Today is the feast of St. Matthias who was chosen to take the place of Judas as one of the Twelve Apostles. Let me use this day to speak about a friend of mine named Matthias.
I was a Theology student in the fall of 1949, when Mattie, two years younger, came to us from Ireland for his Philosophy studies. He was one of six Irish boys sent over to study with us, and we had added soccer to our American football games, just to give the Irish boys something that they were very good at.
One day Mattie, with his charming looks, was coming down the soccer field, dribbling the ball with his feet. Coming from the side, I took the ball away from him, and I was kicking it along toward the other goal, when I heard Mattie pounding and grunting after me.
I passed the ball off, and got down to the end of the field, but I heard Mattie still chasing me hard. We were fifty yards clear off the field, up toward the dorm, but Mattie kept after me; so, I stopped and faced him. With that, Mattie came to himself, apologizing for losing his temper.
Fifteen years further on, we were in Korea together, and we had a new young bishop who brought us both in to work in his residence. With his temper flare-ups, Mattie had not done well with his parishioners, so the bishop had him there doing the purchasing and keeping the books. He had me there as his chancellor, but all I did was write his letters.
After Christmas of 1965. the bishop took off for a four-month fund raising trip to Ireland and the States. Mattie who was never angry with me again, kept to his room, smoking, listening to the radio, and trying to deal with his temper.
Now, the nuns had a hospital nearby and they had a Sister Louise who was doing the same work as Mattie, buying, and keeping their books. That would have been fine, except that just having here near him set off Mattie’s temper.
Just before the bishop left, Sister Louise got his permission to use our kitchen to run a Western style Cooking course for Korean girls. They came up with fine dishes, and the girls took turns watching us though a little window.
Sister and the girls spent one afternoon making two shish-kabobs. The girls put them on our plates, then, retired to the kitchen to take turns spying on us through the little window.
Each ten-inch skewer was threaded through an array of roast beef and pork and colorful vegetables. For Mattie it was the weirdest, most unwanted thing anyone had ever put before an Irishman. After sitting, fuming, he went into action. Wedging his fork under the food at one end of the shish kabob. Mattie shouted “Holy Jamie Mack!”
With that, he ran the fork up the skewer, sending the squares of meat and vegetables flying all over.The poor fellow died in his early fifties. His sad story dramatizes the way uncontrollable emotions can bring unending grief to very fine people.