Summaryby Dr Mitchell Kalpakgian | What greater legacy than having invested one’s time and opportunity to do good to the utmost without having wasted either one?
Economy and frugality discipline people’s habits to control foolish expenditures and unnecessary purchases, to always distinguish between the essential and nonessential.
However, the habit of wastefulness does not stop with extravagant spending as human beings are guilty of wasting many other valuable resources.
The waste of time presents another problem of considerable magnitude, one that schools and teachers confront in their classes.
Students who do not complete homework, who fail to be punctual in completing assignments and meeting deadlines for essays, and who are always tardy, absent, or guilty of procrastination are notorious for wasting time, especially if they own electronic devices that occupy them for hours.
Many waste their health by neglect, overindulgence in food, drink, alcohol, smoking, and drugs or fail to apportion the necessary time for recreation, fitness and exercise.
Others waste their time in unnecessary work, grand projects to provide them a lifetime of ease and luxury like the rich man Christ castigates for building more barns to store more grain for some indefinite future when, on the very day he ponders the multiplication of his possessions, death awaits him.
As he reflects, “I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and goods,” God interrupts his fantasies with a sobering fact: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you.”
A Waste of Enrichment
Another type of wastefulness is the burying of a person’s gifts and opportunities for which the famous parable of the talents provides a stern warning.
The worthless servant who failed to multiply his one talent hears the rebuke “You wicked and slothful servant!” because he failed to be fruitful and productive.
Many waste their youth and fail to respond to the calls of their hearts’ deepest desires as marriages and religious vocations suffer a decline. Many fertile married couples deliberately avoid children or limit their families for no legitimate reason, frustrating the fruitfulness of love.
The gift of love and the treasure of children go unwanted and unappreciated as time, opportunity, and wealth are spent in the pursuit of careers, pleasure, and luxury.
Wastefulness also takes the form of idle pursuits that divert a person from the mainstream of life centered in the home and family. Instead of living full, abundant lives that enrich others, many seek escape in thrills and sensations in faraway places that produce no fruit or interest.
Leaving no Legacy
The money, time, talent, gifts, and opportunities a person receives have the purpose of serving others, contributing to the common good, and giving God glory.
To receive love from a family but not to impart it to others; to earn wealth that is spent only for one’s pleasures and comforts but never for the happiness of others; to be endowed with natural aptitudes like mathematical expertise, athletic ability, manual skill, musical talent, or superior intelligence and not make full use of them by education and dedication to one’s work; or to have a whole lifetime of opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others and then to have nothing to show for it—these too also illustrate the sin of wastefulness, the waste of the gift of life along with one’s time and talent.
Many belong to this category that the Book of Sirach classifies as those leaving no legacy or memory:
“And there are some who have no memorial, who have perished as though they had not been born, and so have their children after them.”
Christ’s words also exhort man to live a fruitful life with a great harvest: “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.”
To perish as if one had not ever been born means to be born and to die without making any difference in anyone’s life or touching one person’s soul.
In Willa Cather’s Death Comes to the Archbishop, Bishop Latour exemplifies the full, abundant, unwasted life rich in spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
As a French bishop of the American Southwest in the nineteenth century, he uses his time, talents, opportunities, education, and entire life to produce a fruitful harvest.
First, he never wastes his time in idleness like some priests who find occasions for dancing and gambling at the neglect of the people they serve.
Second, Bishop Latour never loses an opportunity to evangelize the Mexicans and Indians in need of pastoral care, missionary zeal, and religious instruction that have all gone untended.
When he finds couples with children living as husband and wife without the Sacrament of Matrimony, he performs the marriages first and then the baptisms.
When his host encourages the bishop to baptize the children first and later perform the marriages because “The men are in the field,” the bishop refuses: “A man can stop his work to be married . . . . No, I tell you, Lujon, the marriages first, the baptisms afterward; that order is but Christian.” Bishop Latour is a fisher of men, and his net is full.
Doing the Utmost
Bishop Latour uses every opportunity to make long journeys to visit small, remote parishes to bring the Sacraments, hearing grateful words from a young girl surprised by the visit of a priest, a rare event: “A priest? . . . Such a thing has not happened before; it must be in answer to my father’s prayers.”
His presence as a traveler with a Roman collar rescues an abused woman who entrusts herself to the priest’s care to leave her cruel husband, a vicious murderer:
“She could not bear any more killing. She asked nothing better than to die herself, if only she could be near a church and a priest, to make her right with God.”
On a cold December night a desperate Mexican woman forbidden by her master to practice her Catholic faith daringly pays a visit to Bishop Latour’s church. Crying, she kisses the feet of the statue of the Holy Mother, sobbing, “nineteen years, father, nineteen years since I have seen the holy things of the altar.”
Always exercising his gifts as a priest to the utmost and faithful to his vocation, Bishop Latour’s investment of his talents yields much interest and profit. His fatherly care for all the members of his flock not only revives Christian faith but also improves the cultural level of the people.
He founds schools, teaches the native populations how to grow gardens and plant orchards, and builds a cathedral to introduce them to the beauty of Romanesque architecture and the majesty of God’s glory.
Bishop Latour performs all these deeds that elevate and civilize the lives of the Mexicans and Indians to make them abundant rather than sparse and to make them live well rather than merely survive.
His talents bear interest and produce fruit for one main reason: he does not waste his talents, time, opportunity, and vocation. When the bishop retires in his old age, he explains to a younger priest that he does not anticipate dying because of ill health but for some higher reason:
“I shall not of a cold, my son. I shall die of having lived.”
Either one can perish as though he had never been born or accomplished anything of value, or one can die from having lived, from having used one’s talents and not buried them, from having invested one’s time and opportunity to do good to the utmost without having wasted them.
Mountain Clouds image © Galyna Andrushko / Dollar Photo Club