The story goes that when the cathedral of Milan was being built, a sculptor was working diligently on a statue. A passerby, astonished at the meticulousness of the sculptor, reasoned within himself that he must be working on the main statue inside the Church and it will be placed in a very prominent place. To make sure, he asked the sculptor. The answer was unexpected. “This statue will be placed there, up there, on top of the church!” It would be hardly visible to the naked eye of anyone walking by the Church. “So, why are you being so fussy? The details are not so critical. Who will see it from down here?”
“I don’t care who sees it from down here”, was the stark reply. “What is important is who sees it from up there!”
We would really save ourselves a lot of anxiety if we were to put it in our head that what is important in life is not what people think of us but what He thinks of us! Very often people are awfully negative. But He is always positive about us. He thinks well of us. Very well, indeed.
One of my Carmelite brothers constantly used to remind me what C.S. Lewis once wrote: “If you do things for God, He will always remember it. But if you do things for people, the probabilities are that neither God nor the people would ever remember it!” I was twenty years old then. More than forty years later, I really value its acumen.
A young girl became pregnant. After a lot of beating, she revealed who fathered the child: it was the saintly man who used to live on the outskirts of the village. All the villagers marched towards this man’s gazebo, stopped him abruptly from his prayers and whilst handing him the baby, told him: “You should be ashamed of yourself! Your holiness is fake! Take this child – you brought it into the world, now you take care of it!”
The only reply this saintly man gave was: “Very well, very well.”
Obviously his reputation was ruined. All the disciples left him. He had to work harder to earn a living for himself and for the baby. After two years, a sudden twist in the story.
The child’s mother could not bear it any more and she confessed that she had lied; the child’s father was not the holy man at the outskirts of the village, but the young adult next door. The villagers were stunned. Embarrassed, they went back to the holy man, asked pardon and told him to give them back the child so they would take care of it themselves.
The only reply that came from the holy man, whilst giving them back the child was: “Very well, very well.”
An enlightened man. A man truly alive!
On the door of one of our rooms in the Carmelite house, there is a sentence artistically written on the wall, which says.
“I am no better if I am praised,
I am no worse if I am criticised…”
This may be a formula for better living. It has been a key factor in my dealings with people all along!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.