HOME THOUGHTS ABROAD, 9
As I was walking down to San Damiano today for Evening Prayer and Eucharistic Adoration, I saw a number of olive trees, and they are just beginning to bear fruit. Yes, I have seen these trees a number of times in my month here, but this thought only just came to me.
I remembered when I was a first-year seminarian in Rome, and our first overnight holiday was in Assisi. We stayed in a hostel (now a hotel) about halfway between Assisi and Santa Maria degli Angeli, and the garden had wonderful things growing in it: apples, figs, grapes, olives… a real joy! Yes, I tasted all these, and in the order I just listed them. That’s important.
The olives were wonderfully black and so inviting! I love olives, and to me the only thing better than a black olive is a pitted black olive. And I thought, “What could be better than getting one ‘from the source,’?” as they say. WRONG!
It turns out that without proper blanching and marinating, raw olives are about as tasty as gasoline (and it took about 3 days to get that taste out of my mouth). It reminded me of another “adventure” in Honors chemistry lab at Notre Dame, but that’s another story for another time.
So this evening my mind went back to that event (30+ years ago), and also went to the warning God gave the man and the woman in Genesis about the tree of knowledge of good and evil: “The moment you eat of it, you shall surely die.” I didn’t die, but when I bit into that olive, I wished I had! But it looked so good…
My hero, (Blessed) John Henry Newman, explains this very well, I think. And forgive me for referencing him without quotes: I don’t have the book in front of me. But in an appendix to the Apologia Pro Vita Sua, his recounting of the spiritual journey that led him to the Catholic Church, he writes that the beginning of what later became declared as heresy was the pressing forward, against authority and at the wrong time, of a truth for which it was not the right time. My olives, delightful as they appeared, were not ready. Perhaps after the proper time the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil would have been right (and ripe) for Adam and Eve, too…
How often impatience ruins, as Newman put it, a good work that would have been done in someone else’s time, because we could not (or would not) wait!