Posted March 04, 2015:
He Taught With Stories

by Fr. Jim Duffy.

Fr. Duffy had a repertoire of stories taken from everywhere and/or perhaps written himself, which he used in homilies and teachings. Here are just a few of them.

The Secret of Appreciation

There is a legend in Japan about the most beautiful garden imaginable. People journeyed for many miles to behold its magnificent flowers. The fame of the garden reached even to the royal palace, where the emperor was considered a god.

A messenger was dispatched from the palace, stating that the emperor himself was desirous of experiencing the beauty of this garden.

Quite naturally, the very thought of the emperor’s visit threw the humble gardener into consternation. Suppose the emperor was disappointed in his garden! It would indeed be too much to bear.

But what could one do to prepare for such a visit?

The gardener had many sleepless nights as he pondered this question. He became so preoccupied that his family and friends began to worry about him.

Then one morning he did a strange thing. He went out to his garden and cut down every single blossom—except one.

The day arrived for the emperor’s visit. The gardener’s family looked upon this day as their last.

Some people said that the thought of the emperor’s visit was too much for the gardener to bear and that he had lost his mind. Many, fearing the emperor’s wrath, stayed far away from the scene of his visit.

When the emperor and the royal party arrived, reverential bows and due ceremony were bestowed upon them. Then, trembling, the gardener led the emperor to the middle of his field and humbly begged him to gaze upon his prize blossom.

What followed was what seemed like an eternity of silence. Then the initial irritation of the emperor faded as he began to gaze at such loveliness. Slowly, even reverently, he walked around the flower until at last he stood still—completely absorbed in it.

"Oh good and wise gardener," said the emperor breaking the silence in a soft voice. "I want you to tend all my royal gardens. Most men see so many flowers that they never truly experience the beauty of one. But you have risked your life to bestow upon me the greatest gift—the secret of appreciation!"

Adapted from Restoration, March 1968

Hurricane Rosary

Most everyone is aware of the unbelievable destructive force of hurricanes. Let me tell you about a very powerful hurricane that took place in the South Atlantic not too many years ago.

This mass of incredible power was moving across the Caribbean directly toward a small island in the Grenadines. As most of the little houses are made of wood, a direct hit would literally flatten them all.

Fortunately, they had a priest who had faith and knew exactly what to do. He led his people up the highest hill and facing the sea, they recited the rosary.

When they finished, he led them back down the hill and told them all to return to their homes in peace.

Indeed, a very strange thing happened. The radio reported that the hurricane was headed toward that island but literally stopped dead in its tracks, backed up some thirty miles, and headed off to sea in another direction, harming no one!

When Pope John Paul II speaks about the rosary, he says simply: "It is my favorite prayer… a marvelous prayer, in simplicity and depth."

And both Pope Pius XII and Pope Paul VI have said: "It is the summary of the whole Gospel."

Adapted from Restoration, December 1989

Always and Everywhere

Over a hundred years ago, a minister reluctantly undertook a long and hazardous journey to Europe at the urgent request of his congregation. The pain of separation from his family was intense, but even worse was the knowledge that it had all been for naught: his purpose was never realized.

Returning by sail over a stormy North Atlantic, he spent many hours staring at the sea, haunted by thoughts of failure and even "punishment" for accepting such a foolish undertaking. He seemed only to survive by the envisioned reunion with his family.

After the ice-laden ship docked at Boston harbor, he was met by a telegram relating the death of his only son. Feelings of bitterness, resentment, and even despair welling up within him, he sank to his knees.

Like Christ in the Garden, he knelt in prayer, groaning within himself, at times writhing in pain too deep for consolation. Only an occasional sigh gave testimony to his grief.

Finally, he rose unsteadily to his feet and said aloud, "God is too wise to err, and too kind to afflict people needlessly. Praise be to God!"

—Adapted from Restoration, January 1970

Some Things Take Longer

My grandfather seemed to need a good long walk every time I was in trouble.

I remember one day, when my list of grievances rivaled Job’s—namely that my older brothers had all the privileges of which I was deprived.

As we walked in our favorite woods, we stopped before a giant oak. My grandfather stroked its bark with reverence as if it were an old friend.

Then after a respectful silence, he pointed out to me the scars that had come from lightning strokes. And the branches torn and twisted by mighty winds and storms.

"Yes," he mused aloud. "It takes a heap of living—I suspect about forty to fifty years. It has to stand in wind and rain. That’s how Mother Nature trains her children.

"You see, son, life is like that. It depends on what you want to be. If you want to be big and strong like this mighty oak—well, consider it a lifetime’s work.

"But if you can’t wait…. If you only have a few months to spare, the very best the Lord can do is make you a squash!"

—Adapted from Restoration 1980

Butcher, Baker, or…

 Some people think that meeting Christ is only for saints or mystics. Could it ever happen to an ordinary person, let’s say, to a butcher in a large chain supermarket? We’ll let you judge for yourself.

"I had grown to hate my job. People were so irritating, crowding against the counter at rush time and trying to hurry me beyond my endurance. My employer was an ogre who wanted his pound of flesh from me.

My wife was another. My children were so many loud, shrill voices irritating my nerves when I wanted to be let alone with my own dismal thoughts.

"I was a good man, doing my job well, going to confession once a week, confessing the same sins over and over, receiving Our Lord on Sundays.

"But not as I received him that one particular Sunday when the scales fell from my eyes and the invisible cotton from my ears, and I saw the material world brightened with the spiritual.

"After that, I saw souls at my counter, not just clamoring hands and demanding mouths. I saw Christ feeding the multitude, and I tried to be more Christ-like. I soon found a more Christ-like reaction in my customers.

I saw my employer as my religious superior, and my attitude toward him as part of the fourth commandment; and most of the time I found him to be all right. The only time he was not was when he was harassed. Like the rest of us.

"I thought about my marriage vows ‘for better or worse’ and began giving mv wife more of the ‘better.’

"Suddenly I had a ‘sweetheart’ again, and my children became more peaceful. I now had a loving home to come to, with a warm welcome from little arms and little confidences which I had, to my shame, been turning aside."

Adapted from Restoration, May 1968


If you enjoy our articles, we ask you to please consider subscribing to the print edition of Restoration; it's only $10 a year, and will help us stay in print. Thanks, and God bless you!


Restoration Contents

Next article:
My Uncle Jim

Previous article:
He Became a Bonfire



RSS 2.0RSS feed

Madonna House - A Training Centre for the Lay Apostolate