The saintly lawyer and the sinning priest

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - September 2, 2019 - 12:00am

There was a story told by my grandfather about two brothers from our town, Ronda, who lived in the late forties, after World War II. They were both handsome, brainy, and had a pleasing, magnetic personality. The elder became a famous trial lawyer and the younger became a controversial, but well-loved priest. They were scions of a wealthy, landed family and became the pride of our people because they accomplished so much in their respective lives.

The lawyer married a rich heiress from Mindanao, and the priest was sent by his order to a remote village in Africa. The lawyer prospered in his practice, and became recognized as a top civil and criminal attorney. The priest became famous for his sermons and written treatises on faith and religion. But his reputation was tainted with rumors about women, alcohol, and gambling.

When they had a reunion in our town, the two brothers, missing each other after long years of separation bonded together and drove to Badian to catch up with each other. Unfortunately, their car was hit by a large bus and they were killed.

That was the end of the true story. But my lolo embellished the narrative by adding fiction into their post-mortem existence. It was told that when the two were met by St. Peter in the Pearly Gates, they were asked some questions about how they lived their lives on earth.

The angels and saints who witnessed the interview were not unanimous in their evaluation as to who deserved eternal reward or lasting damnation. They were asked to tell their stories. St. Peter warned only one of them will go to heaven.

The priest said that having offered his whole life in the service of God and the Church, he lived a very hard and lonely life. He ministered to the spiritual needs of the Africans from Baptism to Extreme Unction, he celebrated Masses each day, and taught Catechism to pagans and gentiles, risking his own security and health.

Thus, it was his honest belief that he was entitled to some small pleasures and enjoyment, a woman here and a little gambling there, and a lot of alcohol and smoking, supposedly to keep himself from becoming crazy in a godforsaken African desert, where heat could reach boiling point. Is he to be condemned by God when he did not cause pain or injustice to people, unlike some lawyers he knew and heard about?

The lawyer said that all his life he wanted to show the world lawyers are nice people, that they don’t lie, they only ask questions and it is the witness who lies. He remained faithful to the lawyers' oath and stayed true to his noble calling as an officer of the court and as an instrument in the administration of justice.

He never abused his clients and was always true to the canons of legal ethics. He never strayed from the straight and narrow path and always did his works in absolute fidelity to client, court, society, and to God. He never delayed, damaged, or prejudiced any man for money or malice. He was a faithful husband, a doting father, a loyal parishioner, a lay minister, and a Knight of Columbus.

Now, my grandfather, refusing to put a clear ending to the story, would tell us: Now, you decide which of the two brothers was more pleasing to the eyes of God? My answer is as good as yours, dear readers. What matters most is that both were heard before they were judged.

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