Wednesday, 18 January 2012
Father Ignatius teaches Theodore
Father Ignatius entered the empty church and found Theodore sitting upfront, by the statue of the Virgin Mary; on the very pew where the priest often sat to recite the Rosary.
At first the priest ignored the rich man for a while and stayed at the back of the church praying. Then, after twenty minutes or so he decided to approach him; it was after all rather unusual for Theodore to come to pray mid-week, so something must be troubling him indeed.
“Hello Padre …” mumbled Theodore un-characteriscally. He was usually so cheerful and full of joie de vivre, but not this time.
The priest smiled and sat beside him.
“Tell me old boy …” said Theodore after a while breaking the silence, “does God really listen to prayers? Or is it possible He is more busy with someone else’s problems and He has to prioritize. Like I often do in business?”
“Oh, He listens to all prayers, I’m sure of it,” replied the priest gently, “but sometimes He doesn’t answer straight away. He may say ‘No’ to our prayers, or ‘Not now … I have something better for you’. But He’ll answer your prayers for sure. In His time, and in His way.”
“I haven’t got time to wait. I need an answer now … what!” interrupted Theodore regaining his natural petulance once again.
Father Ignatius smiled and said, “It says in the Bible that to God one day is like a thousand years. He sees all. The past, present and the future. It could be that what you’re asking for is not good for you in the future. Just be patient for God’s answer.”
“I haven’t got time to wait … certainly not a thousand years old boy. I need an answer now …” Theodore continued, “A few months ago, my Company bought a piece of land North of town on a hill. We planned to grow various crops there … wheat, oats, barley, that sort of thing.
“At the top of the hill there’s a line of trees all along the border between our land and our neighbour. Hundreds of them all in a straight line like soldiers. Next to the trees there are bushes. A bit lower and shorter than the trees but standing beside them all along the border.
“All the time I thought the trees and bushes belonged to our neighbour, but my Estates Manager has discovered that they belong to me. He checked the deeds with the Land Registry; they belong to me all right. The Estates Manager also tells me that by cutting down the trees and bushes and replacing them with a wire fence we’d gain more land and increase our crops by about 7 %. That’s quite a big margin Padre, I tell you! So I told my people to cut down the trees and bushes. No sooner did they start that the neighbour complained.
“He said I’m disturbing the wildlife … birds and that sort of thing, living in the bushes. He took and injunction against me stopping me from pulling down the trees and bushes. He’s supported by the Council and some local preservationists. There’s to be a Court hearing soon. So I can’t afford to wait a thousand years for God to respond. Can’t you hurry Him up Padre?” concluded Theodore with a forced smile.
“The trees and bushes are yours!” said the priest calmly. Theodore nodded.
“If they’re mature trees then they must have been there for some years. Possibly a hundred years or so. Whoever owned the land before you must have either found them there, or planted them himself, assuming his family owned the land for generations.”
“You’re right Padre. The last owner had the land in his family for a number of years. His grandfather farmed there, then his father, and then him.”
“Why do you think they did not cut the trees?” asked the priest.
“Dunno … maybe they didn’t have my Estates Manager to advise them. An increase of 7% in crop yield is not to be laughed at … what?”
“I was raised on a farm.” said the priest, “a small holding. Nothing as big as yours! And I remember my father saying that bushes and trees break the cold northerly wind in winter. They shield the land and protect the crops. Especially crops like wheat which tend to bend down and break in high winds.
“Trees also protect the land from erosion when it rains heavily, especially on hilly grounds.
“Bushes provide homes and shelter for all kinds of birds; which often feed on insects which may attack crops. So the birds can act as an insect control to protect the crops.
“But then, I’m not a farmer … so what do I know? I’m a priest and you’re a businessman … and I too would be glad of an increase of 7% in my congregation.”
Theodore said nothing for a few seconds and then said pensively, “I remember reading something about farmers in old times planting trees and bushes to shelter crops from the wind. I’d forgotten all about it. But then, I’m no farmer Padre. I’m a businessman trying to make a good return on my investments. And my Estates Manager is a Business graduate from University; so what does he know? You’ve convinced me Padre … those trees were put there for a purpose.”
Theodore got up to leave with a broad smile on his face.
“It seems that God has answered your prayers after all,” Father Ignatius pointed out, “Maybe not the answer you wished to hear, but the right answer no doubt!”
“Quite true Padre … what?” Theodore beamed back, “and if you want my advice, one way to increase your congregation by 7% is to be more lenient with your penance at Confession.”