magnificent Timber Rattler. Screech! Sassy the Subaru’s brakes work most excellently. Out on to the road I popped with telephone camera in hand. I kept about eight feet away as he was ready to spring into action. I took a couple of pictures, and then a car came. I put Sassy into gear and carefully, deliberately, exaggeratedly drove around our snake friend, hoping the crowd in the car behind me would take note of the nice snake and drive around this wonder of nature. Instead, they very slowly and deliberately drove over him, thinking they had accomplished something.

And this is exactly why some exorcisms fail: because of pride, because of attacking Satan directly under one’s own (lack of) wherewithal, in one’s own name, not in the Holy Name of Jesus, but still thinking one has accomplished something.

This is a mind-game with Satan on his own terms, on his own turf. He will be happy to make one think that he has been thrown out, only to come back in a more insidious way. Jesus Himself speaks of this kind of stupidity. This is a seven-fold failure, a perfect fail.

We must go about our entire lives not with self-absorbed mind-games, not with self-referential ways and means, not with the darkness and blindness of pride, but instead through grace received in humility, we are to walk in the presence of Jesus, who is Himself our Savior:

  • NOT an exorcism: “I cast you out, Satan, in my own name!”
  • TRULY an exorcism: “I cast you out, Satan, in the Holy Name of Jesus!”

There’s a huge difference. It’s the same with authority, which one must have:

  • NOT an exorcism: “I cast you out, Satan, in my own name and under my own authority because I don’t care what Jesus’ Church has to say about it!”
  • TRULY an exorcism: “I cast you out, Satan, in the Holy Name of Jesus and with the express mandate to do so as given by my bishop!”

Again, the exorcist who works under his own authority may seem to have great success baiting him into thinking that he is right to buck the authority Jesus Himself gave to His own Church. The disobedient exorcist may think he is himself most charitable, a martyr of charity. No. Satan will come back in more insidious ways, destroying peoples’ lives all the more effectively.

The upshot in our own lives: We are not to attack Satan directly. We are not to attack sin directly. Yes, we are to make a firm purpose of amendment, avoid occasions of sin, get out of an occasion of sin should we find ourselves in such, all the normal, traditional things. Yep.

BUT! But we are NOT to make it all about us, about how powerful and great we are, because we not that. Instead, we are to call on Saint Michael, on our guardian angels, and do this with humility. We are to be humbly thankful to Jesus for coming into this fallen world to grab us and bring us to heaven, because, wow, it’s so obvious we need saving and it’s He that is our Savior, NOT us. The person who says: “I’m doing well now!” is the person who will fall almost immediately. We cast out Satan and sin by Jesus drawing us into friendship with Himself, by being in humble reverence, thankful, in friendship, before Jesus, confident of His love for us, of His immediate care for us.

Jesus said that we cannot, will not enter the kingdom of heaven if we are not like little children before our heavenly Father. Little kids don’t count on themselves to be saved. They look with confidence to others, and in the cases above, to Jesus. Jesus saves us from Satan. Jesus leads us into a true life of prayer, to walk in His presence, even in the most trying of circumstances. Thank you Jesus.

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Crotalus Horridus Timber Rattler

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“You brood of vipers!” – Saint John the Baptist

I came upon this guy near the hermitage on the “day-off” yesterday. Not quite four feet long [correction: 50.5 inches] but really quite hefty. He’s been eating very well. I’m guessing a few pounds. Quite the set of fangs. Quite the rattler, from which you can tell he’s only a youngster:

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Timber Rattlers, everywhere in this area of the Blue Mountains, can also be almost totally black, but this guy had only a black tail. The rest was the usual spectacular golden color and black markings:

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Meanwhile, getting back to the rectory late at night, another suspicious pattern, but actually just a baby black snake faking being a Timber Rattler. This is just a section of the body. He’s been ripped apart before I got back from the “day-off.” Poor thing.

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Saving snakes from the birds

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So, there I was, driving up to the bank Night Deposit just before nightfall after the Saturday Vigil Mass, and I saw a murder in progress, a huge raven was attacking a small and friendly Black-Snake, Rat-Snake, Bull-Snake, Eastern Racer, whatever name you have. These guys have no poison, no fangs, if they bite it doesn’t hurt. Super-friendly.

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The raven didn’t want to give up. I almost had to physically remove him, but he finally flew away and then around, squawking and scolding at me the whole time. He was not happy with me at all. Meanwhile, I gently let the snake slither away into the parking lot bushes. I was happy for the snake. The ol’ raven can get another meal somewhere else. I want Rat-Snakes around as one of my neighbors has rats. The bank is in eye-shot of the rectory. Be as clever as a snake in making friends with unexpectedly helpful people. But be as innocent as a dove. Monsters might attack you. But you might get help from an unexpected source. Note the background picture of the blog and the header picture.

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Shadow-Dog pooped a Timber Rattler

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Ho-hum. Looking out the kitchen window this morning I see that Shadow-dog just pooped out a full size Timber Rattlesnake. Markings. Fat body. Relatively short tail. Ultra-fat head with fangs. Wikipedia says that “Potentially, this is one of North America’s most dangerous snakes, due to its long fangs, impressive size, and high venom yield.” They warn with lots of antics, but I think that only makes Shadow-dog’s adrenaline pump all the more. Sorry that this next photo didn’t focus, but this is the decapitated head:

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Out of focus or not, that’s good enough for me. All very poopy.

Not to worry. I looked it up. Dogs eating venomous snakes for breakfast doesn’t hurt them in the least. :-) Shadow-dog was simply content with a good snack.

It’s been raining and raining and raining after snowing and snowing and snowing. The back yard is a bit of a mess. I’m planning on extending the fence and planting lots of grass seed. Meanwhile, don’t feel sorry for wet and muddy Shadow-dog. He has a warm dry shelter out of the weather tucked far back under the non-mud-cement-patio corrugated roof. Also, he comes in for most of the night. You just have to know that a GSD loves water and mud. He’s been expanding his mud holes with water in them just for fun. I don’t mind. I did that as a kid. Why not?

Anyway, a thought came to mind. You can see how there is zero shelter, zero hiding places for a snake, particular a Timber Rattler which stays in, well, you know, the timber, the forest. We’re in the middle of a city. How is it that that Rattler would insist on being inside that fence line slithering immediately right into the jaws of Shadow-dog, who, by the way, wouldn’t be hidden. It just doesn’t make sense. Ain’t gonna happen if you ask me. The snake, on its own, would zip away. Poor snake. Maybe he was thrown in while I was on my day off. If that’s the case, the result is the following:

  • One proud and brave Shadow-dog.
  • One now impressed but scared snake-handler.

Analogy:

  • Just when people think they “have you”, you come out stronger for it, more character, a broader foundation of experience from which to proceed, with Jesus, of course. Hah.
  • Just when the devil thinks he “has you”, you come out stronger for it, more character, a broader foundation of experience from which to proceed, with Jesus, of course. Hah.
  • Just when your fallen human nature thinks it has won, you come out stronger for it, more character, a broader foundation of experience from which to proceed, with Jesus, of course. Hah.

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Diet: “Hey! It tastes like chicken!”

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This guy has a triangular head and a short tail and is about four feet long. Here’s a shot of his underside, providing you with some clues. What kind is he?

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He wasn’t far from the hermitage the other day and I was trying to do some last minute clean out before the property is sold by the neighbor. Anyway, I’m sure he tastes like chicken!

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Fr George: WNC Baptist snake handler

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How shameful! Father George is in a short-sleeved clergy tactical work shirt with the collar open doing a bit of R and R! And he’s, he’s, he’s a man of ecumenism, practicing up to be a Western North Carolina Baptist Minister Snake Handler! Surely he’s a snake in the grass! Whatever you want to call him (Eastern Racer, Bull Snake, Rat Snake, Black Snake, Snake in the Grass, Satan…), this is the friendliest kind of serpent in the world. Oh, I’m talking about the snake, not me! Or do I protest too much? Anyway, these guys are happy to laze around in the sun right in front of you, keeping a watchful eye for varmints.

It was a local one-time Baptist minister friend who was happy to see me practicing up. He’s the one who brought the snake over to a parishioner’s house as there was a developing problem of rats eating the dog food, a serious concern since she raises the best cadaver, drug, bomb, protection, accompaniment, PTSD, and especially bite-dogs in North America. Everyone was scared of the snake, only because they think such snakes bite. They don’t. But her bite-dogs do bite. One of them broke her training “arm” with one bite. She said she saw one bite-dog break both forearm bones and rip off the forearm of someone in one bite. Serious dogs. I’m making friends with the one that law enforcement is especially afraid of. So far, he sits down for me upon request, but at this point that only means that he’s happy to make a meal of me while sitting down. Yikes!

In these days of great confusion in both the Church and the world, I think we need to remember a sense of humor amidst all the darkness, and be able to bring joy to those around us. We are all Missionaries of Mercy when we do this, as this brings people hope. Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that making people who suffer laugh was a great act of mercy. When we suffer we tend to drag all the hurt of the past into the present, and then project all that into the future dragging that, then, back into the present as well, making for unbearable suffering. But when, in the present moment, one is brought into innocent laughter, all of this mind-game with time of past and future is shattered, giving one hope for the future regardless of the past because of present goodness. Our greatest fears are brought under control with the love that Jesus Himself provides to us, His littlest children.

Update: sent in by a reader with the request of making a parallel video for priestly vocations:

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It’s definitive: the dreaded serpent

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This is a common brown snake, otherwise known as a city snake, a garden snail eater of all things, which I picked up in the back yard of the rectory. Sigh. This is the dreaded serpent because, well, it’s definitive then. I’m no longer a mountain hermit. I’m domesticated, a city slicker. Sigh. Oh, for the days in the hermitage with timber rattlers and water moccasins and copper heads and whatnot, where even the rat snakes and Eastern Racers got six feet long and over. But here in the city the snakes are all measured in inches. Sigh. And what’s worse, I’m even busy with Spring cleaning. Sigh. I’m so domesticated. It all just makes me long for the days of my youth with extreme sports knuckleheadism. But, O.K. I’m domesticated. So be it. Heaven will be different! O.K., maybe I should make something of this, like an encouragement, gentle as it is, to get to my popular version of the thesis on Genesis 3:15, you know, about the crushing of the serpent on the head, something like that.

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