Before each celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation, Bishop Paprocki and I speak with the confirmandi. Bishop Paprocki first speaks about the vestments he wears and the symbols of his office as an way to introduce a time for questions and answers with him after I speak about discerning God's will for our lives.
One group of confirmandi with whom we recently visited was a group of seven girls and one boy.
Holding the crozier before him, Bishop Paprocki often asks the candidates what it looks like. More often than not the answer comes back: "A shepherd's staff (or often cane)." The Bishop then asks what a shepherd does with his staff/crook. A common answer is that a shepherd either hits the sheep or prods them forward with it.
Symbolically, of course, and taken in a spiritual sense, the Bishop uses his staff in both functions. Sometimes members of the faithful need to be corrected and sometimes they need to be nudged forward and deeper into the mystery of Christ.
Last night, though, both answers were rather unexpected.
To the question of what the crozier reminded them of, one of the girls quickly answered, "Little Bo Peep."
That was a first, and a funny first at that. And again, not far off the beaten path since Bo Peep was a shepherdess.
And to the question of what a shepherd does with his staff, the same girl answered, "He gathers the sheep together." That is, of course, in a spiritual and symbolic sense, just what the Bishop does with his crozier: he keeps the flock united in the faith of Jesus Christ.
I dare say, though, that neither of these last two answers would come from a group of boys, even with one girl in their midst.