Of the many sacramentals that Catholics may avail themselves of, the Brown Scapular or the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is one of the most venerable. Suffice to say that, along with devotions like the Miraculous Medal, Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s gift to St. Simon Stock is perhaps the most widely disseminated (and actually worn) sacramentals of Catholics.
But what I wanted to write about was my maternal great-grandfather, who was a shepherd back in the Abruzzo region of Italy in the late 19th century. He was, as are most shepherds, poor — as was the entire town he grew up in. (Though to call it a “town” is being overly-generous. It’s more of a collection of hovels and second-world domiciles in fin de siècle Italy, which had only become a nation a few decades before this story takes place.)
In the mountainous region of Collach, Italy, shepherds like my great-grandfather would take the sheep out to pasture in groups of three or four shepherds at a time. But apparently you can’t have too many sheep too close together in any one place or one time since they tend to eat the grass right down to the ground, and they tend to crowd about. So the shepherds, including my great-grandfather, would fan out — always moving, always keeping the sheep slightly moving to avoid “strip-mining” the grass.
So far this seems like the world’s easiest (if not most boring) profession, and I can’t say that it’s one that appeals to me on any level except maybe on a theological one. In addition to keeping the fractious and restive flocks on the move — and, yes, I suppose I’m obliged to acknowledge the shepherd would have to make sure that they kept the ewe-crew together to avoid having to go after the “One Lost Sheep” while leaving the 99 behind — which Our Lord could certainly do, but an everyday shepherd could not (at least without expecting a mass exodus of other lost sheep upon his return).
Read more at National Catholic Register