There was a man who’d spent his whole life in the desert and had never seen a train or even a train track. When at last he made his first visit to civilization, he found himself walking down the very middle of some tracks. He heard a whistle, woo-woo, woo-woo. He wondered what it was, and he was still wondering when the train hit him and threw him 40 feet in the air.

Six months later, he left the hospital and before long went to visit a friend’s house. While he was in the kitchen, he heard the tea kettle whistling, woo-woo, woo-woo.  Without a word, he dashed to his car, grabbed his shotgun, and shot that poor tea kettle dead.

“Why’d you do that?” asked his wide-eyed host.

“Brother,” said the desert man, “you gotta kill them critters while they’re still small.”

Source | Dennis R. Clark, SUNDAY MORNING: Reflections on the Word
(Sheed and Ward, 1996) Cycle A
Second Sunday of Advent


Shooting tea kettles accomplishes absolutely nothing, yet in many ways we do that sort of thing all the time. If you doubt that, listen to our conversations on the phone, on the golf course, in the car, or just about anywhere. From all the tut-tutting, deploring and lamenting, one could easily conclude that the world is populated almost entirely by idiots, knaves and incompetents, and that the only exceptions are you and me … and sometimes I wonder about you!

Remember what that cartoon character, Pogo, said? “We have seen the enemy, and it is us.” He was right. But unfortunately, too often we see the enemy as outside us, and that’s what we take aim at … and the poor tea kettles of this world get shot dead.


The French impressionist painter, Claude Monet, is well-known for his delicate painting Footbridge over Water Lilies.” What is less known is that the artist painted over 250 versions of this scene in his idyllic garden at Giverny.  He painted the patterns of the changing light on the water at every time of day, from early dawn to noon to late evening.  The effect of changing light dancing on the waters intrigued and challenged Monet.

Once, a well-meaning but unknowing visitor said to Monet: : “You really ought to change the scene you are painting.  It seems you are making no progress.”  The visitor’s untrained eye missed the beauty of the similar yet vastly different canvases.

Monet took no offence at the comment, but kindly replied: “Ah, progress. You are right, my hours on end in the hot sun do not move me to progress.  But what a progression, minute by minute, the dazzling light makes upon the waters, calling forth from them new beauties at every shimmer and sparkle.”

Source | Dennis Clark, Sunday Morning (1996)


  • Life is about progressing steadily, that is, slowly, a tiny step at a time – no huge leaps. This is not always an exciting process to watch! Sometimes it may even taste like boredom. Often it is invisible!
  • One thing to remember and to opt for daily,  is to go through life with a “learner’s permit”, learning by doing, by trial and error.


There was a terrible shipwreck and only one man survived, cast ashore on a tiny island with nothing but the clothes on his back. For a while he hoped for rescue. But in time he knew he had to make a life there on the island. And that is what he did. He taught himself to fish and hunt, to garden and cook, and he built himself a charming little cottage overlooking the bay. He even carved a tiny flute which he played every night after supper.

One day he hiked to the top of the mountain at the center of the island to see what he could see. As he reached the top, what he saw was a tower of smoke and his little cottage going up in flames.

He ran down the mountain as fast as he could. But it was too late. The cottage was in ashes — and his flute, his garden, his tools, his bow and arrows — everything he’d made with his own hands was gone, all gone!

He wept. He raged. He cursed God. He despaired. And finally, as night came, he collapsed on the sand and fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning he was awakened by sailors who had rowed ashore from a great ship to rescue him. “But,” he exclaimed, “how after all this time did you know I was here?”

“Ah,” said the captain, “we saw the smoke from your signal fire.”

Source | Dennis R. Clark, Sunday Morning: Reflections on the Word
(Sheed & Ward, 1996)
Fourth Sunday of Advent, Cycle C


  • When you have reached the end of your rope, as the saying goes, tie a knot and hold on. Perhaps this is what hope is about: Hold On, Praying Expectantly.
  • When all seems lost and we can feel our emptiness and feel our aloneness, Life has a way of surprising us blessing us and filling us in a way we’d least expect.


Two little Martians landed on a country road on earth in the middle of a cold, dark night.

“Where are we ?” asked one.

“I think we are in a cemetery,” said the other.

“There’s a marker over here. It says … this person lived to be 108!”

“Wow! Does it give the person’s name?”

The other Martian leaned closer and squinted, “Miles from Omaha!”

Source | Dennis R. Clark, Sunday Morning (1996).


It happens sometimes – or maybe often –  that like these two Martians we feel lost, disoriented,  far away from home. What do you do when you find yourself in a cold, dark place, with no familiar landmarks?