Most Fridays during Advent and Lent, the official Preacher to the papal household, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, preaches a sermon to the Pope and his close associates. This past Friday, Fr Cantalamessa gave his first sermon of this Advent season. Because this is the “Year for Priests,” and because his audience is comprised mostly of those in Holy Orders, his theme this year focuses primarily on the priesthood, but the lay faithful can also gain much from his teaching.

Near the end of his first sermon, he shares this vignette:

One day, an old professor was called as expert to speak on the more efficient planning of their time to the higher cadres of some large North American companies.
He decided then to attempt an experiment. Standing up, he took from under the table a large empty glass. At the same time he also took a dozen large stones like tennis balls that he deposited delicately one by one in the glass until it was full. When no more stones could be added, he asked his pupils: “Do you think the glass is full?” and they all answered “Yes!”
He bent down again and took out from under the table a box full of crushed stones which he poured over the large stones, moving the glass so that the crushed stones could infiltrate between the large stones to the bottom. “Is the glass full this time?”, he asked. Becoming more prudent, the pupils began to understand and answered: “Perhaps not yet.” The old professor bent down again and took out this time a small bag of sand that he poured into the glass. The sand filled the spaces between the stones and the crushed stones. Then he asked again: “Is the glass full now?” And all without hesitation answered: “No!” In fact, the old man took the decanter that was on the table and poured the water into the glass to the brim.
At this point he asked: “What great truth does this experiment show us? The most audacious replied: “This demonstrates that even when our agenda is completely full, with a bit of good will, we can always add some new endeavor, something else to do.” “No,” answered the professor. “What the experiment demonstrates is that if one does not put the large stones first in the glass, one will never succeed in making them go in afterward.” “What are the large stones, the priorities, in our life? The important thing is to put these large stones first in your agenda.”


Then he concludes with this prayer of Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard:

“O God, give the Church so many apostles, but revive in their heart an ardent thirst for intimacy with You and at the same time a desire to work for the good of their neighbor. Give all a contemplative activity and an active contemplation.”

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