He taught them with authority


Rosary beads a traditional form of prayer

Just about this time fifteen years ago, my old French teacher died – “Monsieur Sam”, of Wimbledon College.

When we were boys of 13, religion really didn’t mean very much to us. We had not yet experienced in our own lives any real need for God. But Monsieur Sam, our new French teacher, insisted on starting our French course by teaching us the Rosary in French. We found out that it was the first thing he taught every class he took.

And he explained to us very simply why he did that – it was because he believed that the most important thing he would ever teach us was not how to communicate in French (which was, as he freely admitted, a lost cause), but how to communicate with God – how to pray when you are facing the moments of great crisis that occur sooner or later in all our lives.

For Monsieur Sam, that crisis was during the Second World War, when he was in North Africa. His army was being regularly and heavily defeated – losing ground and men. Most of his regiment - most of his friends – had already been killed or injured. Every day, he faced terrible dangers. It was at that time in his life that praying the Rosary became the most important thing he ever did.

The Rosary celebrates the great moments of crisis in the life of Jesus. By praying over these times and seeing how Jesus continued to trust in the goodness and the power of God, even at the most fearful moments in his life, Monsieur Sam was able to find the Faith to endure his own time of great crisis.

I have long since forgotten nearly all of the French that he taught me. But I have never forgotten his lesson on prayer. Because he taught us with the authority of a man who had been there – a man who had faced the desperate struggles of life with Faith triumphant.

So, in his memory, I would like to say to you today, “Bonjour, et Merci Beaucoup, Monsieur Sam”.

Notre Père, qui es aux cieux,
Que ton nom soit sanctifié,
Que ton règne vienne,
Que ta volonté soit faite sur la terre comme au ciel.
Donne-nous aujourd’hui notre pain de ce jour.
Pardonne-nous nos offences
Comme nous pardonnons aussi à ceux qui nous ont offensés.
Et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation,
mais délivre-nous du mal,
car c’est à toi qu’appartiennent le règne,
la puissance et la gloire, aux siècles des siècles.

And also in his memory, let us pray that we too may face our own crises with Faith and with Prayer.

And let us profess our Faith in God in whom we never walk alone.

Paul O'Reilly SJ