Life is made of relationships and sometimes
these relationships can be very thorny. If
we learn to live through them, then our life
will be serene. Otherwise we shall suffer
and make others suffer. Just recently I came
across a couple of stories which helped me
A priest wanted to approach one of the choir
members to dissuade her from singing in the
church. She was a good nice woman, but she
had, what could most charitably be described,
as a grating voice. Many in Church complained
- this seems to be the area of expertise
of some Church goers - and he himself bit
his lip every time she belted out the lyrics.
One day this woman approached the priest
and asked him over for dinner. The pastor
decided it was a golden opportunity to softly
break the news to her that perhaps music
was not her mission. He had to do something.
It was a constant sore thumb.
They had dinner and before he could approach
her about her singing, this woman, a widow,
explained her story to him. She described
how she had been married to a good man, but
one who had forbidden her from her great
love: singing. He had not allowed her to
sing anywhere near him, and perhaps nowhere,
period. For years, she had to suppress the
great pleasure she took in music. He had
died relatively recently, and while she had
obviously mourned that loss, at the same
time, she told the priest, she had experienced
a tremendous sense of release in that she
was finally able to sing!
How could the pastor now say a word? How
was he now to fire her as a cantor? And he
didn't. Now he knew her story.
As it turned out, when the next pastor did
fire her, there was such an outpouring of
complaints from the congregation that he
had to beg her to come back.
What a lesson! How important it is to take
the time to "know the other person's
story". How important to understand
why those who bother us are the way that
they are because of a past suffering which
still conditions them.
When we do know the details, then we shall
understanding and if we understand, then
we perhaps we shall start loving again. Look
at God. He knows the detail of every single
aspect of our lives …. and look at how much
He loves us!
Many were complaining that this priest was
too slow in saying mass. Sometimes, it was
forty minutes or more before his weekday
Mass ended, setting those who were on the
way to work into a bit of frenzy.
He was extremely deliberate and devout and
respectful, but the slowness during the liturgy
was a source of irritation -- until the other
day, when he explained his story.
It seems that when this priest was a young
man, he had a bad stutter. For years, his
mother helped him with it -- always telling
him not to speak too fast. It was when he
tried to hurry along, he recalled, that he
Now that they "knew his story,"
how could anyone complain? And how can we
ever complain, about anyone, until we know
that person's story? To this day, explained
the priest, if he moves along too quickly,
the stutter will return.
Step back and look at the HEART of the person
who is speaking to you.
I know a woman who suffered from terrible
tantrums. She was a living mine. It was enough
that someone slightly stepped on her toes
that she would literally explode. Shouting
or crying hysterically.
I was asked to speak with her and see whether
I could help because the situation at work
and at home was becoming really bad. She
also told me her story. And I was shocked
and understood. Her father apparently had
abused her for many many years. She tried
to tell her mum but her mum sided with her
husband and this poor girl was left alone
to face this terrible tragedy. She did survive,
but the deep emotional abrasion inside her
obviously were deeply ingrained in her. No
one knew and evidently she could not go around
parading her past. She had to carry this
terrible skeleton in her cupboard. And suffer
When I learnt this story, I never judged
her any more. I started loving her even in
I became Provincial of the Discalced Carmelite
Fathers when I was only 33 years old. I was
very young and naïve. I had no experience.
Being a major superior was a very challenging
enterprise to me. The day after I was elected,
I got a phone call from an old priest who
after congratulating me, told me something
which I will always remember.
He said, "Remember, Father Pius, that
behind every person whom you meet, behind
every priest whom you govern as superior,
there is a history which you do not know.
Tread carefully…." What wisdom!
Abba was asked to say a word. He closed his
eyes tightly and said, 'Treat others always
with compassion…' He did not say anything
else, because perhaps he knew that he had
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
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