In a quaint little village far up in the mountains of Switzerland there lived years ago an old man who had spent his life working in ivory. His hair was white; his shoulders bent. But his eye was bright and his hand steady, as he fashioned out the hard, white ivory daisies, violets and buttercups.
From his window he could look for miles over the valley. That long look rested his eyes; but it also was his inspiration, for it let him see the beautiful storms, the gorgeous sunsets, and especially the glorious flowers pinned to the steep hillsides.
One day a visitor chose six of his flowers to take to her daughters in America. As she placed them against the soft velvet of her dress, they seemed so real that she exclaimed with admiration:
"They are perfect, just perfect. How can you make them so real?"
"No, madam," the old carver replied. "They are not perfect. I wish I could make just one perfect one. For thirty years I have tried to make a flower like God has made, but something is always missing. When I bring in a flower from the field and set it beside my own, I see how imperfect my workmanship is. However, I have honestly and laboriously tried, and it is worthwhile giving one's life trying to make a perfect thing, don't you think?"
The mother brought the flower pins home to her daughters, and tried her best to give them the message and spirit of the man who made them. His name, by the way, was Hans Klatt.
Years later one of these daughers was known as a wonderful, ideal mother, patient, courteous and loving. When a friend asked the secret of her well-known goodness, the young mother brought out the flower pin her mother had brought from Switzerland, and briefly told the story of the man who made it. She concluded by quoting the old carver's words:
"It is worthwhile giving one's life in trying to make a perfect thing."
Then she added:
"Through the years that sentence has been a challenge. I cannot be a perfect mother; I cannot expect to have perfect children. But I can keep on trying for that. Like Hans Klatt, I want to give my time and talent to making a beautiful life, as perfect a life as possible."
That young mother was living the spirit of the Fourth Beatitude: "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be filled." St. Matthew, 5:6.
The meaning of these words is this: Blessed are they who strive strenuously after truth and spiritual perfection, for they shall attain it, they shall be satisfied, they shall be filled by the beatific vision of God in heaven.
1. Justice means the whole range of Christian virtue. In that complete sense St. Joseph was called a "just man." St. Matthew, 1:19.
2. St. Bernardine of Siena explains that this justice renders
A. To God:3. Those who hunger and thirst after justice are thosei. The honor due Him as creator.B. To neighbors:
ii. The love we owe Him as Redeemer.
iii. Filial fear of Him as our judge.i. Obedience to superiors, at home, at work and at school.C. To ourselves:
ii. Agreement with and understanding of equals.
iii. Kindness to and consideration of inferiors.i. By purity of heart.
ii. By guarding the tongue.
iii. By discipling the body.
A. Who aim at and strive for all the Christian perfections.4. Such a holy hunger and thirst bring blessings:
B. Who strive to become just, if they are not already so.
C. Who continue to advance in-virtue, once they are on the right road.
D. Who daily try to grow in love of God and man.
E. Who prefer virtue and spiritual goods to food and drink for the body.
F. Who seek only the will of God and the good of souls.
G. Who desire and work that the laws of justice be observed.
H. Who yearn and pray and labor for the conversion of sinners, and the triumph of the Church.
A. It controls the lower passions.Today Christ tells us to go and teach all nations all that He has commanded. This we are to do in the name and in the power of the Blessed Trinity, whom we especially honor today.
B. It fixes the mind on higher and more lasting things.
C. It stirs the heart and will to work for God.
Many of you, I am sure, want to be more perfect; you want to be more like the divine, attractive Model who spoke from the mount nearly 2000 years ago, who speaks to us today, telling us that they are blessed, they are truly and spiritually happy who try, who strive, who hunger and thirst in their effort to be more like the divine Model. In a word, they try to be more perfect. Their efforts will not be in vain.
Occasionally you may feel discouraged in your striving for spiritual success. Remember the Swiss carver. For thirty years he tried to chisel out of ivory, figures like the perfect flowers of the field. He kept on trying, even though he saw so much difference.
There is an infinite difference between ourselves and Christ, yet we keep on trying, we keep hungering and thirsting to be like Him; and, as He promises us in the Fourth Beatitude, we shall have our fill. Our spiritual strivings shall be satisfied. Amen.
Adapted from Prayers, Precepts and Virtues
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1949)