1 March 2019

Animals are good mentors

Animals will teach you
Picture of Larry Kaufman CSSR

Larry Kaufman CSSR

Larry is a South African Redemptorist and author

As a child I loved the animal stories which my grandfather, ‘Pop’ Campbell, told us. While many details are lost to me today, I remember that there was always a moral to the story.

All his stories conveyed messages of love, kindness, generosity, self-acceptance, forgiveness, reconciliation and many other virtues.

These are also, of course, gospel values. Consider Jesus and the way he preached the gospel through the medium of stories. In fact, several of his parables are not overtly ‘religious’ and don’t even mention God or religion yet they always point to God, often as a warm and loving parent, and to the priority of compassion over ritualism. My stories in Animals will teach you seek to do the same.

One of the blessings of divine providence which I have experienced as a priest has been the joy (as well as the challenge and heart-ache, if truth be told!) of parenting, when I took a young teenager named Reeza under my wings after he had lost both his parents.

Today, Reeza and his wife Annie have three sons of their own: Christopher, Ross and Connor. So, I’m also a grandpa and all grandparents have to tell stories, don’t they? These three boys feature in the story about the waterbuck and the honey badger.

Almost before he could speak, Connor knew the name of every African animal. He and I used to have a game. He could name any two creatures – whether of the land, the air or the sea – and on the spot I would have to make up a story about them.

If I couldn’t do so then he won, and a prize would have to be given him. Happily (and mostly) I also won. The stories in this book are distilled from that game.

I am delighted to welcome as my co-author Sarah O’Keeffe whose ‘fairy god-father’ I am. It was her idea to provide a list of lessons to be learned after each story. Thank you, Sarah, I’ve copied you! Sarah has faced and overcome huge challenges through her affliction with Noonan Syndrome (a genetic disorder that may present with mildly unusual facial features, short height, congenital heart diseasebleeding problems, and skeletal malformations).

Sarah concurs. Adults as well as children did not understand the challenges I was dealing with and I got bullied. I felt very sad and insecure. I lost all my confidence and believed that I could not read or write properly. However, in 2017 I left school and am now being educated from home, which is awesome. Writing these stories with Larry has helped me feel more special and convinced me that I can write stories like anyone else, maybe even better. 

Another offering from Larry Kaufmann CSsR is Praying … the Holy Spirit. As the text on the back cover says, “The title of the book, Praying … the Holy Spirit with its deliberate space between terms, suggests that the combination of prayer and the Holy Spirit has any number of variables. This booklet is offered as a help in turning to the Holy Spirit during periods of discernment, decision-making, trial or transition – all part of our lives at one time or another.”

The booklet includes prayers and a revised translation of the novena to the Holy Spirit composed by Saint Alphonsus Liguori.

Animals will Teach You is available from Majellan Publications for $18.95 (postage included) and Praying … the Holy Spirit is available for $7.95 (postage included).

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