Posted May 16, 2012:
Stones That Breathe

by Fr. Eddie Doherty.

Dear God,

Until the day I picked up that stone from the dust in the road, I thought I had lived a long, long time and must consider myself almost middle-aged. But when I examined that small piece of Your world, I realized I had scarce begun to live.

That stone, though it looked as beautiful and sparkling and new as if You had created it only the day before, had known the flood that covered the earth in the days of Noah.

"It can’t be," I argued with myself. "This thing has just issued from God’s mint."

But I knew, despite myself, that it had endured centuries of history. I knew it was old before the Ark was made. It had known glaciers, volcanoes, earthquakes, the pressures of greater rocks and of tremendous depths of oceans. It had suffered the heat of liquid lava, the violence of wind and wave and weather, the intolerance and attrition of other stones.

And in my own day it had known other trials: the shock and the roar of dynamite, the feel of thrusting picks and shovels, and the pressure of heavy tires.

I held it in my hands, Lord, as You hold me, and meditated on it….

I am as a stone in Your hand. But I have life in me, and free will, and memory, and some power to reason, and an ability to express my thoughts—sometimes. And I have love. Love for everybody. Love for everything good and beautiful and true. Love for You. And I have an eternal future.

I am no ordinary stone. I shall turn back into the dust. But I shall never die.

Stones, I observed, were disintegrating, dying, all around me on the road. And the little brook was washing their remains down to the web of rivers, which will sluice them back into the bed of the sea, where, in centuries to come, they will once more help form great layers of thick rock.

Creation could have put up a sign; "Business as usual during alterations." I began to see how a thousand years could be as a day to You—and how a humble grain of sand could outweigh a galaxy of stars.

But it was not a day to wonder about eternity or time. It was a bright, cold, beautiful day, and the proofs of Your love were everywhere I looked.

Why do You always show me Your love, God? Why do I hug my little love to myself? Your Son once told the Pharisees that if His disciples did not show their love for Him by singing aloud His praises, the stones would cry out for them. I am a stone. I should cry out my love!

I brushed the dirt off the stone I had picked up, and saw a glorious red streak. I bent above the brook and the thin silver lace fichu of ice it had thrown carelessly about its neck and shoulders. I rinsed the stone until, it seemed to me, it would drip crimson splendor.

I imagined it lying at Your Son’s knee that night in Gethsemane, or at the foot of the cross that bitter day on Calvary. I imagined the blood gushing eagerly, joyously, lovingly, out of His lance-stabbed heart.

I went down the road, after a while, gathering other stones. For the first time I knew the fever of the rock collector. There were so many stones worth picking up, worth keeping.

One looked like a brown and brittle autumn leaf. I picked up a leaf near it. I could not say which had more beauty. But the stone would last. I dropped it into a pocket and threw the leaf away….

I must have picked up forty pounds of stones that day. I put them around the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, on my desk, thinking she might like the beauty of them. Her Son was a stone. He was the Stone rejected by the builders—to become the Cornerstone of our lives. And He selected a rock on which to build His Church.

I picked up more stones in the days that followed. Do Your angels spill them out on the roads each morning for Your children’s delight? And do You, God, go about the world, each day, looking for stones to carry home with You?

If You do, remember me. I may be rough and ugly. But wash me, and I shall be white as snow.

And—I love You.

Your ugly pebble

Excerpted from I Cover God (1962,) pp.53-58, Bruce Publishing Co., out of print



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