The Three Priests
There were three priests living in a small town. One wanted to preserve the old simple Celtic styles of religion: "I abide by the traditions of Patrick and Brigit, the founders of our church," he said. The second wanted to adopt the new sophistocated styles and doctrines of the Roman church: "I want to be part of the universal church under the pope in Rome — and that is what Patrick and Brigit wanted," he said. The third said, "Let people worship and believe as they think best; if religion is just going to cause divisions, I want none of it."
These three priests remained friends, and often met for dinner; but their meetings always ended in argument. Sometimes they argued about how certain rituals should be performed. Sometimes they argued about heaven, and who would get there. "I believe that only those who remain loyal to the old Celtic traditions will get to heaven," the first said. "I believe that only those who accept the authority of the pope in Rome will be saved," the second said. "Let each person try to lead a good and honest life," the third said, "and then God will be the judge."
Some years later the three priests died, and arrived at the gate of heaven. Peter took the hand of the first priest. "Welcome, friend," Peter said, "you go and sit over there among the others who preserved the Celtic traditions." Then Peter took the hand of the second priest. "Welcome friend," Peter said, "you go and sit over there among the others who have obeyed the pope in Rome." Finally Peter took the hand of the third priest. "Welcome friend," he said, "you are free to wander wherever you want."
So the third priest wandered freely amongst all the different groups in heaven. And amongst the other people he saw wandering amongst the different groups were Patrick and Brigit — and Jesus Christ himself.
— Robert Van De Weyer, Celtic Parables: Stories, Poems, & Prayers, p.249.
Nice story. The third priest showed more courage, for breaking with tradition to more fully embrace the essential.
Many times, tradition gets in the way of true religion. We have heard that to embrace the cross is to embrace the church. I think, to embrace the cross, one embraces the world. Is it not the world that Christ willingly died for? By embracing the cross, we in turn can embrace the world not with judgement and condemnation, but with love. If ever the world needed embracing by the love of God, it is today. May the church become more like the third monk who was concerned more with the individual than by holding onto doctrine with the attiutude which says if you don’t believe the way I do, you are condemened. Let God be the judge, we have no right to be. He needs no defending. The church on the other hand, needs not to defend itself but to live and embrace the world it is in as Christ embraced those around him.