Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Deal

There are times that whatever Father Ignatius says or advises is sure to be misinterpreted or misunderstood. Yet, his duty as a priest and guide to his flock is to teach them, as best he can, about God our Creator and His unrelenting love for us.

One day he entered the church from the Sacristy and saw an elderly lady kneeling in the middle aisle right at the back of the church. He said nothing and proceeded to the Altar where he took away the candlesticks back to the Sacristy for Mrs Davenport to clean.

A few moments later he re-entered the church to find the same old lady still on her knees but a few paces further forward towards the Altar. He approached her gently. He hadn’t seen her before in church.

“Welcome to our church” he said in his soothing kind voice, “you’re new here … I haven’t seen you visiting us before …”

“I can’t get up Father …” she said looking up at him from her kneeling position.

“Are you in pain?” he asked, “Do you wish me to help you up?

“Oh no Father … I’m able to get up … but I can’t … I don’t want to upset God.”

“I’m sure God will not be upset if you have a rest for a while …” said Father Ignatius comforting her, “here … sit down for a while … and tell me all about it.”

He held out his hand and the elderly lady got up with some difficulty and sat down on the nearest pew. He sat down beside her and asked, “Why did you think God would be upset?”

“Well Father …” she hesitated, “my son is fifty years old, and he’s just lost his job … he has a wife and three children to look after … he won’t find another job at his age … not in the current situation. So I said to God that I’d pray the whole Rosary on my knees … walking one step at a time … from the back of the church to His altar. Then I’d do the Stations of the Cross on my knees … so that He would help my son get a job.”

Father Ignatius was touched by the love of this elderly mother for her son. He smiled gently and said “It’s good of you to pray for your son … it shows how much you love him and his family …

“But God does not want you to walk all around the church on your knees.”

“I’d do anything Father …” she said, “tell me what to do … and I’ll do it no matter how much it hurts me …”

“God does not want you to be hurt …” replied the priest gently, “God loves us and He listens to our prayers as long as they’re honest and come from the heart …

“He does not want us to beg like dogs … He does not want to humiliate us and make us lose our dignity …"

He stopped for a while and then continued.

“Humiliation and loss of dignity is the work of humans. See how we humiliated Jesus when we stripped Him of His clothes, we spat on Him, beat Him and mocked Him; and eventually killed Him most cruelly by nailing Him to the Cross.

“The Stations of the Cross are a reminder of how we humiliated Him and took His dignity away. And we still do so today when we hurt and hate one another instead of loving each other as He commanded.

“God does not want you to walk around in pain on your knees … He listens to your prayers no matter how or where they are said. Even sitting at home just say to Him in your own words how you care for your son and his family … ask God to help them. I’m sure He’ll listen and … in His own way and time … He will respond.”

“But I promised to do the Stations of the Cross on my knees …” she protested.

“Hey … trust me …I’m a priest …” Father Ignatius said with a smile, “I’ll pray to God for you and your family … Believe me, you don’t need to go down walking on your knees. Just sit here for a while and say a little prayer.”

“I’ll do that Father …” she said as the priest got up to go back to the Sacristy, “although I might stay on my knees for fifteen minutes to show God I’m willing …”

4 comments:

  1. Victor,

    Your posts certainly make me think! I read this one earlier and have been musing on it. This evening I am reading a book by Fenelon (on Mary's recommendation!) I just came across this passage and thought I might share it with you:

    "... The saints find Him in heaven, in the splendours of glory and in unspeakable pleasures; but it is only after having dwelt with Him on earth in reproaches, in pain and in humiliation. To be a Christian is to be an imitator of Jesus Christ. In what can we imitate Him, if not in His humiliation? Nothing else can bring us near to Him. We may adore Him as Omnipotent, fear Him as just, love Him with all our heart as good and merciful, - but we can only imitate him as humble. submissive, poor and despised." This is thought provoking, isn't it?

    I'm off to think some more about the value of humiliation!

    God bless you, Victor!

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  2. Hi Sue,

    Thanx for this lovely passage from Fenelon. It certainly makes one think.

    Views on suffering and humiliations have certainly changed over the years. Time was when people wore sackcloth and ashes, walked in church on their knees (as the woman in my story), and underwent all sorts of pain and humiliation for our Lord.

    I know of a woman who, in desperation to have a child, promised God that if she had a boy she will kae him become a priest. She did have a boy, and to his great credit he obeyed his mother and became a priest.

    Did God really want or demand that? Is God a bargaining master who demands payments and deals for every favor we ask?

    I could never understand such acts of devotions and painful humiliation like the old woman with Father Ignatius in my story that. I've discussed these issues with many priests.

    I'm told that God does not want to humiliate us, does not want to see us beg like dogs for the crumbs of His love and mercy, and He certainly does not want us to suffer pain (self-inflicted or otherwise) in exchange for his favours.

    A loving parent like you and I would not wish that of our children. Why would our loving Father in Heaven wish that of us?

    True, people did, and still do, make great sacrifices for God, sometimes as punishment to redeem their sins, and sometimes in order to gain His favors. But does He real want or need that, in the sense that is He in any way diminished or found wanting without our sacrifices, without our lit candles and without our flowers offerings?

    God wants nothing from us except our love for Him and our love for one another.

    Yet we do these things. I have lit and continue to light many candles. Why? A sign of devotion perhaps. A sign of respect. A sign of love.

    I understand from the last sentence of Fenelon that we imitate Christ in our humility, submissiveness and poverty; and our being despised by others for being Christ's followers.

    That is true and that is good in the eyes of God.

    Not self-inflicted humiliation and pain like the woman in my story. She did it out of love. God did not expect it or demand it in return for His blessings.

    God bless you and yours.

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  3. Sometimes the Holy Spirit inspires a person to do something like the elderly lady in your story. If we do something like that to make reparation for our sins or for the welfare of others, we must always do it in the spirit of submission to His will. God isn't some vending machine that if we put in a certain amount of sacrifice the candy (desired outcome) falls out. In all, it's better to be obedient under a spiritual director before ruining our knees on a rough floor. If the spiritual director says yes, we can do it. God is looking at our intentions.

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  4. You're so right Barb. Many people see God as a vending machine who will respond to the number of prayers we say or the number of candles we light.

    God bless you.

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