The Four Letter Word

While I was preparing a lesson for the baptism class in my parish here in Canada, I came across this story that I found rather amusing. When Saint Patrick in the middle of the fifth century was baptizing King Aengus, he leaned on his sharp-pointed staff and inadvertently stabbed the king’s foot. When Saint Patrick looked down at all the blood and realized what he had done, he asked the king why did he suffer this pain in silence. “Oh! I thought it was part of the ritual,” answered the king with utmost simplicity

Well, thanks be to God it is not! Christianity is not a torture but a beautiful way that God invented for us to live happily. The secret is the four letter word, love. Frederick Buechner, a well-known inspirational writer, outlines impressively the four different kinds of love that exist in this world.

“The love for equals is a human thing – of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what loves and lovely. The world smiles.

The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing – the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, and the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.

The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing – to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints.

And then there is the love for the enemy – love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.”

It all starts and finishes in God. “By loving the unlovable, You made me lovable”, Saint Augustine said of God. Loving us, God makes us like Him.

Mother Teresa always told the story of when she went to a poor family to give them a bag of rice. They had barely eaten for days. The eyes of the children were hollow. Their bodies were emaciated. This bag of rice was a big treasure for them. Yet, as soon as the woman had the rice in her hands, she emptied half of it in another bag and went out. Mother asked her where she is going. And the woman casually answered, “Our neighbors did not have anything to eat for the last week; they can make good use of this rice!”

A beautiful girl from Saipan once gave me this. I do not know where she got it from, but it surely makes sense.

One day a young man was standing in the middle of the town proclaiming that he had the most beautiful heart in the whole town. His heart was perfect, no marks or flaws. It was well rounded and pleasing to the eye.

But then an old man appeared and meekly asserted that perhaps the beauty of the heart cannot be measured by its flawlessness but by its scars! The heart of the old man was still beating strongly, but it was full of abrasion and scratches. It had places where parts had been pulled out and replaced by other bits, but they did not fit quite right and so there were several jagged edges. There were even deep gashes where whole pieces were missing.

The crowd did not understand. They never do! How can a heart full of scars and tears be more beautiful than a heart that is perfect and complete?

The old man did not know whether he should explain or not. But since the young man insisted, he decided to comply. “You see, every scar represents a person whom I loved – I tore out a piece of my heart and gave it to them, and often they give me back a piece of their heart to blend in into the empty place in my heart, but because the pieces were not exact, I have some rough edges. These I cherish, because they remind me of the love we shared.

Sometimes I have given pieces of my heart away, and the other person did not return a piece of his heart to me. These are the empty gouges – giving love is always a risk. Although these gouges are painful, I prefer to leave them open, because they remind me of the love I have for these people too, and who knows, perhaps one day they may return and fill the gap I have…”

Everyone was silent. Many did not understand and thought that this old man was eccentric. Some understood and had tears of gratitude in their eyes.

A small girl arrived home very late. ‘Where have you been?” scolded the mother. “I’m sorry, mum. I know I am late, but Jane broke her doll and I had to stop and help her fix it.” “And how could you help her fix that broken doll?” The answer of the small girl is priceless, “I really couldn’t, but I sat down near her and cried with her!”

I know… God many times does the same. He just sits near me and cries with me! If only we can learn from Him?!


(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.