The Importance of Second Fiddles

Yesterday I had the privilege of eating dinner with 40 teens from five Congregation of Holy Cross high schools in Texas, Louisiana, and California.  All had spent several hours Friday, in the Texas heat, doing service projects at various host organizations. While all the kids seemed touched by their experiences, one group especially stays in my mind.

That group assisted groundskeepers at St. Edward’s University in mulching many of the beautiful trees that shade the hilltop campus.  One teen was impressed with how many of the other staff on campus knew and greeted the groundskeepers with friendship and affection.  He realized he’d never paid much attention to those who keep the grounds at his homePhoto of pink Alstromeria flowers high school.  He realized you don’t have to be a faculty member or school administrator to live forth the Holy Cross values, and make a difference in the world.  He spoke of how he’ll always see his own high school campus differently after this, realizing how many people silently and faithfully go about their daily business of taking care of living things, trimming grass, picking up trash, or doing other jobs, all so those on campus can have a beautiful place to study and grow.

Sometimes folks like the SEU groundskeepers are considered to be “second fiddles”, named after violinists in an orchestra who aren’t in the “First Violin” position (the one who often rises from his or her chair at the audience end of the row to shake hands with the conductor).  Second Fiddles are less visible, often sitting own the row behind the First Violinist, sometimes blending into the background to the point of near invisibility, sometimes being considered less necessary to the music since there may be more than one violinist in the Second Fiddle row, and perhaps the absence of one would not make a difference to the music.

But think of all those Second Fiddles and what would happen to the world if they all suddenly disappeared:  the green living things on campuses might start dying for lack of water-preserving mulch, trash would pile up, offices would have no staff.  And St. Brother Andre Bessette, a door-keeper in Montreal, might never have become known to the world.

I realize not everyone in the positions I’ve mentioned likes the term “second fiddles”, and that’s as it should be.  No insult is intended.  But take a moment to stop and think about those in your daily life who aren’t the First Violinist, yet contribute to beautiful music for all. Stop and ask God to bless them.  And the next time you see one of them, give them a smile and a greeting and say a few words of appreciation.   You’ll be glad you did.


“Read the Bible As Much As Possible”


James Latimer's photo.

“The main thing is to read the Bible as much as possible. When the mind does not understand, the heart will feel; and if neither the mind understands nor the heart feels, read it over again, because by reading it you are sowing God’s words in your soul. And there they will not perish, but will gradually and imperceptibly pass into the nature of your soul; and there will happen to you what the Saviour said about the man who ‘casts seed on the ground, and sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, while the man does not know it’ (Mark 4:26-27).  The main thing is: sow, and it is God who causes and allows what is sown to grow.”— St Justin Popovic

Practicing What I Preach: Making Forgiveness a Habit

“Every Moment is a Chance to Practice” – Charlie Gilkey,

Recently I read a post with the above title, from Charlie Gilkey’s Productive Flourishing website.  Charlie is the provider of some of my favorite weekly project planners, all aimed at creative types whose lives are project (not appointment) centered.  While Charlie was speaking of other things, his title reminded me of a principle I learned decades ago:  I must choose every moment to practice in seemingly small ways, what I may someday have to do in a much larger way.

What do I mean?

  • To run a marathon I’ve never run, I must run smaller distances on a regular basis before running 26 miles.
  • To have a good annual dental report, I must brush my teeth every day.
  • To read the Bible daily, I have to choose to say no to distractions, often one after the other, some provided by my own brain.

This truth also applies in our Christian spiritual lives: Those of us who are Christians often say “I have surrendered my will to Jesus Christ.”  But if we live our daily lives choosing our own will, demanding our own way in everything, how will we suddenly be obedient to Jesus’ will when He requires it?  On a daily basis we have practiced doing our own will and demanding our own way until it has become a habit.  When the crunch time comes, will we not be much more likely to do our own will, than to do His will?

Jesus has indeed given us a command, to forgive others (“If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew chapter 6 verse 14), therefore we must, on a daily basis – sometimes on a minute by minute basis – extend forgiveness to those who offend us, including but not limited to:  the drivers that cut in front of us on the road, family members, or the co-worker down the hall.  Even a seemingly small situation requiring us to forgive is not some lightweight, sweet and easy thing, but often a difficult act of the will, out of obedience to Jesus, that goes completely contrary to what our will wants to do.  I often fail in the battle to obey and forgive.  When I do, by the grace of God I get up, dust myself off, and try again, in the hope that someday my forgiveness muscle will be strong and ready for action, and I will finally have trained my will to do Christ’s will, not my own.  When I’m whining and having a pity party over the “injustice” done to me by someone who infringed what I considered to be one of my rights, I remind myself that Jesus set the bar high when, after having every human right violated, and being tortured and hung on a cross, He said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”