Is This Jar Full?

Keeping first things first puts everything else in proper order.

Hat tip to Fr. Albert Bruecken, OSB of Conception Abbey, who relayed the following story in his homily this past Sunday. I have adapted it significantly for use here.

Blessed Pope John Paul II

“In case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign
in favor of such a law, or to vote for it.”
– Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae

A wise, elderly Benedictine nun was teaching first-year seminarians at a nearby Benedictine abbey and seminary college. Before class one day, she overheard her students grumbling about the abbey’s rigorous daily prayer regimen, which they were having some difficulty keeping amid their other pursuits. She often heard such things as the seminarians tended to speak more freely in her presence than around the monks with whom they lived. Little did they know, her convent kept the exact same prayer schedule.

The next day, she was prepared to address the issue with her students. She set a glass jar of large rocks on the desk. She inquired, “Is this jar full?” Clearly, no more rocks would fit inside the jar. Following a few snickers and some curious discussion, the students agreed the jar was full.

Sister grabbed a small bag of gravel from under the desk. She poured it in the jar, filling the spaces between the rocks. She inquired again, “Is this jar full?” Thinking they understood the lesson, the students agreed the jar was now full.

This time, the elderly nun retrieved a small bag of sand and poured it into the jar. Just as the before, the grains of sand filled the spaces among the rocks and gravel. She inquired a third time, “Is this jar full?” Thoroughly humbled, the class sat in silence, until one young man respectfully raised his hand. “You could still pour water in it,” he said.

Sister smiled. “Correct. Now, what if I had filled the jar with water in first?”

“Well, there wouldn’t have been space for anything else,” the student replied.

“Correct again,” Sister said. “Now, what is the lesson?” After a brief period of silence, the wise, old nun continued.

“The rocks are your spiritual life, which must come first. Everything else will fit around it in proper order and measure. When you get things out of order, they won’t all fit as they should. You must begin with Mass, daily prayers, Sacred Scripture, reconciliation, devotions, etc. These must come first, as they properly order everything else. If you put anything else in first, you are literally putting it in God’s place. You make of it an idol; you make it your God.

“You must keep first things first.”

Sister’s lesson is just as relevant for us as we head to the voting booth. We must keep first things first, putting our faith before politics.

While there are many issues of concern to Catholic voters in this election, the Church teaches there are five non-negotiable issues: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, and same-sex “marriage”. These five issues concern actions that are intrinsically evil, meaning they fundamentally conflict with moral law. Consideration of these must come first to properly order all other issues, which are matters of prudential judgment.

If nothing else, please pray before you vote.

  1. Offer your vote to God, asking Him to accomplish His divine will in this election through your vote.
  2. Ask for the gift of wisdom, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to inform your voting choices.


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