Monday, 2 April 2012
The writing on the board
Once again Father Ignatius was teaching Catechism to the 5th Form at the local Catholic School. They were discussing the Commandment about respecting one’s parents and as one would expect the youngsters had plenty to say about that.
“It’s alright to have to respect our parents,” said a young girl, “but surely they should respect us too?”
“I suppose I understand,” replied the priest reassuringly, “can you elaborate on this?”
“Well …” she hesitated, “I am fifteen years old and I don’t think I should be told what time I have to be home by …”
“What does anyone else think?” asked Father Ignatius.
“I agree …” replied another young girl, “my parents are just the same. They insist I’m at home by 9.30; can you imagine that? 9.30!!!”
“It’s their way of exerting power” said one of the boys, “my parents always think they know better …”
“That’s right …” added another lad, “my father has banned me from visiting the disco in town. It’s not fair!”
The priest let the youngsters vent their frustrations for a few minutes, and then he got up from his desk and moved towards the blackboard.
This had the desired effect of shutting them up for a while. He then picked up a piece of chalk and wrote on the board in big letters:
“IT’S NOT FAIR”
And proceeded to sit down once again.
After a few seconds silence he said in a soft voice, “I’ve heard many of you say it’s not fair just now … do you agree?”
“Yeah !!!” said one or two of them.
“I can understand that …” continued Father Ignatius, “from your perspective it may seem not fair that your parents impose certain restrictions on you. Perhaps it’s because the reasons for the restrictions have not been explained to you … but no matter for now.
“I would like if I may to explore the statement ‘It’s not fair.’ Can we do that do you think?”
They nodded in agreement. They had a lot of respect for his kind approach and the way he sympathized with their situation.
“No one has ever said that life is fair” continued the priest, “or meant to be fair even.
“What we perceive as fairness in our eyes may not be so to someone else.
“I visited a few of our parishioners in hospital yesterday. There was a young boy of twelve with an incurable illness. That’s not fair … the chances are he will not make it to his next birthday and his parents were totally distraught.
“I also met the family of a man in a coma. He had been injured in a road accident and has been unconscious ever since. No one knows when or if he will recover. The family is now short of cash and they may well lose their home. That’s not fair.
“Every other day or so, I hear of someone in our Parish being made redundant, and losing their job because of the current economic situation. They’ve done nothing wrong and they’re now on the street. That’s not fair.”
He stopped as he noticed one of the girls upfront getting a little tearful.
“What I’m trying to say …” he said gently after a short pause, “is that I sympathize entirely with you. You see your parents actions as unfair, yet perhaps you miss the point that they do what they do out of love for you. It is because they care.
“I had similar problems with my parents when I was young. My father was a farmer and as you’d expect he brought vegetables fresh from the land home for dinner. And like many a young child, I hated vegetables. Especially spinach … it looked like boiled grass!”
They laughed in unison.
“But they made me eat my vegetables … it’s not fair!”
They laughed again.
“And talking of fairness …” went on Father Ignatius, “I read that an innocent man has been falsely arrested, beaten up and tortured, and nailed to a Cross to die.
“Now that’s really not fair.
“You can read all about it in the Bible.”
He paused again to gauge the situation before continuing.
“So whilst I understand how you feel about your parents and the way they restrict you sometimes, I urge you please to accept it in obedience for the sake of Jesus who did so much for you. And still does.
“Is that a deal?” he asked with a smile.
And as always, his gentle loving empathy gained him their respect and sincere appreciation.