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The Gift of Storytelling

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Donal Neary SJ

Many have heard the story that during WWII, due to the lack of make-up on sale, women would rub the red of the Messenger cover onto their faces at a dance. They also did this when mother did not allow rouge to be used, as make-up was called then! When I hear this, I think, ‘It’s the same old story’, but we always get a laugh from it. Like we remember family stories: ‘Ah, go on, Granny, tell us again the story of the night the lightning blew the roof off the house, and then we knew that your brother was out late!’

A good story is more than words – it’s memory of times gone by, a context, maybe of friends long since passed, and binds us to something more than the facts of its telling; to its meaning for us personally. Some people can make the greatest story boring, and others the most boring story interesting.

In many places around the world, the story of Brigid of Ireland will be told during February. The imaginative story about her father giving her land the size of her cloak,t for the poor, and her cloak spread over several fields, encapsulate a central message of God’s generosity and how it worked through Brigid.

The gospel is full of stories. I can imagine someone saying to Peter: ‘Tell us the one about the time you walked on water!’, or to Mary: ‘Tell us the one about when you went to the tomb.’ And the people would be spellbound. The story came to life because it was told from faith and from an experience of the heart.

Each gospel story keeps alive the mystery and the meaning of an event in our salvation. The gospel is the history of the past and the mystery of the present. The word of Jesus is spoken for today.

I can ask how the gospel throws light on my life now and what it tells me about Jesus. Then the story will never be boring. It will leave more than a red mark on the cheek, but an imprint of love on the soul.