The price by which we were ransomed

Two boys went to stay with their uncle, an auctioneer, and one day he let them come with him to a sale held at an old-fashioned country-house. All sorts of people crowded into a big room, farmers and shop-keepers and parsons’ wives, and dealers from London in fur-collared overcoats, smoking cigars. Various lots of furniture and odds and ends were bid for, and went for a few pounds or shillings. One grand-looking picture was put up of a military gentleman in a fine gilt frame, and the boys were sure it would fetch a lot, and were disappointed when the local inn-keeper got it for seven and six.

Then a dirty-looking little picture in a shabby and broken frame was put on the table. It seemed to be a portrait of a child, but you could hardly see what, it was so old. ‘Lot twenty-five,’ said somebody.

‘Fifty pounds’ was the first bid, and the boys could hardly believe their ears. The London dealers sat up and began to bid against each other, and in five minutes the picture had reached thousands of pounds: at last it went for £6500.

Going back in the car, the boys asked their uncle why the dingy little picture fetched all that money.

‘Because it happens to be by a great artist. Anything from his hand is of immense value.’

‘Well, it wasn’t much to look at!’

‘Ah, it’ll look very different when the restorers have taken centuries of dirt off it. Then you’ll see its beauty. Very likely some day you’ll see it hanging in the National Gallery.’

Every human soul is of infinite value, because it is the work of God.

It is an image and likeness of God Himself, and however tarnished it may be it only needs cleaning for its beauty to be seen.

Because of this, Our Lord valued us so greatly that He bought us with the infinite price of His Precious Blood. That is why He is our ‘Redeemer.’

– Rev. F.H. Drinkwater, Catechism Stories Part I: the Creed (1939)

Photo by mertala / flickrCC

One Lord, one faith, one baptism

On April 26, 1642, an immense crowd was gathered round the triangular gallows at Tyburn, and an elderly Welshman, who had come to be hanged, stood up in the cart to make his speech. He was Edward Morgan, a Flint-shire man who had been to school at Douai and made priest at Salamanca. He had been imprisoned in the Fleet for fourteen years, and suffered great hardships, before being brought to trial under the Parliament. He waited till the crowd was quiet, and everybody was astonished at his cool and smiling demeanour. He began with the sign of the cross, and gave out a text : ‘The Good Shepherd giveth His life for His sheep.’ He explained that he was going to be hanged simply because he was a Roman Catholic priest, and was very glad to die for the Good Shepherd who died for His flock. ‘I offer up my blood for the good of my country, and for a better understanding between the King and Parliament.’

Then he went on to preach a full sermon on the Unity of the Church, and persisted in finishing it in spite of several interruptions from the Protestant ministers. There is one God, one faith, one baptism, he said; so there must be one Church. He gave proof that the Catholic Church was the one true Church going back to the apostles, and showed that the recent sects are all too new to have any claim to be the Church of Christ. At the end he asked God to forgive all who had injured him, and also (he said) ‘my own innumerable sins.’

Then, ‘with a merry countenance,’ he told the hangman to do his duty and said: ‘I pray thee, teach me what to do, for I never was at this sport before.’

Whereupon the minister said : ‘Mr. Morgan, this is not a time to sport, nor is it a jesting matter.’

‘Sir,’ he replied, ‘I know it is no joking matter for me, but good sober earnest. But God loveth a cheerful giver, and I hope it is no offence to anyone that I go cheerfully and merrily to heaven.’

He was allowed to hang until he was dead, before the rest of the sentence was carried out.

– Rev. F.H. Drinkwater, Catechism Stories Part I: the Creed (1939)

Since God made us, we belong to Him

A beach sand-building competition. One boy and girl finished a magnificent castle, and then wandered round looking at the other children’s efforts. When they came back they found a boy had occupied their castle and was making alterations and adding what he thought were improvements.

‘What are you doing ”that’s our castle!’

‘No, it’s mine now. You left it.’

‘But it’s our castle!’

‘What do you mean, yours? You didn’t pay for the sand, did you?’

‘But it’s our castle ”we MADE it and we can do what we like with it, or destroy it or anything, because we made it.’

And, of course, everybody said they were right, the intruder was turned out, and they won the prize.

God made me, out of nothing, and so I belong to Him. I am His to do what He likes with.

– Rev. F.H. Drinkwater, Catechism Stories Part I: the Creed (1939)

The Church makes people holy

Two girls came to the surgery for another bottle of medicine for their mothers.

‘It did your mother good, then?’ said the doctor to the first. ‘Here’s another bottle, then. Make sure she has it after meals.’

The other girl said her mother wasn’t any better.

‘Too bad,’ said the doctor. ‘I wonder if I ought to change the medicine.’

‘She said it didn’t make her cough any better, though she rubbed it on her chest night and morning.’

‘Rubbed it on! No wonder she isn’t better. Can’t she read the label ”” One tablespoonful in water to be taken three times a day”? No medicine is going to cure people if they don’t use it.’

The same is true of prayer and the sacraments. The Church offers to us all the means of holiness, but if we don’t use them, or if we misuse them, they will not help us.

Chesterton said : ‘Christianity has not failed, it has never been tried.’ The people who really have tried it are the saints: they are the people who make full use of the helps Our Lord has given us.

– Rev. F.H. Drinkwater, Catechism Stories Part I: the Creed (1939)

A Sign from God

During the French revolution, when nothing was esteemed unless it were new, a philosopher named Reveillere drew up plans for a new religion which he considered would be a real benefit to humanity. He went to Barras, then a member of the Government, and asked his advice as to the methods by which the new religion could best be spread. Well,’ said Barras, ‘my advice is to get yourself killed on Friday, and rise from the dead the following Sunday.’

The philosopher’s answer is not recorded.

– Rev. F.H. Drinkwater, Catechism Stories Part I: the Creed (1939)

‘Greater love than this’

In the War, two friends were out with a night patrol together. When the party returned under heavy fire to their trenches, one of the friends was found to be missing. By this time it was getting light, and almost certain death to be out on top, but the one friend insisted on crawling out to look for the other, and reluctantly the officer gave permission. He was watched slowly working his way into no-man’s-land, from shell-hole to shell-hole, and at last could be seen no more. When it became dusk again he crawled back and dropped into the trench, himself mortally wounded. While the stretcher-bearers were attending to him, the officer said: ‘Well, I hear you found your friend.’ ‘Yes, sir, but he only lived for a few minutes.’ ‘I’m afraid it was hardly worth it ”I wish I hadn’t let you go.’ ‘Oh, yes, sir, it was worth it. He said “Good old Jack ”I knew you would come!”‘

Our Lord’s love for us is like that ”He would give His life again for each one, if it were necessary.

– Rev. F.H. Drinkwater, Catechism Stories Part I: the Creed (1939)

The one thing necessary

A young friend of St. Philip Neri came to see him, and knelt by the old priest’s chair as his custom was. In reply to inquires, he said he was studying for an exam. and hoped to do well in it. The saint listened attentively to his plans for the future, nodding encouragement, while his hand played with the lad’s hair.

‘And after the exam.; what then?’

‘Then I shall try for a degree in law.’

‘And then?’

‘I want to be a barrister: everyone tells me I’m cut out for it.’

‘And then?’

‘Well, if I make a name as a barrister, I could marry and settle down and be a rich man.’

‘And then?’

‘Oh, well, I might hope to end up as a judge, and obtain some high office in the court of Rome.’

‘And then?’

‘Some day I should retire with a big pension and be able to enjoy an honourable old age.’

‘And then?’

‘Then? Well, Father, some day I suppose I should have to die.’

The saint drew the boy’s head closer and whispered in his ear:

And then?

This talk made a lasting impression on the youth, whose name was Francesco Zazzara, and later he threw up his worldly ambitions as a danger to his soul, and joined St. Philip’s Congregation of the Oratory.

– Rev. F.H. Drinkwater, Catechism Stories Part I: the Creed (1939)

Any Society needs a head

Some boy school-friends decided to start a new club. Several of them came to the father of one, and asked for the use of an empty shed in the garden. He asked what the club was for.

‘Oh, just to have as much fun as we can. It’ll be called the P.Y.L. — Please Yourself League.’

‘Any committee, or rules?’

‘No, we can’t be bothered with those things.’

‘Which of you is the secretary, then?’

‘Nobody wants to be secretary. Besides, we don’t need one, nor a president. That’s the whole point of the club. We don’t want any fuss about organisation, just the club, that’s all.’

‘Well, you can have the shed, but it doesn’t strike me as a very practical proposition.’

So the society was started, and a board ‘P.Y.L., H.Q.’ was placed over the door.

Next week the lender of the shed asked his son how the club was getting on.

‘Oh, it’s pretty awful. Everybody wants to have his own friends in, and keep other people’s friends out. Nothing but arguments.’

‘You want a committee, I should think.’

Next week: ‘Well, have you got the committee yet?’

‘Yes, I’m one — we volunteered for it. But they won’t listen, they all talk at once. Besides, it isn’t fair, some of them had a meeting last night when the rest of us didn’t know about it.’

‘Didn’t the chairman call the meeting, then?’

‘There isn’t a chairman.’

‘Well, why don’t you elect a good chairman? Every society needs a head of some sort.’

‘Yes, it does look like it.’

So the P.Y.L. provided itself with a chairman and a secretary, and things began to go properly. When little matters cropped up to be settled the chairman decided them, and if it was something big he called a meeting of the committee. One of the first things they did was to change the name of the club to the P.T.L., the ‘Pull together League.’

If a club for a few boys cannot get on without a ‘visible head,’ how much more Our Lord’s Church, which He wants every person to join?

– Rev. F.H. Drinkwater, Catechism Stories Part I: the Creed (1939)

Mary’s place in the Creed

A Protestant clergyman was visiting an orphanage, and the children were each reciting their prayers for him to hear. On little boy, who had previously been at a Catholic school, after finishing the Our Father began the Hail Mary. ‘No, no!’ said the clergyman. ‘We don’t want to hear about her — go on to the Creed.’ The little boy did so, but stopped suddenly when he came to ‘born of the…’ and said: ‘Here she comes again — what shall I do now, sir?’

Indeed we cannot have Jesus without Mary.

– Rev. F.H. Drinkwater, Catechism Stories Part I: the Creed (1939)