Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Smile, Say less, Listen More
I wish I could take credit for those words. The words are from our Lord to a young man named Matthew Kelly. Matthew was a typical teenager in Australia when he began to hear a voice inside. He has since discerned that that voice was God the Father. Matthew went on to attend Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio and has travelled the world as a motivational speaker. He is now married and has a son named Walter-great choice of names. One phrase that touched him most deeply was the phrase "smile, say less, listen more." In his words, "there is one short verse that lives with me every day. This line echoes in my head like music....Smile, say less and listen more, pray and trust in Me, your Heavenly Father." Sounds so simple, right? I will never forget the story of a smile. I was attending a talk at St. Mary's church in Ridgefield, CT. The speaker was one of the friars from Medjugorje, Croatia. Frankly, it was one of the most boring talks I had ever attended. I think he said something about praying! Anyway, I happened to be at the St. John Fisher seminary residence at the time and was there with some friends. Afterwards this older gentleman came up to me and my friend motioning wildly. I thought, oh know, another religious fanatic! He called my friend Franco over and said "Don't ever forget to smile.....you have a beautiful smile!" Franco did and does have a wonderful smile. He came from a devout Italian American family that owns several Italian restaurants in Fairfield County. The older gentleman then proceeded to tell us an amazing story. It seems he was in a concentration camp in World War II. A prisoner had escaped and the Nazi's wanted one of the prisoners to pay the price. They called him forward. His only worldly possesion was a crumpled picture of the Black Madonna, Our Lady of Czestachova (sp?) Upon looking at her image the man burst into laughter-the guards thinking he was crazy, also began to laugh, before you knew it everyone was laughing-one of those gut busting laughs that you just can't contain. At this point the soldiers forgot why they had called him forward and they let him go! Our Lady worked a miracle! I will never forget that talk-the talk was irrelevant. I was there that evening to hear about the importance of a smile. Kelly shares a similarly powerful story in his book, A Call to Joy: " One day a priest found himself walking through the Bowery in New York City, a place were many hmeless people can be found. The priest was with three friends, and all were on their way to take a ferry ride. As they walked along, they came upon a man dressed in rags and sitting on the pavement. He was very dirty and looked depressed. When he met the priest's eyes, he beckoned to him to come over. Touched, the priest moved toward him. But his friends quickly spoke up::'Come on, you don't want to go near that bum.' The priest ignored their warning and moved still closer while his friends watched in amazement. The priest said a few words to the man. Then he smiled and moved on to catch the ferry. As they were waiting to board, the same man came running up to the priest, sobbing like a child: he pulled out a gun and said, 'Father, just before you walked along this morning I was about to go down the alley and blow my brains out. When you came along I waved to you and you responded to my call, my cry, my plea. Then you spoke to me as you would speak to someone you loved, but it wasn't any of this that stopped me from doing what I had planned. As you started to leave, you looked deep into my eyes and smiled. It was the first sign of human affection that I have been shown in seven years, and I just wanted you to know that today your smile has given me life.' The two spoke for a while, and the priest discovered that this man had once been a doctor practicing at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The the priest gave him his blessing and went on his way. Later, the priest went to the hospital to find out what he could about this man. He brought the man's name up to various doctors and nurses and was told that he had in fact been a doctor there, but he was having some troubles so he left. No one knew where the priest could find him now. Three years later the phone rang and the priest was greeted by a well-spoken voice saying, 'Hello, I'm Dr. Lawson. Remember me? From the Bowery? I'm back at the hospital now. I just wanted you to know a smile can make a difference-sometimes all the difference.'" We sometimes get caught up on theology-wars have been fought over Jesus. People have died believing they were in the right (Protestant Reformation). What is interesting is the simple advice out Lord gave to Matthew: "Build a friendship with My son Jesus." In Kelly's words: " This is what he said to me. He never told me how to pray to Jesus. He merely suggested that Jesus had all the answers and that Jesus was my greatest friend." Wouldn't it make sense for all of us to get to know this Jesus? If we do maybe we will "Smile, Say less, and Listen More."