Signposts: Daily Devotions

Monday, June 9

I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me.
—John 10:14

One early spring years ago I spent a week in North Wales on retreat at St. Beuno’s, where the young Jesuit poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins was once a student, and where he wrote his most lyrical poems.

I spent the afternoons that week walking in the high hills above the college, rejoicing in the cold fresh wind, the bird song, the torrents of daffodils and—especially— the flocks of sheep with their new lambs in the pastures.

One evening I was waxing sentimental to my director about the pastoral beauty of the landscape, and my delight in the new lambs. Father Paul was quick to point out that sheep farming in North Wales was no romantic idyll: the outdoor life was hard and dangerous, for humans and flocks alike.

Traditionally the Welsh shepherds do not attempt to fence their wild and rocky pastures: the sheep (amazingly) keep to their own boundaries, knowing by inherited instinct where they belong. However, inevitably it happens that a sheep will graze too far along a precipice, and fall to a lower shelf of rock from which it cannot climb back up. Then the shepherd must find the lost and frightened sheep, and climb down after it, to bring it to safety.

Key to this saving enterprise is the sound of the shepherd’s voice: were a stranger to come near the terrified animal, it might plunge to its death for fear. But the well-known voice of the shepherd of the flock reassures the frightened sheep, who can then wait unafraid for its rescue.

Shepherd God, draw us so close to you that we may know you by heart, as you know us. May we trust you in all the dangerous and frightening moments of our lives. You know us better than we know ourselves; deliver us from evil.

The Signposts for June are written by Deborah Smith Douglas and originally appeared on in May 2005.