One of My Favorite Irish Stories: “The Pious Man”
Next week being a major Celtic spiritual day, I wanted to lead up to it with one of my favorite Irish stories. Please pardon the colloquialisms; you must imagine it being spoken with an Irish brogue:
There was a man there long ago, and he had a great name for himself as being very holy.
He was the first up to the chapel on Sunday, and there was never a mission he wasn’t at, praying all around him. And he was being held up as a good example to the sinners as a very holy man that never missed his duty.
Well, he said to himself, it would be a good thing for him to count all the times he was at Mass, so he got a big timber box and he made a hole in the cover of it, and he locked the box so that no one could interfere with it in any way, and he hid the key where no one could possibly find it.
And every time he went to Mass, he picked up a small pebble on his way home and dropped it in through the hole in the cover of the box.
And he was not satisfied with going to mass on Sunday, and he started to go every single weekday as well, and sometimes he’d be at second Mass as well as at first Mass on the Sunday. And all the time he was putting the stone into the box every time he came home from Mass.
Well, the years were going on and, like all the rest of us, he was getting old, and he was saying to himself that there must be a great heap of stones inside the box, and that maybe he would have to get a new box, because the old one must be nearly full.
He called in the servant boy. “Pull out that box for me, boy, so I can open it. And mind yourself, because it must be very heavy.”
The boy handled it with ease. “It is not a bit heavy, sir, but as light as you like,” says the boy.
The man opened it and found only five stones inside in it!
He couldn’t understand it, and off with him to the parish priest with his complaint – after all his Masses was he only going to get credit for five of them? Or was someone bad enough to steal the stones out of his box?
But how could they do that, with it locked and the key hidden? And no sign that it was ever meddled with?
Well, this parish priest had great wisdom.
“It is like this, my good man,” says he. “It was not about the Mass you were thinking, and it was not for your neighbors that you were praying all the times that you were at Mass, but all the time thinking how pious you were and how everyone should have great respect for you.
“And that is a sign to you from Heaven that you heard only five of the Masses properly, and that is the only five you will get credit for. And remember that, now, the next time you go to the church.”
I tell you that it is not the one that is first to the chapel that is the highest in the sight of God.
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Molly Larkin is the co-author of the international best-seller “The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman” and other books on health. She is passionate about helping people live life to their fullest potential through her classes, healing practice and blog at www.MollyLarkin.com