The Last Row

In his book Priests for the Third Millennium, Timothy Cardinal Dolan tells the story of when he was a new priest.  The young Father Dolan was on fire with the enthusiasm of the Gospel.  He was sent to a little parish in nowhere.  His pastor told him his first job was to prepare a Lenten talk for the Men’s Holy Name Society.  Father Dolan worked for weeks on his talk, employing everything he had learned in the many years of formation and training that goes into every priest.  Finally that evening he went to the church to open it early for all those who would be coming.  Two men showed up.  They must have been practicing Catholics because they sat in the last row.  Father Dolan was crestfallen.  All that work.  All that effort—wasted!  He reluctantly gave his talk.  He did not need the microphone.  What a waste of time.

Twelve years later Father Dolan was visiting a woman in the parish who was dying.  He was amazed how much care the elderly husband had taken of his dying wife.  He never left her side.  He helped her with everything.  As Father Dolan left he said good bye to the husband and commented on how attentive he was to her every need—how devoted he was to his wife.  The man replied “Oh, Father, I’m just trying to be that Simon of Cyrene you talked about.”  Father Dolan looked at the man confused.  “Huh?”  “Remember that talk you gave to the Men’s Holy Name Society a long time ago when you told us that just as Simon of Cyrene helped our Lord carry His cross, we do the same every time we help somebody else carry theirs.  I’m just trying to help my wife carry hers.  Just like you taught me.”

Twelve years.  The man had never forgotten the priest’s words.  No goodness is ever in vain.  No word of support ever wasted, if done for God.

empty church pew

Fr. Gerard Gordon