There is a story told about a Jesuit community and a Dominican community in the 1940’s. Now whether it is true or not I don’t know, but I have a feeling it might be a fanciful one meant as a little ribbing to someone’s beloved Jesuits. As the story goes, back in the 1940’s when the rules surrounding prayer for religious life was a little stricter, both communities wrote Rome asking for a certain relaxation of the rule of prayer. The Dominicans requested that they might be allowed to smoke while they said Evening prayer, and the Jesuits requested that they might be allowed to pray Evening prayer while they smoked. The Dominicans got an immediate response in the affirmative, that they might be allowed to smoke while they did their prayers. The response to the Jesuits was a little delayed in coming.
After a period of time, knowing that the nearby Dominican community had received their answer some time ago, the superior of the Jesuit community put a call in to Rome. When the general secretary got on the line he apologized for the delay saying while the Holy Father saw little problem with smoking while one prayed, since smoking takes such little concentration, he wasn’t sure what effect praying might have on the experience of smoking and he didn’t want to add more penance to the Jesuit routine. (JLaugh NowJ) You see the Dominicans had put the emphasis on praying, while the Jesuits had put the emphasis on smoking.
OK, maybe the joke’s not funny, especially in today’s culture where smoking is no longer seen as a harmless pastime, but it does bring up an interesting point: where we put the emphasis in life really matters. If you’re like me you had to read the story over three or four times to make any sense out of it, and even then it wasn’t clear until I saw the explanation. Often in life we live an existence in which we completely gloss over the small nuances that end up having huge impacts on our lives. The person who works 80 hours a week to provide for their family thinks they are doing the right thing, until their kids grow up and don’t really want a relationship because no relationship really formed while they were kids. The person didn’t realize they were putting the emphasis on the “providing for,” rather than putting the emphasis on “the kids”.
Sometimes the holidays can be times of greater stress than the rest of the year, because we have some expectation of what it is all supposed to look like. Anyone who has ever seen their two-year-old play longer with the box that a toy came in than with the toy, because boxes are awesome rocket ships, forts or hats, knows that kids can make do with anything. That goes for all of us kids from womb to tomb; we would rather be really loved than having anything money can buy.
Fr. Joseph Altenhofen