Friday, June 21, 2013

Aloysius Gonzaga [1544-1586]

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.
But store up treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

In my mind, I suspect I have always thought the opening words of the quotation above meant much to me about my not having wealth and my not hoarding whatever I did possess.  In my early years of Jesuit formation that was not a difficulty:  we did not have much because we could not have much. Likewise I did not come from a family of wealth.  The vow of poverty was taught to us in many different ways.  I suspect that is why this Jesuit, before leaving the Jesuit order to become a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, found himself with so many "things" that  people had given as gifts.  The earlier days of formation helped us live the life of poverty:  whenever parents or friends sent gifts, a superior would call the receiver in to show him what was received so that an appropriate "thank you" note could be sent.  We knew well, if Mom or Dad had sent a wool shirt to combat the cold winters in Wernersville, PA, we would not be wearing it.  One of the brethren would be wearing it just as I might be wearing the shirt or slacks someone of my size had received.  On one occasion I went to request a pair of shoelaces for my work boot because one had broken several times and there was no longer material enough for me to tie my shoe.  When I asked the superior for a "pair of shoes laces," the superior inquired, "Did you break both laces?"  So I settled for one lace.  But in leaving his office (and clothing store!), I said the this superior, "Thanks, Father.  I suppose I am thankful I did not need to ask for a pair of shorts."  Of course the response was "Get out of here before I give you a good penance!"  Just a funny story to help you understand something of Jesuits that does not make the papers.

Back to Aloysius and the first line of the gospel quote above.  Sitting on the porch this evening, I was wondering what I should be considering as the treasures I store up.  Of course we think of "things" all the time.  Then this thought came to mind:  what are the treasures that I have as a priest?  What are the treasures that I have as a friend? a brother? a teacher?  What are the treasures that I might store up that are not things.  For me and most priests our most valuable treasure is TIME.  Taking priesthood seriously can lead to a tremendous amount of time necessary to accomplish the needs of God's people on any given day.  Because a day can be filled with countless encounters with people, time does become a priceless commodity for priests. to say nothing of the emotional energy that is necessary to help people with difficulties throughout the day.  So, for me my treasure that I tend to guard rather carefully is my time.  Again, time is costly for a person who is a true extrovert and who has no difficulty "chatting" for lengthy periods of time when someone comes seeking an ear that will listen, a heart that has to be open to the Spirit speaking through the pains or fears of another brother or sister in Christ.

So, to those of you who read this reflection, I say this:  of course I do not know most of you either by name or vocation.  I am sure of this, however:  in today's world all of us are overwhelmed by works that demand much of our time, leaving little for ourselves.  Aloysius had all the treasures a young man could want and even more.  He was of the wealthy class in Italy.  When he entered the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, he sacrificed all that a young man of nobility yearned to have.

Perhaps today is a moment in your life when you might give thought to what it is that your treasure most in your life that you might be hoarding; something that keeps you from fulfilling your vocation in this world.  What is it your are reluctant to share?  What part of your life do you fail to share with others that can be of help to them?