When I was a child I loved a folktale about a teacher who at the end of his career sets his students a contest. Each of them is given a purse and instructed to fill a room. The winner will be the one who fills it most wisely. One student filled the room with food, another with books; each fills his room differently and, to each the teacher gives the same judgment: "You have done well but you might have done better." The last student, to fill his room, bought only a simple lamp. He filled the room with light. He wins the contest.
Somehow, out of all my grandfather's things, which by the end of his life were not many, I've fallen heir to two: his Christian Prayer book and his lamp. It is a wonderful scarred vintage goose-neck lamp. When it fills the room with light, it is the light of another time, his lifetime. It's the same light that meant his waking presence when he was still with us.
I have my own Christian Prayer book. It was one of my three most precious Confirmation gifts -- aside from the gift of the Sacrament itself. I store it now in a protective leather case. It goes with me when I need to pray on the road. But it is not always nearby when I'm praying, as I usually do, in my room. So I pick up Tetukas's book. There's a little indentation on the first page where he once paper-clipped a key to the abbreviations used in the guide booklet. I showed my mother that one time before it was removed (by a little one, I suspect) and she teared up. It was so characteristic of his meticulous habits.
Those who are close to me know how the older liturgy and traditions of the Church have become the woods I wander in. The prayer book I once loved with a simple love I now see with a critical eye. The weird modern black and red illustrations cannot hold a candle to the engravings of the old breviaries. Many of the hymns are inferior, the translation of the readings often regrettable. I share my father's love for the four week Psalm cycle widely used today but, unlike him, I also yearn for the Latin. For awhile, I used the computer to pray Lauds in the pre-Vatican II form (approved for use by Pope Benedict XVI).
It will be awhile before I can afford a full Latin breviary set. There is a breath-taking suspense to watching Tridentine Mass catch on, set fire to souls in today's Church. But thinking of Tetukas's prayer book, I remember the grace with which he lived a holy life among diminished things. May his prayers help us to reclaim the good things of the Lord, the riches of His house, and to wait in patience for the full restoration He has promised. Amen.
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