Going through the clutter which has accumulated
on my computer, I came across a file called
'Precious Tidbits'. Wondering what could
be so valuable to bother saving with such
a pretentious tag, I opened it. It was a
hodgepodge of stories and quotes which were
quite … stunning!
First, there were two divergent stories -
on one hand, a mother of a saint who understood
the secret of life and, on the other hand,
five ill-advised teenage girls who destroyed
their lives needlessly.
First story. By the year 1835 John Bosco
was already a young man. He had studied intensely
and worked hard, he had made many friends.
Now, twenty years old, he makes his most
important step forward. He enters the seminary.
On June 5, 1841, the Archbishop of Turin
puts his hands on the head of John Bosco
and invokes the Holy Spirit. John Bosco is
consecrated a priest for ever. A few minutes
later, John begins his first mass. Now he
is Don Bosco.
That same night, his mother Margarita tells
him in confidence, "Now you have become
a priest and so you are nearer to Jesus.
I have not read your books, but I can tell
you something which you should remember always.
Saying mass means more than just a rite.
It means that now you have begun to suffer
for others! From now on, consider only the
salvation of souls. Do not worry about me..."
This story is in stark contrast with a news
item which appeared in a magazine and which
I transcribed on my computer, because it
shocked me. In Tokyo, five teenage girls,
14-15 years, decided to commit a collective
suicide. After inhaling from some kind of
solvent liquid, they jumped from a five storey
building. Only one survived and she declared,
"We wanted to show ourselves that we
were not afraid of dying! We were high on
drugs!" What a stupid waste of life…
We have only one life. We can beautify it
or we can simply ruin it. It looks so obvious,
but the truth is that we simply cannot make
it on our own. Left to our devices, we can
easily mess it up. We are so afraid. The
Arabs tells the story of a spy who had been
captured and sentenced to death by a general
of the Persian army. The general had a strange
custom. He permitted the condemned person
to make a choice. He could either face a
firing squad or pass through a big black
As the moment of execution drew near, the
general ordered the spy brought before him
for a short, final interview, the primary
purpose of which was to receive the answer
to the query: "Which shall it be...
the firing squad or the big black door?"
This was not an easy question, and the prisoner
hesitated, but made it known that he much
preferred the firing squad. Not long after,
a volley of shots in the courtyard announced
that the grim sentence had been fulfilled.
The general, staring at his boots, turned
to his aide and said, "You see how it
is with men: they always prefer the known
way to the unknown. It is characteristic
of people to be afraid of the undefined.
And yet we gave him his choice."
"What lies beyond the big black door?"
asked the aide. "Freedom," replied
bleakly the general, "and I've known
only a few men brave enough to take it."
Freedom scares us because we are so afraid
of risk. We prefer a boring, dreary sheltered
life to a liberating precarious adventure.
We truly need the Holy Spirit; He can teach
us a trick or two about risking!
A scholastic philosopher of the name
once wrote, "I am a big devotee
Holy Spirit for three reasons. First
because He consoles me when all hope
before my eyes. Secondly, because He
warrior who never lost any battle and
He is full of love. And thirdly because
was through Him that the Virgin conceived
the Redeemer of the world and hence
him my salvation."
Saint Teresa even goes one step further
her famous bookmark and daringly affirms,
"Let nothing disturb you, Let
frighten you, All things are passing,
Alone is changeless, Patience wins
Who has God, wants nothing. God Alone
Hugh of Saint Victor was a prominent medieval
theologian and mystical writer on the turn
of the eleventh century. His disciple wrote
an anecdote on his death which always struck
me deeply. "On the eve of his departure,
I went in his room to see him. The moment
he saw me, he asked me whether we were alone.
When I answered yes, he added, "Have
you celebrated Mass today? Have you received
Holy Communion?" "Of course,"
I answered. "Then, come near me and
breath on my face so that I can receive the
Holy Spirit!" Then, seized in his last
gasps of agony, he started repeating in a
voice hardly discernable, "I got Him
now, I got Him now, I got Him now…. He will
take my soul home!" What an adventure!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
hereby granted for any non-commercial
provided that the content is unaltered
its original state, if this copyright