Do You Fear the Right Thing? Let’s See … A Meditation on the Story of Chicken Little

031515Fear is a very complex passion. On the one hand, there are things that we ought rightly to fear such as grave physical and spiritual dangers. The fear of being near the edge of a cliff might well save our life. The fear of serious sin and the punishment we might experience or the offense to God (who loves us) is appropriate and holy. Sadly, more people lack this holy fear rooted in the possible loss of what is most precious to us: our eternal life with God.

There are also things we fear that we should not, or things that we fear more than we should. These sorts of fears are usually rooted in our disordered and inordinate affections.

A disordered affection is a love for something that is sinful or wrong. We ought not love it at all, but do, and thus we fear anyone or anything that interferes with accessing and enjoying what is fundamentally sinful.

An inordinate affection is a love for something that is good in itself, but the love we have for it is too great. And loving it too much causes us to fear the loss of it excessively. Many things in this world are lawful pleasures, but we come to love them more than we should. We love things more than people, and both things and people more than God. This is all out of order. We are to use things, love people, and worship God. But too often we use people, love things, and forget about God.

There is also the great struggle that many have called the “sin of human respect,” wherein we fear people more than God and seek to please people more than God. As such, we are often willing to do sinful things to ingratiate ourselves to other human beings, fearing and revering them more than we do God.

Fear is complex; it is a necessary passion for us. But too often our fears are misplaced and inordinate. As such, our fears are easily manipulated by Satan and the world.

A major area for spiritual growth is knowing what and whom to fear. Apart from God we will seldom get this answer right. We are easy prey for the devil and the world to draw us into all sorts of inordinate and even foolish fears.

Since a story can often have an impact that mere discourse cannot, I would like to illustrate this teaching with a known but forgotten story.

The story is the basis for two phrases in common use. Most know them but many have never read the story from which they come. The first is “The sky is falling!” and the second is “Chicken Little” (used as a description of a person).

Both these phrases come from the children’s story Chicken Little. It is a story that speaks to the need to be careful about what we fear and what we do NOT fear. For indeed, one of the traps of Satan is to get us to focus on what we ought not fear, or on what is secondary, so that we do not focus on what we should fear, or on what is more important. Aristotle, citing Socrates, said that courage is the virtue of knowing what to fear and what NOT to fear.

Please read this story. It is short and may seem tedious to us modern ADHD folks, but its conclusion is made more powerful by the litany of details. Please take the time to read the story and to share it with your children.

Chicken Little was in the woods one day when an acorn fell on her head.
It scared her so much she trembled all over.
She shook so hard, half her feathers fell out.
“Help! Help!” she cried. “The sky is falling! I must go tell the king!”
So she ran in great fright to tell the king.

Along the way she met Henny Penny.
“Where are you going, Chicken Little?” Henny Penny asked.

“Oh, help!” Chicken Little cried. “The sky is falling!”
“How do you know?” asked Henny Penny.
“Oh! I saw it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears,
and part of it fell on my head!”
“This is terrible, just terrible!” Henny Penny clucked. “We’d better run.”

So they both ran away as fast as they could. Soon they met Ducky Lucky. “Where are you going, Chicken Little and Henny Penny?” he asked.
“The sky is falling! The sky is falling! We’re going to tell the king!” they cried. “How do you know?” asked Ducky Lucky.
“I saw it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head,” Chicken Little said.
“Oh dear, oh dear!” Ducky Lucky quacked. “We’d better run!” So they all ran down the road as fast as they could.

Soon they met Goosey Loosey waddling along the roadside.
“Hello there, Chicken Little, Henny Penny, and Ducky Lucky,” called Goosey Loosey. “Where are you all going in such a hurry?”
“We’re running for our lives!” cried Chicken Little. “The sky is falling!” clucked Henny Penny. “And we’re running to tell the king!” quacked Ducky Lucky.
“How do you know the sky is falling?” asked Goosey Loosey.
“I saw it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head,” Chicken Little said. “Goodness!” squawked Goosey Loosey. “Then I’d better run with you.”

And they all ran in a great fright across a meadow. Before long they met Turkey Lurkey strutting back and forth.
“Hello there, Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, and Goosey Loosey,” he called. “Where are you all going in such a hurry?” “Help! Help!” cried Chicken Little. “We’re running for our lives!” clucked Henny Penny. “The sky is falling!” quacked Ducky Lucky. “And we’re running to tell the king!” squawked Goosey Loosey.
“How do you know the sky is falling?” asked Turkey Lurkey.
“I saw it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head,” Chicken Little said.
“Oh dear! I always suspected the sky would fall someday,” Turkey Lurkey gobbled. “I’d better run with you.”

So they all ran with all their might, until they met Foxy Loxy. “Well, well,” said Foxy Loxy. “Where are you rushing on such a fine day?”
“Help! Help!” cried Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey. “It’s not a fine day at all. The sky is falling, and we’re running to tell the king!” “How do you know the sky is falling?” said Foxy Loxy.
“I saw it with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head,” Chicken Little said.
“I see,” said Foxy Loxy. “Well then, follow me, and I’ll show you the way to the king.”

So Foxy Loxy led Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey across a field and through the woods. He led them straight to his den, and they never saw the king to tell him the sky was falling.

Notice how fearing the wrong thing, and fearing it to excess, blinded them to what was more truly to be feared, what was more truly a threat. And here lies a doorway for the devil, that he should incite us to fear lesser things like unpopularity, poor finances, the loss of worldly trinkets, bad health, the next election, global warming, persecution, and worldly setbacks, so that we do NOT fear Judgment Day and the Heaven OR Hell that is surely closing in on us.

The day of destiny is closing in, but never mind that! The sky is falling: the wrong political party is in power; the planet is overheating; the economy is about to collapse! You might lose your home to a storm; people might not think you are pretty enough, tall enough, or thin enough. Be afraid; be VERY afraid! Indeed! You don’t have time to pray and ask God to get you ready for Judgment Day because you are too busy being afraid, very afraid, that eating food X may cause cancer, or that people may be laughing at you because of the five or ten pounds you gained last Christmas, or that the Yellowstone Caldera may blow at any time.

I will not tell you that the aforementioned concerns have no merit, only that they have less merit than what most people NEVER think about or fear, namely, where they are going to spend eternity. Chicken Little and her friends were easy prey for Foxy Loxy (Satan) because they were obsessed with lesser things and ignored more dangerous things like the fox.

Yes, “Foxy Loxy” has you worried about smaller and passing things! Now you are easy prey. It will take but a moment for him to lead you astray and have you for dinner!

Make sure you fear the right thing. God has a plan to simplify our lives. We are to fear Him and be sober about getting ready, with His help, for the certain-to-come Day of Judgment. And if we fear Him we don’t need to fear anyone or anything else.

Fr. Robert Barron has observed that the three tallest buildings in Chicago are insurance buildings. Fear “looms large” in our culture. But no insurance company can insure you for the only certain threat you face: Judgment Day. Only God can do that.

The sky may or may not be falling. (Personally, I doubt 80% of the media’s fear-mongering.) But Judgment Day surely IS looming. Foxy Loxy is waiting for you. Will he get you? Will your fear of the Lord help you to avoid falling into Foxy Loxy’s deceptions?

Courage is fearing the right thing and the right ONE.

11 Replies to “Do You Fear the Right Thing? Let’s See … A Meditation on the Story of Chicken Little”

  1. Two years ago I read a “CareNote” entitled “Overcoming the Fear that Diminishes Us.” It was authored by Monsignor Charles Pope (copyright 2011). Thank you, Sir. I’ve read that CareNote more than a dozen times. I now have it in my ‘master keep’ file for future reference. I even bought a dozen copies and gave them to various friends. How disappointed I was to learn that Abbey Press no longer has it in print. Monsignor, thank you for your Holy insightful writings. You truly have a gift. Thanks for sharing it. I will take to heart all that you speak of here in this post as an extension of that CareNote…

    Fear is in every pore of my being. All five senses have been infiltrated. It governs most every action of my life. It’s roots run deep. I’m stashing cash for retirement, I’m eating all the right sorts of foods to live longer and stave off illness and disease, and I exercise regularly, keenly aware its health benefits. The list of life-actions out of fear is endless. The Chicken Little Story really brings it home – with a chilling dark ending. I’m still doing it my way, hanging on for dear life. I think at best those fear-roots have loosened though they’re not yet ready to snap and give way.

    So, I’m afraid – to let go and let God. I’m even afraid to pray for certain things, afraid of what He may ask of me. I do pray that He helps me overcome my fears. Did I mention I fear death? I’ve got trust issues. I’m working on it, not fast enough. You know, He was really on to something telling us over three hundred times in the Bible to not be afraid.

    I realize there’s nothing inherently wrong in what I’m doing in terms of saving money and taking care of myself etc. It’s just all too easy for disorder to set in if left unchecked. Imbalance. Excess. Obsession. It creeps in under the senses. And up until three years ago it was unchecked in my life. And now God has checked it and I’m trying to untie the knots. I’m trying to restore balance. I’m trying to put Christ first. I’m re-ordering the “disordered and inordinate affections.” I long for the day to be free from fear.

    I will be re-reading this post again. Thank you, Monsignor for this meditation.

    1. Michael,

      I used to be like you. I prayed for faith. Best thing I ever prayed for. Give it a try! Changed my life. Not all at once of course, but profoundly. Fear is still lurking, but it’s grip lessens with each passing day.

  2. Fear of the unknown is our greatest fear. That’s why we moderns have subscribed to all kinds of insurances and retirement funds and what nots that will provide in the event of debilitating sickness or disasters or calamities. Yes, we are afraid of pains and sufferings to the point of accepting abortion and euthanasia that we may not experience hardships and probably laying burden to those love ones we will leave. That is because we have left GOD in the equation. We worry because HE might have forgotten us in those times when we face those situations. Will HE? ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of GOD and HIS Righteousness and all shall be added unto you’. We must hold unto this promise and be at peace or else we will go crazy just thinking of all wrong and bad possibilities that might happen in our lives, of the sky falling on us. YHWH SHAMMAH, YHWH YIREH, YHWH SHALOM.

  3. First time I recall having read that story, though I may have as a kid. The story could have begun with Foxy Loxy hiding in the tree and himself dropping the acorn on Chicken Little’s head.–and then Foxy races ahead to a point that Chicken Little must cross to get to the king. We can even fear not fearing the right thing to fear in the right way and at the right time.

  4. Trust is the key a young priest once told me. Lack of trust brings fear and a desire for control and control is an illusion. Try lexio divina, the readings for Mass, first reading, psalm and gospel. What is the theme for the day? How does this speak to YOU in your life? Pray this each morning. God will speak to you. Peace.

  5. What’s really amazing is this – if you face your fear, if you confront it, it leaves. Really. Ever since I was a child I was terrified of the dark. I was even more terrified to be alone in the house, in the dark. When I grew up, and had my first apartment alone, I remember lying paralyzed in fear hearing a noise in the living room. For hours I lay there paralyzed in fear. The next night, I heard a noise. I decided, I’m getting up, I’m turning on the light. If someone is there, at least I’ll know. If it’s nothing, I’ll know that too. It was nothing. I realized once I actually looked to see if I needed to be afraid, I realized I wasn’t.
    This was true when I was afraid of rejection of society, people I knew, if I started going back to church. I went back to church anyway. Some of them rejected me. I realized I didn’t really care. It was okay. And some didn’t. So I stayed friends with the ones that didn’t, and let the others go.
    Just as I was moving up in the organization my company was bought out. I thought, well, so what. I have skills. I think I can get another job comparable to this one if I need to. So many people were afraid. It turned out I had skills enough to be one of the few people chosen to stay on. And when I did leave (because I didn’t want to move across the country) I found a comparable position within a few weeks.
    To fear losing someone, or losing your current state of life, or losing anything, is to not trust God. He’s got you. He’s really got you. If you trust Him. Your life may be different, but different might turn out to be better!

    1. Bee bee,

      “He’s got you. He’s really got you. If you Trust Him”

      Thanks, that really helped me!

  6. Thank you for this post. Foxy loxy has tormented me for years to want to know the unknown and control everything basically to take the place of God in my life. Have suffered much anxiety and missed out on living the moment in its fullness. Now fighting and letting go, asking God for His Holy Spirit to dispel all darkness. Please remember me in your prayers.

  7. This may be a stretch, but does a person who suffers from scrupulosity have fear susceptible to manipulation from Satan, as mentioned about other fears?

  8. Give a God a chance TRUST in Him, he knows whats best for us.The only fear that one can really be afraid of is losing your soul. Trust in Him and you will not be deceived , have faith in the Father who so much loved us that He sent his only Son to save us by being crucified. Which President, CEO , Dictator, King , Monarch will sacrifice His beloved Son for his citezens???

  9. I loved this article. I’m always afraid. Terrified. Mostly of finances and “What will happen if…?”. The thing is, God has never let me down. Never. Not even once. So, I truly have no real reason to be afraid. And yet, I have a single bill looming that I can’t pay and I’ll think of it and be absolutely terrified. Shaking. I’m so afraid of the future. I know there is no “debtors prison”. However, the fear of not being able to get on top of this terrifies me. I pray all the time for courage and faith and for some kind of answer to help me. It feels like God has been quiet on the subject for so long. I’ve said novenas to St Joseph. I say the Rosary and ask the blessed Mother. But, this bill just looms over me and fills me with such dread. I don’t know how to fix it. And it’s going on so long, I worry I will never find a solution.

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