I often marvel at how God reveals spiritual Truth through His own creation. For instance, several times in the Gospels, Our Blessed Lord compares humans to sheep and goats: sheep for the good and goats for the wicked. And with regard to sheep and goats, He illustrates Himself as the Good Shepherd, who ultimately divides and separates the two.
Elsewhere, Our Blessed Lord used the mustard seed to teach His disciples about the growth and development of faith. He spoke of the devil as a “roaring lion,” and called the pharisees “vipers.” He even referred to Herod as a female fox, calling him a “vixen.”
When we take the time to observe nature and contemplate what God created, we can catch glimpses of the nature of man, God, life, death, angels, demons, Heaven and Hell. It’s not hard to see Hell in a volcano, but how many consider the “abyss” of the ocean and its inhabitants as representative of Hell? The water itself cuts us off from the air breathed into man at the foundation of the earth. And the deeper we fall into the abyss, the further we are from the light of the sun. And unsurprisingly, the creatures of the deep become more and more terrifying the deeper one falls. In fact, the angler fish is a perfect representative of a demon – it lurks in the pitch-black darkness of the deepest parts of the ocean, luring its prey with a false light dangling on the end of a probe, just out of sight of its terrifying face and vicious teeth. Through this awful beast, we can consider the poor soul that finds itself lost in the darkness of sin, incapable of breathing the fresh air of grace, and lured into the demon’s inescapable grasp by false hope and empty promises.
And just as we can observe Hell and demons in nature, so also do we see salvation. Consider the butterfly. This amazing creature undergoes a transformation that is truly glorious! Before it becomes a butterfly, the caterpillar is a terribly destructive creature, consuming and even destroying various types of plant leaves and flowers, and sometimes they even consume each other. Once the caterpillar grows to maturity, it spins for itself a cocoon, where it breaks down its entire body with digestive enzymes so it can be rebuilt into the butterfly that emerges. And while the caterpillar was once destructive, the butterfly not only does not destroy the plant life around it, but rather gives aid to it. The broad mandibles of the caterpillar are replaced with a long straw-like proboscis through which the butterfly drinks nectar from flowers or juice from rotting fruit. And as the butterfly drinks from the nectar of various flowers, its legs collect and shed pollen, aiding in the process of reproduction.
The life cycle of the butterfly teaches us something about life, death, and resurrection. In life, we all have appetites that often have destructive consequences. Constrained to a highly limited area, due to a fat body and stubby legs, the caterpillar is often easy prey to birds, wasps, spiders, ants, and a wide variety of creatures. So too are we limited in our environment, very often falling prey to forces greater than us. And at the end, we are shrouded in death where our bodies rot within the tomb, but will rise again in a glorious new form, no longer constrained by the ground, and no longer filled with a destructive appetite.
I’ve been thinking about creation and God’s Truth reflected in it of late because that is precisely what my dear friend, Fr. Terrance Gordon did very often. While I was in San Antonio last week to attend the first Holy Communion and Confirmation of my niece, I was hit with the terrible news of his sudden death. At 52, Fr. Gordon was only 4 years my elder. My family was greatly blessed to have him as an associate pastor for almost four years, and he and I very frequently shared our observations and thoughts about God and His creation.
I want to share with you a few words about Fr. Gordon and what a bright light he was in this world of darkness. Our fourth child, Tatiana, has said since she was very young that she wished to become a nun when she is older. She is our most sensitive child, whom I often find reading books about the lives of saints or praying quietly in her room. She is quick to obey, slow to anger, and always seeking to please. When she was standing in line for her first confession, she suddenly burst into tears and left the confession line, sobbing and anxious about it. Fr. Gordon, seeing that she was upset, immediately went over to her, and comforted her. He spoke to her very gently and offered to hear her confession in the other confessional. After confession, she was beaming and couldn’t wait to receive her first Holy Communion.
When my wife suffered a miscarriage, Fr. Gordon dropped everything and came to our house to pray with us, bless the house, and bring us the comfort of Holy Mother Church.
The day he left our parish to go to his next assignment in Colorado Springs, I knew I would be out of town. However, because I was going to be in St. Louis – exactly half-way to Colorado Springs – I offered to let him stay in my hotel room. I was in St. Louis because that is where the AUSCP was holding its annual assembly, and I was leading a Rosary rally of protest against the AUSCP. When he arrived, Fr. Gordon said Mass for my associate and me in our hotel room, offering it in reparation for the heresies being propagated and spread by the AUSCP. But when I offered to order up a spare bed for the room (there were two beds and three of us), he refused the offer and instead slept on the floor in the closet. He did this as a penance in reparation for the heresies of the AUSCP as well.
Never to be seen without his Rosary, always wearing his scapular, and spiritually prepared for just about anything, this is the kind of priest he was!
And though he was in Colorado Springs with a new flock, he was always sure to text me on the birthday of each member of our family, telling me that he was offering Mass and his prayers of the day for whomever it was. When my father and my father-in-law died in 2021, he offered Mass for them right away, adding the collect “For the Grace of a Good Death.” When Tatiana broke her right arm last summer (after JUST getting out of a cast on her left arm), he very quickly offered the Rosary, Divine Office and the Litany of St. Raphael for her, asking her to “remember some priests in need of prayer” in return. Which she dutifully did. When I told him that Tatiana smiled to know that Fr. Gordon was praying for her, he wrote:
“It’s hard thinking of (my) dear Tatiana suffering (as it would have been Christ to see Our Lady of Sorrows) but her prayers for these souls won’t go unheard.”
But lest you think Fr. Gordon was always very serious, he had a marvelous sense of humor. Once, texted me, asking for prayers that he find his passport, which he misplaced and desperately needed for an upcoming trip. I told him that we all were praying, asking St. Anthony to help him find the passport, and I asked him, “Have you tried bribing him, yet?” I asked this because I have often found that missing items of mine that need to be found were returned only after promising St. Anthony a charitable donation to the Carmelites. Fr. Gordon’s response was, “+JMJ+ I was going to do what the Mexicans would do – take the child Jesus from a statue of St. Anthony until it is found. A little hostage situation.” He wasn’t serious, of course, but his good nature and cheerfulness, even in the face of frustration, was infectious.
I could share dozens of stories about Fr. Gordon, and many more of his inspiring messages to me, especially in relation to his deep devotion to Our Lady, but for now I’ll just share with you this last one. He was a regular viewer of our weekly Anchor Team video cast, and one Saturday morning, he wrote to me about the episode from the night before. Speaking of my guest and me, he wrote:
“I like the way you both finished on a positive note, that Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart would prevail. We just have to be on the right side when the music stops.”
Last weekend, the music stopped for my dear friend Fr. Terrance Gordon, he suffered a fatal heart attack. His brother called 911, performed CPR, and then administered to him the Last Rites. As he was always encouraging everyone, everywhere and at all times to scrupulously wear their brown scapulars, praying the daily Rosary, he died wearing his while departing this life fortified with the Sacraments of the Church. So, while shrouded in death, I have every reason to believe that he is simply resting in the cocoon that awaits us all, preparing to emerge in the glorious form God intends for us. And as good as he was in this life, he would ask for as many prayers as he could possibly receive – just as he did for those who went before him.
So, in your kindness, please pray the Litany for the Souls of the Faithful Departed for the happy repose of the soul of Fr. Terrance Gordon.
Our Lady of Victory, ora pro nobis.
St. Joseph, Patron of the Dying, ora pro nobis.
Eternal Rest grant unto him, Oh Lord, and let perpetual life shine upon him. May his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace.