Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Tinker And Augustine

Published November 9, 2006

There is a window in this room where I write, and it offers a generous view of the sky. Last week I was here and paused for a moment and looked at the sky. It was beautiful. The sun, which I could not see, was setting in the west, and the sky was a brilliant blaze of orange, brown and red. There were clouds that seemed like huge brushes in that they rose high, spreading colors in vast and marvelous patterns. The cross on our water tower was part of the scene.

I got up and picked up my camera and walked over to the window and took some pictures. They came out quite well, even though I did not adjust the camera to any special settings. I noticed movement in the distance, below me and near the garage. It was Augustine, taking his customary early evening stroll. He was too far away to photograph so I watched him, occasionally looking again at the sky and its beauty far above us both.

Tinky, short for Tinker Bell, is a cat whose usual night residence is the garage. Some days she gets locked out and lounges in front of the garage door. Augustine saw her and reached down and picked her up and cradled her in his right arm. He used his left hand to reach into his pocket for the key to the garage door. It looked as if he lowered his head and talked to Tinky, perhaps chiding her for being locked out again. He opened the door and let Tinky slip out of his arm, shut the door and then proceeded on his way. The scene was surely a simple one, but something about it moved me deeply and made me think about a lot of things.

Cats do not know that they are lost or locked out of a place where they are safe. I suppose that there is some sort of “cat awareness” as to their being out of place and in need of help—a few meows, though, is the best they can manage as far as a language of the lost. It is a good stroke of fortune when a passerby notices the plight of a small and lost creature and lifts it up and gently carries it to safety.

The sky was gorgeous that early evening. Many would rightfully say that such beauty is a gift from God, though others would look at the same sky and marvel at the wonders of nature, leaving God’s palate out of the picture. Either way, the sky offers its beauty to those who appreciate it.

And what about the picking up of a locked-out cat?

As a species, we humans are lost and seemingly locked out of a place that is warm and safe, a place that is secured from violence. Stranded as we are in a dark and strange place, we are prone to strike out violently in ways that seem far from any redemptive solution. Whatever progress there is toward peace seems to be far outpaced by a deeper need to ensure terror. Whatever peace might be, a reading of the activity of any day in any part of the world places peace at a very low realm in human priorities. Its promise is devoured over and over again.

It seems that we are left with taking life one step at a time, walking as we do through a small space in life. In Augustine’s case, he reached down and helped a creature that had no resources to help herself. And so he was kind.

I do not think we have the resources, either, to find that safe place.

But I believe in the kindness of God, who seemingly hides behind the beauty of late summer sky, or perhaps adorns himself in the colors of the setting sun. We will never know for sure—until he comes again and reaches down and picks us up in his arms and carries us to a better place. I believe he will come.

Meanwhile, a monk takes pity and helps one who is lost.

I do not know why the sky is so beautiful—and why it does not last forever. I have a picture, and it will fade in time. But there will always be colors and brilliance.

I like to think that the simple gesture of Augustine is as lasting and as important as the panorama of sky and color. After all, Jesus told us to keep an eye on the simple and seemingly unnoticed. Great things, he said, live as hidden in the simple and the lowly. It is all any of us have to watch for and to attend—till the time that God reaches down and helps us rise.

What or who is God? I do not know of any special settings to find and keep him.

The sky is silent in its beauty. The cross atop our water tower has never uttered a word. If God is far, perhaps his voice is close—like all the light we can ever know, or when a man bends down and picks up a Tinker who is lost.


Father James Stephen Behrens, OCSO, is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. He is the author of “Grace Is Everywhere: Reflections of an Aspiring Monk,” which is available at the monastery Web store at