INNER LIFE BY DAVID TORKINGTON
WE WERE ALL shocked when my brother announced that he wanted to become a Cistercian priest. That meant that once he left home he would never return again. My mother was proud that her son wanted to be a priest, but why oh why did he want to become a monk as well? She didn't know what to do, but fortunately she did know who to turn to. She turned to Gus, a friend since childhood. He himself had left home to become a priest and a monk and was at that time the Abbot of Belmont.
He told her that a Mother only really fulfils and completes her Motherhood when her love is so great that she allows her child to both choose and follow out his own chosen vocation in life whatever that may mean. He told her that this was the sacrifice that Mary had to make when she had to allow the Son she'd given birth to to go his own way and respond to the vocation that he had been called to.
My Mother felt much better after talking to Abbot Williams, after all he was a priest and monk himself, and so he was able to console and encourage her better than anyone else. Although my brother had been accepted as a prospective monk at Mount St Bernards, the Abbot asked him to finish his studies in Paris where he was studying at the Sorbonne. Naturally he was delighted that he had been accepted, because he thought his handicap would have prevented him from becoming a priest one leg was shorter than the other as a result of a polio attack when he was six.
UNFORTUNATELY my Brother had a terrible accident on the way to his final examinations. Partly due to the iron calliper on his leg, he slipped down the steps of the Metro, hit his head and was killed instantaneously. He was only twenty-two. I was seventeen at the time and called out of the school study to be told of the tragedy. When I got home it was to find my mother all but inconsolable.
She'd already come to terms with the sacrifice that she'd been asked to make when he chose to become a monk, now she was asked to make another and more complete sacrifice that she had never thought for a moment would ever be asked of her. Once again she turned to Gus for spiritual help.
Gus told her that she was now being asked to be the priest that he never became. He told her that the first priest had been a woman and a mother and that the greatest sacrifice that she had to make was the sacrifice of her own son. All Mary's life revolved around selflessly giving her all for the dear son she had borne. Everything had always been for him, and then she had to give absolutely everything, even him.
This was the most perfect and complete sacrifice any mother has had to make, and she made it standing there at the foot of the Cross. My mother never forgot what Gus said to her. It didn't take away all the pain but it gave meaning to it and made it bearable. What helped most was seeing that the sacrifice that she had to make was exactly the same sacrifice that Mary had to make on Cavalry.
There is only one true priest and that is Jesus Christ who made the most sacrifice anyone could make, the sacrifice of themselves. We are priests to the degree in which we share in his priesthood.
That's what my Mother came to see and understand more clearly than anyone else I know, not just in the way she thought but in the way she acted. It was a lesson that she had to learn at the most painful moment of her life. When she had to share in the sacrifice of Christ in the same way as Mary.
Lessons learnt in such moments are never forgotten. They indelibly stain the memory and the determine the way you think and act for the rest of your life, for better or for worse. In mother's case it was for better as it had been for Mary. For both of them it meant that through their terrible ordeal their motherhood had somehow been refined and deepened to the benefit of other children who looked to them for the motherly love that was always given without measure. I for one know this for I have experienced it for myself, and still do.