Thanks to cable and the ever-interesting Discovery Channel, I now know what I do not want to be like when I grow up.

The lammergeyer (pronounced LAM-mer-guy-er, as if you would ever want to use it in polite conversation!) is a bearded vulture that lives in high altitudes and has a peculiar preying habit. It breaks bones of hard-shelled turtles by dropping them on rocks from high in the air and then sucking out the marrow.

Lammergeyers get their name from a combination of lamb and geyer (vulture), because lamb bone is one of their favorite delicacies. They have wingspans of up to four feet and nest in caves mostly in central Asia. Although they also consume lizards and other small animals, they live to scavenge lambs that have been savaged by other carnivores, leaving behind the bones alone.

After grabbing a lamb femur, say, firmly in its talons, the lammergeyer will soar to great height and release the bone precisely like a guided missile onto the perfectly positioned rock slab. The shattered bone then yields a tasty marrow meal. It takes some seven years of practice for the lammergeyer to get proficient at this aerial attack.

Human lesson: If you’re going to spend your life practicing at something, consider how to put life into people rather than sucking it out of them. You either learn to prey upon people in order to appease your own appetite, or you learn to pray for people in order to feed their souls.

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, says St. Paul (Eph. 4:29), but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.

Lammergeyer living steals body and soul from those around us. Lammergeyer politicians have no creative policies to offer; they only know how to criticize opponents. Lammergeyer parents beat down the selfhood of a child, in order to maintain control over them. Lammergeyer preachers know how to raise hell more easily than bring heaven into view. Lammergeyer businesspeople are always on the lookout for weakness to exploit in competition, instead of building their own company through better products or service. Lammergeyer school administrators are more interested in district policies than educating children. The list goes on.

When communities get sick, a diagnosis of lammergeyerism is likely. When communities are healthy, human versions of these birds of prey are near extinction.

People of faith do not need to go hunting for lammergeyers to rid the world of them, lest in doing so they become like them unawares. Instead, feed and protect the lambs, intentionally becoming more like the Good Shepherd who cares for the sheep.