(I am still struggling a bit with this nasty cold. Please pray for me that I will be completely well for my next presentation, which will be Sunday, Oct. 11, at 3 p.m. at Little Carver Center 226 N. Hackberry, San Antonio, Texas. I will be glad to be back in San Antonio. My Dad was stationed at an Air Base there when my Mom got pregnant with me…so it is kind of a place of origin for me and a reason a count St. Anthony among my seven key patron saints.
In the meantime, I am glad to publish this marvelous little piece submitted by an Irish reader, Jack Doherty. It is time to be serious. -CJ)
By Jack Doherty
Growing up catholic in 1970s Northern Ireland meant that it was compulsory to attend Sunday mass.
The following story I heard while at one such mass; and you know it’s funny that I remember it – because I remember so very little about that particular phase of my life – we moved to a different parish when I was 10 years old. Anything before the age of 10 is really only snippets and flashes of memories to me; faces, places, names – that type of thing, all very happy memories…but as I say, all mere snippets.
Anyways, the chapel I went to, like all the chapels in our town – was always always packed to the rafters for every Sunday mass; 8am, 9am, 10am, 11am and 12noon. All packed-full. If you didn’t make it in early then you didn’t get a seat – and you were forced to stand with all the other late-comers (- these days’ things have changed dramatically, but that’s another story). The Long Tower chapel, pictured below, always seemed so huge and grandiose to me. And to this day it still has that aura – though 4 decades later it somehow doesn’t seem so big.
What seems strange though is exactly what I retain as my main memory of this chapel, of this era in my life. It isn’t any of its grandeur – though I do still wonder at its beauty every time I think of or enter it; it isn’t being late and having to stand at the back of the chapel through the entirety of the Mass – which at such a young age seemed like an eternity, and which always made my legs hurt; nor is it the boredom all youngsters seem to experience during mass; it’s not the memory of my first communion day; nor my confirmation day; no, it wasn’t even the black and white photographs of my parents wedding day – that took place in this very same chapel, and which hung on our living room wall. You know, all this actually seems even stranger now that I’m trying to write it down.
The memory that I speak of is actually ‘a sermon’ – given by a priest. Course, I can’t remember his name. But why is remembering a sermon so strange? Well, I suppose it’s odd on a couple of levels: firstly, because I was perhaps only about 6, 7 or 8 years old when I heard it; and second, because I really can’t recall a more insightful sermon since. To this day I often think why I remember this particular sermon. I can guess. But I don’t know for sure.
If you will, I’d like to share that sermon with you, today.
The priest began that Sunday morning by giving his parishioners a scenario: he began by stating that ‘the devil was troubled’. He told us that the devil was troubled because the people of the earth were turning to God – and hell was losing its war. In response therefore, the devil had called a high-level meeting of his greatest, most experienced and most promising demons.
At this meeting he had asked for ideas that might help resolve this most pressing issue – and consequently turn people back to good-oul-evil-doing.
There was much jostling among the demons, the priest said. Shrieks and shrills as they clamoured to convey their ideas. The devil however demanded order. Several hands were quickly raised and Satan duly heard the ideas of his enthusiastic charges.
The first to speak was a young boisterous and fearsome demon: he stood up and snarled his terribleness – telling Satan that he would go to the people of the earth and appear before them that they might see and fear his loathsome power. But Satan, unimpressed, waved the youngster down.
“Do you not think that the sight of you would turn the people ever more toward God?” Another demon suggested that they send an army of the most evil-demons hell could summon, and that they march in full view of the peoples of the earth – thus forcing them to serve! But again, Satan dismissed this notion as counter-productive. More and more of this similar bravado came from the clueless demons of hell. All dismissed by their evil master.
Then, something unusual happened in hell. The demons fell silent. Satan was furious. He roared and insulted his demons. All heads bowed in shame. A tirade of obscenity washed the silence from the underworld as Satan vented. Then, out of the corner of an eye, Satan caught an old, decrepit and wary looking demon at the back of the room, with his hand half-raised and he staring passively back at Satan.
“YOU THERE!!” Roared the father of lies, “WHAT SAY YOU!?!”
This old demon was different from the others. As he spoke Satan sized him up. The father of lies could tell this one was a thinker. When hush had again descended Satan asked this old fella as to what he might do to turn the tide in the spiritual battle for souls. The old demon coyly answered, “Tell them there is plenty of time…”
The other demons laughed and roared gregariously. But Satan shushed his court and asked forclarification. The old demon went on to explain that if the people were sold the lie that there is ‘plenty of time’ …then it stands to reason that they will be fooled into thinking that they can do tomorrow what must done today. He continued, “tell them that they can start that diet tomorrow…. for there is plenty of time. Tell them that they can give up the cigarette next Monday….for there is plenty of time. Moreover, tell them that they can go to church next Sunday – instead of this, for as you and I know my dear Satan….there is not plenty of time!
It seemed kind of ironic to me that since my relatively recent return to the faith I would stumble across another inspiring sermon related to time. And without going into the details, the crux of it is – that God uses time to heal us; to calm us; and to lead us back to the right path. It is apparent to me that time is a very potent thing. We do well to use it wisely.