Monday, 23 November 2009
You are invited ...
It is said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. At least that was the opinion of the Bishop when he decided to invite a number of priests from his Diocese to a Teamwork Seminar led by a prominent firm of Management Consultants.
Father Ignatius sat at his desk and read the same letter for the fifth time. He had hoped it was addressed to someone else. Father Donald maybe, Mrs Davenport the housekeeper, or even Canis the dog sleeping happily in the corner.
But alas no … it was addressed to him alright.
Here was a command from the Bishop to attend a seminar run at a Monastery some miles away. For a summons indeed it was, despite the polite “You are invited” blurb in the opening paragraph.
You can’t easily decline an invitation like this, since by doing so it implies that you do not agree with the boss that you are indeed in need of Teamwork training – whatever that is.
So Father Ignatius decided to do the next best thing. He would appeal to a Higher Authority. For days he prayed that the seminar might be cancelled, or that some other urgent appointment may force him to pull out at the last minute, or anything, just anything might happen to avoid his attendance. But it seems that God agreed with the Bishop on this one and nothing happened to excuse Father Ignatius from attending the seminar.
Reluctantly, he drove to the Monastery that day and met there thirty or so other priests from the Diocese in need of the same improvement opportunities that the seminar might provide. He was pleased of course to meet some old friends and catch up on old news, and make the acquaintance of new priests he’d not met before.
As for the seminar … well … it was led by three young Management Consultants who used every cliché in the book to spout various platitudes and truisms one could not really disagree with. The course attendees were made to discuss their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. They were asked to identify positive and negative traits in themselves. And to undertake various banal exercises and debates leading to nowhere.
Father Ignatius is nothing but polite and co-operative so he took part in the various tasks without question. “No point being churlish about it,” he thought to himself.
At one stage the priests were divided into small groups of five and asked to consider a scenario where they were driving through the desert and their vehicle had broken down. They had to decide whether to stay with the vehicle in the hope of being rescued, or whether they should move on and attempt to find shelter from the unforgiving sun. They also had to decide which five items to take with them if they moved away from the vehicle.
Some priests wanted to take binoculars with them; others preferred the knife and map, whereas a couple insisted on taking the bottle of water, the umbrella and the blanket.
The young consultant managing the exercise noticed that Father Ignatius was rather quiet and asked him, “What would you take with you Father if you moved on?”
After a few moments of consideration Father Ignatius replied, “the door off the vehicle.”
Rather puzzled the consultant enquired, “the door … whatever for?”
“If it gets too hot, I can always open the window,” replied the priest.
A few days later whilst enjoying his breakfast Father Ignatius received a greetings card from Father Simon, a priest he had met at the seminar. It read:
“Dear Ignatius, I so much enjoyed meeting you at the seminar. Like you, I thought it unnecessary and hoped to be anywhere else but there. Yet your jovial attitude and constant cheerfulness kept me going. I shall never forget your joke about the car door.”
Father Ignatius realized that no matter how low you feel, or how superfluous you consider yourself to be, or reluctant to attend a gathering or event, you are always a welcome gift to someone else who may value your presence.
You don’t have to be a celebrity or a famous personality; just being yourself is in itself a gift to others. Whether you’re a spouse or a parent, a son or daughter, uncle or aunt or any other relative or friend; you are important to someone and they cherish your presence, your very being with them. The greatest present we can give others is our time, our attention, our love and our caring – it’s worth more than any material gift we buy them.
Give yourself to others. Just like Christ did. And still does.