The Effect of A Minor Incident

October 29, 2018

In Yugoslavia some years ago a young boy was serving Mass, and he dropped the cruet. The priest slapped him, and said, 'Get out and never come back.' He never came back. He became the communist leader of Yugoslavia, Tito.  If that priest had ever come to the good Lord in order to review what he had done, there would have been, perhaps, some remission and an altering of the effect. I can remember when I was a boy serving at the cathedral under Bishop John L. Spalding. I was about seven years of age, and I dropped the wine cruet at the offertory. Now let me tell you that there is no atomic explosion which can equal in intensity the sound of a cruet falling on a marble floor. I was frightened to death because we altar boys thought he was a stern man. After Mass, he said, 'Come here, young man. Where are you going to school when you get big?' To a seven-year-old, big is high school. I said, 'Spalding Institute.'  That was the high school named after him, a much more diplomatic answer than I thought at the time.  He said, 'I said when you get big. Did you ever hear of Louvain?' I said, 'No.' 'Well, you go home and tell your mother that I said that when you got big, you were to go to the University of Louvain, and some day you will be just as I am.' So I went home and told my mother what he had said, and she said, 'Yes, that's a great university in Europe.' I never once thought of that incident until I had been ordained two years and stepped off a train in Louvain. I said, 'Oh, this is where Bishop Spalding told me to go.' It was an event that in some way altered my life as it altered the life of Tito in the opposite way.