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Father Muench Says...

The wonderful art of storytelling

January 30, 2013

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

As I was driving my car down to Syracuse a couple Sundays ago, I happened upon a public radio program featuring a great storyteller. His name was Stewart McClain, a Canadian, and he calls his show “The Vinyl Café.” It was a great program – certainly, held my attention.  He had a segment in which he read some stories that listeners sent in and all were very interesting.  Then he has a regular segment about a fictional person that he calls “Dave.”  In that week’s story he described how Dave set out to clean up his attic and wound up spending his time reminiscing as he looked through a box of memorabilia.

I am always intrigued by these professional storytellers. There are many of such story tellers around these days – especially on the radio – like this Steward McClain and Garrison Keeler. It’s a rare talent that I truly envy.

At a recent school Mass at St. Bernard’s in Saranac Lake, I encountered a wonderful fourth grader storyteller.
That morning Father Bryan Stitt, one of our vocation directors spoke to each of the classrooms.  So at the School Mass, I asked the kids what he had taught them.  This one young lady mentioned that he had told them the Old Testament story about the young Samuel.  The she calmly and with great detail repeated the whole story. I suspect you may remember the story: Samuel was the apprentice to the high priest, Eli.  One night as Samuel slept in the shrine he heard a voice calling him. H he thought that it was Eli but, Eli recognized that he had been called by God. Levi instructed Samuel that when he was again called  to say “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”  I hope that the story made as good an impression on the other students as it did on this one girl.

Many young people will hear the Lord’s call – may they listen to the Lord’s message. All of this reminds me of how great a storyteller Jesus was.  People have told and retold – analyzed and reanalyzed the parables of Jesus for hundreds of years.  They are very special stories.

We must never forget that they are stories; they did not really happen.  Jesus cleverly crafted these meaningful stories to teach the people of his day and all of us. Each little detail is important. The Gospels make it very clear when Jesus is telling a parable – or – when a story is about an event that really happened.  The parables of Jesus have become familiar and important to all Christians.

When we consider an important lesson in life – there is always a parable that helps us understand better.

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