The Parable of the Board

The Parable of the Board

I’m watching a video of myself. It’s the opening scene and I see myself standing at the head of a table. There is an intent look on my face and I am speaking with great fervor about something, my hands busily gesturing a point, though I don’t know what that point is, because there is no sound in the video. Then the camera pulls back and I see the room in which I am standing. It’s a conference room with a long table, capable of seating at least twelve people, though no one other than me is in the room. Suddenly, I stop talking and a look of confusion crosses my face. I turn around toward the door behind me and I watch as a line of men and women wearing mirthful smiles file into the room. As each one takes a seat at the conference table, my expression changes to one of befuddled surprise, which I assume is because I’ve just realized that I’ve been speaking so ardently to an absent audience.

The video I was watching was shown on a screen in my head. It began as a total surprise while I was in the middle of my daily prayers. Each morning I offer up my petitions to many holy ones in Heaven: Our Lord, Our Blessed Mother, Saint Michael, my guardian angel, and many saints. They are my Board of Directors. I consult with them frequently, entreating their assistance and submitting important decisions to them before acting. At the time the video began, I was speaking to St. John Paul II and I was asking him to help me grow in humility so I could be more like him. However, even as I prayed for his guidance, my attention was focusing on whether or not I could get home from work in time to watch News Nightly on EWTN.

So the video was a distraction to a distraction, and I had to smile. But while it was humorous, I knew there was more purpose to it than just humor. I knew I was being called on my lack of focus and respect for those to whom I was praying. But why, that being the case, was I the only one present in the room, while everyone else was missing? That didn’t make sense.

I pondered this question for many days, but I couldn’t figure it out.  Then, when I was about to give up, it was as if someone leaned over and whispered the answer in my ear, and everything suddenly made sense.

I believe the underlying message of the scene was given in the same way as many are in the Gospels, where things are the opposite of how they seem: the first shall be last and the last shall be first; the one who is least will be greatest; by losing one’s life, one will save it; in poverty one becomes rich; he who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted; he who would lead must be a slave to others. And in this video, the one who is present is absent and the ones who are absent are present. It was a graphic message and yet because of the way in which it was delivered, I had to think long and hard about its implications. I believe that was intended, because as a result of my lengthy ponderings its significance has become fixed in my mind.

Every morning now, before I begin my prayers, I take some time to quiet my mind and to center myself. Each time I address someone new I take the time to re-center myself. And when I catch my mind wandering, which is often, I stop and apologize for my distraction, reset my focus, and then I continue on. I believe I’m doing a little better at concentrating, though it is still a continuous battle.

When I think back on the smiles of the Board members in my video, it seems to me that they were having a little fun with me, even while they were teaching me a valuable lesson. So when I become frustrated with myself over my continual distractions, I picture the smiles and the good-natured patience of those to whom I pray, and I try to be as patient with myself as they are with me. Ah, but patience, that’s another project!

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Written by
Cynthia Todd