Kolbe Report 3/23/24

Sheep and Goats

Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Two weeks ago, I recalled experiments that were done with weaver birds that demonstrated their remarkable God-given instinct to build complex nests, even when deprived of the example of other birds.  Unfortunately, I used information that I had included in a newsletter more than ten years ago which did not include any references, and I could not provide a reliable source for this information. Thanks to one of the members of our leadership team, however, who did the hard work of researching the topic, I can now provide you with that information.

A Weaver Bird Nest in Early Stages of Construction

Nicholas Collias was an ornithologist and zoology educator who with his wife Elsie Collias devoted his life to the study of birds.  The Collias husband and wife team published the results of an experiment that they performed with fledglings of the African Village Weaverbird, Textor cucullatus, in Volume 81 of the Auk journal, now published under the title The Ornithologist. According to their summary of the experiment:

Some 30 young were hatched in outdoor aviaries. Half were reared by their parents. The rest were removed before their eyes opened and were hand-reared in the absence of nest materials. The hand-reared young, unlike the controls, often manipulated or tried to "weave" their own feathers or those of cage-mates. As did controls, when given equal chances for selection, they preferred green nest material to yellow, blue, red, black, or white. The hand-reared young quickly developed a preference for green within the first few days after initial exposure to nest materials. They also had the normal preference for flexible as against stiff nest materials, when tested with vinyl plastic strips. When about one year old, the survivors were given their first normal nest materials, and the hand-reared males wove a much smaller percentage of strips than did control males. But this discrepancy greatly diminished with about three months' practice in handling strips, and two of three hand-reared males managed to weave 2 nests. Three control males wove 11 nests during the same period. One male, hand-reared in complete visual isolation from other weaverbirds, but supplied with nest materials from an early age, gradually developed the ability to construct normal nests. We conclude that practice, channelized by specific response tendencies, but not necessarily tuition by example, is needed for development of the ability to build a normal nest by the male of this species.

A Southern Masked Weaver Building His Nest in Namibia

Surely, it is remarkable that a bird deprived of any example to follow, manages to construct one of these artistic masterpieces when simply provided with the necessary materials!

Lost Sheep

While I was away from home for the Kolbe Center for two weeks recently, a gate was left open on our land and our sheep escaped.  Our oldest son, my wife, and various grandchildren were able to round up all but two of the sheep and sequester them in a paddock next to an adjoining one that they left open for the two delinquents.  I asked everyone I stayed with on the road to pray, including the Benedictines of Mary at Ava and Gower, and, lo and behold, when I was on my way to Ava to visit my daughter at the Monastery of St. Joseph, my wife called me to tell me that the two lost sheep had returned the previous day but that one of them had given birth to a lamb at the gate and had run off again before our grandsons could get them back into the paddock.

My wife had no recourse but to rescue the lamb and bottle feed her with colostrum, and when I returned home I took over this duty, so that my wife could go with one of our grandsons to visit one of our children and his family in the Republic of Georgia.  I have named the lamb “Rose of Lamba,” and she has learned to run to my voice and to follow me wherever I go.  When I am finished feeding her, she loves to sit on my lap while I work and stroke her from time to time.  One of my grandsons and I have built her a little playpen outside where she can stay during the day in safety should the dog get loose and follow her instinct!  In the meantime, we have left the gate open for the two lost sheep who visit their flock from time to time but haven’t yet allowed themselves to be enclosed with them.   (Please say a prayer for their safe return!)

Bottle Feeding Rose of Lamba

Over the last three decades we have had adventures of various kinds with sheep and with goats, which have helped us to appreciate Our Lord’s words about the separation of the one from the other at the Final Judgment.  It is apparent to us that for all their differences, sheep and goats are of the same taxonomical family and of the same Biblical “kind.”  According to

goats and sheep don't belong to the same species. However, they are closely related. Both of them belong to the cattle family, Bovidae, and the goat-antelope subfamily, Caprinae. All its members are described as "caprine", and they are all ruminant herbivorous mammals.

Having grown up in a city for the most part, I tended to understand Our Lord’s words about the separation of sheep and goats in a Calvinist way.  According to that interpretation, sheep and goats were different from the beginning, and seemed to be predestined to achieve the judgment they received on the Last Day.  Having gotten to know them intimately over the decades, however, it is easy to see that Our Lord meant us to understand that the sheep and the goats in His parable belong to the same family, and that the human beings they represent, who also belong to one family, freely choose whether or not to follow the voice of the Good Shepherd in their consciences and in the authoritative teachings of the Church.

Through the prayers of the Mother of God, may the Holy Ghost grant to all souls the grace to hear and obey the voice of the Good Shepherd this Passiontide!

In Domino,

Hugh Owen

P.S.  Our friends at The Fatima Center wish to offer Our Blessed Mother a spiritual bouquet of 100,000 First Saturdays by the 100th Anniversary of Her request for this devotion (December 10, 2025). THEY NEED OUR HELP, to accept the challenge and to help them publicize this initiative, encouraging others to participate.

[1] JOIN: Go to the web page and sign-up.

[2] EACH MONTH: If you performed the First Saturday devotion (all five elements), then log back in and register that completed First Saturday as part of the spiritual bouquet.

It is that easy!

[3] SPREAD: Please promote this initiative in every possible way.

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