Once upon a time there was a lasting friendship

Let the Busy World be Hushed

Fr Jason Murphy

There’s a children’s book called The Little Prince and it was first introduced to me by my music teacher of old, Sr. M. Cecilia, who taught the piano to the children of Belturbet for twenty years after her retirement from primary school teaching. It was left at the end of the piano after a lesson in the days leading up to Christmas, wrapped in holly covered paper with a chocolate bar and a tangerine sitting on top.

It told the story of a little Prince who visits many planets to learn something of each and during his visit to earth he becomes very lonely and longs desperately to meet a friend.

One day whilst out walking alone through the desert he meets a bushy tailed fox who was wandering along looking as forlorn and as downcast as he himself was and so he decided to stop to talk to the passing fox. He soon asked the fox might he play with him for a while, but the fox in reply told the boy ‘I can’t play with you.’

‘Why?’ asked the little Prince.

‘Because,’ said the fox, ‘no one has ever bothered to befriend me, to teach me how to play as little boys play.’

‘And how do you become a friend?’ asked the little Prince.

‘You become friends’ replied the fox ‘by establishing ties.’

‘Establishing ties?’ asked the confused little Prince, ‘What on earth do you mean?’

‘Well put it like this: to me you are a little boy like all the other little boys in the world and I to you are nothing more than another little fox like all the other foxes in the world … a boy and a fox, mere strangers who have met in passing… but if you were to become my friend, I would be unique in all the world to you and you would be unique in all the world to me.’

‘Oh I’d love to become your friend,’ said the little Prince, ‘I really would but my time on earth is short and I have so little time and so much to understand.’

‘Ah’ said the fox ‘you only understand that which you befriend and to befriend takes time and no one has time any more. People buy things ready made on the shelf but there is no shelf from which you buy a friend.’

‘Ok’ said the little Prince. ‘What must I do to become your friend?’

‘You must be very patient, you must sit each day a distance away from me in the grass and as the days pass, you will move a little closer and a little closer until one day after some time, unbeknownst to each other we will be sitting side by side in the grass and then we will have become friends’.

And so it was that they sat in the grass and as each day passed they move closer and closer until one day they became the best of all friends.

It was a story and a book that remained with me always until years later we were sitting together on a bus to Dublin, the old nun and I. During our conversation she asked me had I still the book she had given me, which I told her I had.

‘Keep in mind that story of the little Prince and the fox as you go through life and learn from it not to befriend too quickly, remember to sit a distance away and to move closer and closer over time. Don’t fall for the one you claps you on the back and tells you that you are a great fella when you are new to a parish or on the crest of a wave and pay attention to the person that wants nothing from you, who stands perhaps at the back wall of the chapel and whom you only come to know over time, for let me tell you, they will be with you in your hour of need.’

It was a conversation I was to recall time and time again over the years and a lesson I was to absorb fully, the hard way. In the gospels of Holy week just passed we see the crowds cheering Jesus on Palm Sunday, the loudest of his disciples swearing their allegiance to him when all is going well as the week goes on, but only one remains at the foot of the cross on Good Friday when all is lost; John, the quiet one, whom we hear little or nothing about and yet we know is the one that Jesus loves, the one he has come to know over time, he is there when all else have fled and the only one of the twelve who is there on that Easter morn to see the glory of Christ risen.

So let us take heed of how and with whom we form friendships for it is the ones you least expect who will be with you on your Good Friday supporting you ‘til the end.