The driver who went to heaven and the priest who went to purgatory
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - September 7, 2019 - 12:00am

This a true story, embellished with some fiction and hyperbole, and a liberal dose of figures of speech.

My late grandfather, well-known for his profound stories in our mountain village in Langin, Ronda, told me about one diocesan priest assigned in our town. His name was Fr. Stanley, who was short, balding, with weak knees and high blood pressure. He became disillusioned by the monotone and drudgery of serving in a remote, lonely town where he felt his hard work was unappreciated. And where the people were more focused on casting aspersion at his pastoral inexperience and lack of public relations skills. He thus talked to his cardinal and asked to be given a foreign assignment to minister to Filipino migrant workers.

Because Fr. Stanley was pious and because the cardinal didn’t find any blemish in his records, he acceded to his request. He was recommended to be assigned to Kuwait, a wealthy oil-producing city-state in the Persian Gulf, bound by Saudi Arabia on one side and Iran and Iraq on the other. The cardinal gave him a very special recommendation to be accepted as pastor of the OFWs, not only in Kuwait but also of Saudi Arabia. And since, he needed to constantly travel across the desert, he was given by the ambassador and the labor attaché (who happened to be both from Ronda also) a volunteer driver, Yusof, a young Maranaw sent to study the Koran and become an imam someday.

Father Stanley and Yusof became very close as they always traveled together. One time they had to take a boat ride to cross the strait between Kuwait and Dubai, and while at sea, their vessel was boarded by pirates who killed all on board. This was a true story, but the truth ends there. My lolo was very good in embellishing the truth with some profound addendum. He said that when the souls of the two Filipinos faced St. Peter in Pearly Gates, they were interviewed. After a few hours the committee of angels and saints recommended that Yusof should be sent to heaven directly while Fr. Stanley was to suffer prision correccional in purgatory.

Father Stanley filed an appeal saying that the decision was unfair and that St. Peter and his committee of angels and saints committed grave abuse of discretion, amounting to lack of jurisdiction. He said that he offered all his life to God and the Church and Yusof wasn’t even Christian. Reading his appeal brief, St. Peter summoned both of them and explained the verdict. Yusof was found to be a perennially overspeeding driver. All his passengers would always be praying when he was driving. These passengers were brought closer to God. Father Stanley's sermons were all boring, he did not know public speaking, he had no rapport with the audience. His listeners all slept or went home before the mass ended because of boredom. They strayed away from the house of God. He needs mentoring in purgatory.

My grandfather ended his story: It matters not whether one is Muslim or Christian. If you bring more people to God, heaven will open its doors to you. What matters most is what you have done, not what you are, nor what you think you should be.

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