A DISCONCERTING REAPPEARANCE

Once upon a time a young man who had been reported killed in action came home from a prisoner of war camp. His family and his buddies and even his girlfriend had mourned him as dead and then more or less got over their grief.

His sudden reappearance was disconcerting, to say the least. They had all loved him, but they had in effect written him out of their lives. His girlfriend was engaged to marry someone else. Moreover, he didn’t seem like the boy who had gone off to war. He was thin and haggard and haunted.

However, he was now mature, self-possessed, and, astonishingly, happy. He hadn’t smiled much as a kid and rarely joked. Now he was witty and ebullient all the time. A quiet kid had become an outgoing adult man. He didn’t fit in the patterns of relationships he had left behind. Quite the contrary, his happiness and maturity were unsettling. He congratulated his former girlfriend on her coming marriage and shook hands cordially with the fiancé. There’s something wrong with him, everyone said. His family went to the priest. There sure is, the priest said – he has risen from the dead and now acts like a saint.

Source: Andrew M. Greeley, April 20, 2003
www.agreeley.com

CONSIDER THIS

  • “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26
  • “What requires courage is being willing to disappoint and upset all those friends and family members who want us to stay the way we are, because they want to stay the way they are. It’s being prepared to redefine success and failure, and to become a fool if need be. At heart it’s being willing to receive information from the darkness within, so there can be less of us that is buried, and more of us resurrected.”  -David Weale

THE PRAYER OF THE FROG

THE PRAYER OF THE FROG

Brother Bruno was saying his prayers, but he could hear frogs vying with each other by the intensity of their croaking. He tried to concentrate on his crucifix. In an attempt to drown out the racket he recited his prayers aloud, in an increasingly loud voice, but it was useless. The obsessive croaking of the frogs was upsetting his concentration as he was praying. He exclaimed, “Silence! I am praying!”

He was a saint and his orders inspired respect. At once, nature became silent, just as a fire goes out; and complete silence reigned over the marsh. Brother Bruno noted from his window that the toads had stopped croaking, that the herons’ beaks were closed, and the flies that remained quite still on the reeds no longer dared to buzz in a wind that had fallen silent.

Contented, he returned to his prayers. But another voice was heard an inner voice. This small voice said to him: “And what if God derived greater pleasure in the croaking of the frogs than in the chanting of your psalms?”

Shocked, the saint replied, “But what can God find so pleasurable in the croaking of a frog? And what’s more, at full volume… Why did God invent noise?”

Saint Bruno returned to his window and allowed nature to resume its course. The insects and frogs filled the silence of the night with their subdued rhythm. Bruno listened to this chant, no longer resisting it, and at once his heart beat in accord with the universe.

From that day on he prayed ceaselessly; his days passed in continuous prayer. He was constantly reminded of God by the croaking of the frogs.

Source: Nathalie Leone, Christian Stories of Wisdom,
(Black Dog & Leventhal, 2016) page 166.
First published in France under the title Contes des sages chrétiens
by Nathalie Leone, Le Seuil, 2005.

CONSIDER THIS

Stop resisting. Reframe. Try a different  angle, a minor shift in perspective.

In the new frame the croaking frog was no longer an interruption. In the moment of finally listening to the language of the world around him, Bruno learned for the first time in his life what it really meant to pray. Letting go of his quest for silence, Bruno found a deeper prayer in the noises and the sounds of the world around him.

BACK TO LIFE

A widow’s husband was about to be buried. Family, relatives and friends gathered at the funeral home for the wake.

When the pallbearers were carrying the casket out of the funeral parlour, they accidentally bumped it against the exit door, and lo and behold the man came back to life.

Some years later the husband died again.  This time, following the prayers at the mortuary, the widow looked at the pallbearers, as they were bringing the casket out, and said to them, “Go slow and pay attention. Please, make sure you don’t hit the door again!”

Source: Unknown

CONSIDER THIS

Monk and author Thomas Merton once said that in considering any important decision in life, and certainly in considering our priorities in life, it’s imperative to “consult our death.”

Remembering that we all have an expiration date can help us live our lives to the fullest.

THE LEGEND OF HELIOPHER

Once upon a time there was a people that was lost in a great, dark forest. The trees stood so close together that the light of the sun could not penetrate the thickly entwined branches. There were also numerous wild animals which fell upon the people, especially the children when they wandered too far from their parents while they were playing. So everyone lived in constant fear of death and destruction, and a hopeless despair took hold of the hearts of the folk.

Continuous darkness had strangled all the light in their hearts. They could not love one another any more. They even hated and murdered one another in their rage. Yet they were forced to remain together, for it was impossible for any single man to defend himself against the attacks of the wild beasts. They had lost all hope of ever finding their way out of the forest. Many of the young people refused to believe in the light they had never seen, and they mocked their elders, when, with a last weak light gleaming in their dim eyes, they recounted tales of the festive, sunny days of their youth.

Among the people, however, there was a young man called Heliopher. He was very much alone, grieving over the misery of his people and seeking a way of salvation. He bore in his heart an endless longing for light and love in the desolation which surrounded him. Heliopher left his people to seek the sun. For many months and years he wandered through the dangers of the forest and of his own soul, and often, very often, nearly lost all hope and confidence. But Heliopher bravely withstood his enemies, whether within himself or around him, and at last he reached the edge of the forest and saw the light of the sun. In terrible amazement he fell into a swoon, and when he awoke he saw in the twilight that he was watched over in his slumber by beautiful people. In the green meadows stood the simple huts of the sun-people, and Heliopher lived with them in peace and endless joy as the most beloved amongst them.

Then Heliopher went back to the forest to seek his people. “Come, brothers and sisters,” he said to them, “I will lead you to the light.” At this there was murmuring and frowning, wavering and hesitation, wonder and questioning, incredulous laughter, and finally a jubilant “Yes!” And then, at last, the longed-for departure.

Then the light of the sun shone in Heliopher’s eyes, but the way was long and difficult, and demanded much suffering and sacrifice, and murmuring arose among the people. Some spoke and said, “Let us murder him, the betrayer of the people!” And the dark glow of hatred was in their eyes. Others were wiser and said, “No! Let us judge him in the presence of all, for it is dangerous to give the people a martyr.” And Heliopher spoke to his people, and talked about light and love. But the wise ones answered, “You lie! There is no light, there is no sun, there is no love. Let us be darker than the forest and more cruel than the wild beasts. Then we shall be masters of the forest!”

Heliopher answered in great pain, “O believe not, ye wise men, that ye can be victorious over darkness by being more dark, that ye can overcome the wild beasts by being more beastly. Only love is stronger. Only the light of the sun can drive away darkness.”

“Be silent!” said the wise men. “There is no light, there is no sun!”

And the people shouted, flinging their arms about in raging despair, “There is no light, there is no sun!”

But Heliopher called out, “Follow me!” And with his nails he tore open his breast, and his heart burned with love, and it glowed and shed its beams through the dark forest. Then he took it in both hands, held it high over his head, and strode forth in front of the people.

In reverent wonder and silence the multitude followed the burning heart.

And the people went in jubilation toward the sun and danced in its loving rays, and they loved one another. But Heliopher knelt down at the edge of the forest, and with the last strength of his outstretched arms he held up his loving, pulsing heart to the light of heaven, and gave his last smile to his people.

Source: First published in Plough’s Winter 1938 issue
based on Maxim Gorky’s story
“The Flaming Heart of Danko.”

CONSIDER THIS

“I wish each of us Easter eyes, able to perceive in death, life; in guilt, forgiveness; in separation, unity; in wounds, glory; in the human, God; in God, the human; and in the I, the You.” – Bishop Klaus Hemmerle

THE BOAT RACE

There was a great race between a team of the wise and a team of the foolish. The wise people won by a mile. So the foolish people hired a expert to figure out what went wrong. He reported that the wise people had one person steering and eight people rowing, while they had eight people steering and only one person rowing.

“Aha,” said the foolish people who immediately restructured their team: Now they had one senior manager, seven management consultants, and  one rower. In the rematch, the wise people won by two miles!

After further intensive consultations, the foolish people fired their rower!

Source: unknown origin

CONSIDER THIS

In the above story reality was staring the  team of the foolish in the face, but they just couldn’t see it. The fully lived life is all about seeing, seeing differently, seeing things as they really are.  It has been said that “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

HOW THIRSTY ARE YOU?

 

A young couple on their honeymoon were visiting a little town outside the main city. It was a very conservative, hard-shell Baptist kind of place: No drinking and no dancing!

It was a ritual for these two, to enjoy a single-malt scotch whenever they were together! So the very first thing they craved was a scotch, to kick off the celebrations. They asked the first person they met – a total stranger –  where they might get a drink.

“In this town,” the stranger said “we use whiskey only for snakebite: to wash and clean the wound. Here whisky is simply used as a first aid. Nothing more and nothing less.” Then he added slyly, “If you guys are so thirsty for whiskey, there’s only one poisonous snake here and it’s in the zoo. So you better hurry, get a ticket to the zoo, go to the snake park, get hold of the one and only cobra through the iron bar of its cage and give it a big hug! The zoo keeper will appear immediately with whisky.”

Source: As remembered, reimagined, and retold by Philip Chircop SJ

CONSIDER THIS

  • As a deer longs for flowing streams,  so my soul longs for you, O God. -Psalm 42:1
  • How thirsty are you? What are you willing to do to quench your thirst?
  • Kabir, the 15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint, said: “I laughed when I heard them say the fish in the ocean is thirsty.”  Are you aware that you already dwell in the ocean that can quench all your thirst?

 

 

THE DOG WHO WALKED ON WATER

A man took his new hunting dog on a trial hunt one day.  After a while he managed to shoot a duck and it fell in the lake.  The dog walked over the water, picked up the duck, and brought it to his master.

The man was stunned.  He didn’t know what to think.  He shot another duck and again, it fell into the lake and again the dog walked over the water and brought it back to his master.

Hardly daring to believe his eyes, and not wanting to be thought a total fool, he told no-one about it – but the next day he called his neighbour to come shooting with him.  As on the previous day he shot a duck and it fell into the lake.  The dog walked over the water and got it.

His neighbour didn’t say a word.  Several more ducks got shot that day – and each time the dog walked over the water to retrieve them – and each time the neighbour said nothing and neither did the owner of the dog.

Finally – unable to contain himself any longer the owner asked his neighbour – “do you notice anything strange about my dog?”

Yes – replied the neighbour – rubbing his chin and thinking a bit – come to think of it I do – your dog doesn’t know how to swim.”

Source: Robert Johnson, A Sermon A Day
Volume 2 (page 61)

___________________

TWO GUYS HUNTING – Here’s a different version of the same story

These two guys used to go hunting with each other. One was positive and one was negative, every time.

The positive guy discovered something he didn’t feel the negative guy could complain about. He discovered a bird dog that could walk on water.

They were having a great day. They hit a duck. It landed in the water. The dog walked on water to pick up the duck and brought it back. The positive guy was smiling and the negative guy was frowning.

They hit a second duck. The dog walked on water out to the duck and brought it back. The positive guy was grinning like a gopher in soft dirt while the negative guy was cold and sour.

After they hit the third duck and the dog walked on water to retrieve it, the positive guy looked at the negative guy and said, “Haven’t you noticed anything about my new dog?” The negative guy said, “I have only noticed one thing. Your dog can’t swim!”

CONSIDER THIS

  • Point: Everything in life is the way you look at it.
  • Have you ever missed the point? The neighbour or the hunter with a negative outlook on life, missed the point completely. He couldn’t see the wonder of a dog that could walk on water; he could only see that the dog didn’t do what other hunting dogs do to retrieve ducks – that is to swim.
  • How do you react or respond when you experience something that  is outside your normal frame of reference?