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Something to think and pray about this week


There is a favourite preacher’s story that goes like this: a member of a certain parish who previously had been attending Mass regularly, suddenly stopped going. After a few weeks the priest decided to visit him. It was a cold evening and the priest found the man alone at home, sitting before a blazing coal fire.

Guessing the reason for the priest’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a big chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself comfortable but said nothing. In the heavy silence, he just sat and looked at the fire.

After a few minutes, the priest took the fire tongs, carefully picked a brightly burning coal from the fire and placed it to one side of the hearth, all on its own. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. Both of them watched the coal. Gradually, the coal’s flame diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire went. Soon it was cold and dead. The priest got up again, picked up the cold, dead coal and put it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.

The moral was simple. A single lump of coal cannot burn on its own; it takes many lumps of coal to make a fire that does not go out. No Christian can burn for God for very long without the constant support of the rest of the Church.

Excerpted from Hope in All Things by Paul O’Reilly SJ