St Matthew’s surprise

St. Matthew is one of those saints                                     who becomes a dear friend
                                               once you get acquainted.                                                       Let’s get to
know him a bit better!          
St. Matthew:  I am
always happy to make new friends.  You
know, I didn’t have very many to begin with.                            
Inmate of Rosary Convent: 
Really?  Why is that, St. Matthew?             
St. M.: Well, I was a tax collector before I received my
vocation.  And being a Jewish tax
collector meant at that your people considered you a traitor to them for
working on behalf of the Romans, and also that you were more than likely a
 I. R. C.:  But surely
all the tax collectors weren’t cheats?
St. M.:  I wouldn’t
say all; but since anything they collected over and above the set amount was
theirs, and since man is prone to laziness and avarice, there was a fair bit of
fraud going on.  But even if a tax
collector didn’t cheat, he was still seen as a bad lot.  He was working for the Romans, and the Romans
meant no good to my people.  Remember
that at that time, the Romans were the masters of the world, and with the
fiercely independent spirit of the Jews, coupled with the promise of a Messiah
Who would rule the world, the Jews were simply itching for the time when they
could draw swords and follow a bold captain against those cocky young Italian centurions.  But the tax collector – well, to put it
mildly, he was seen as lacking in national sentiment.  However, it was an appealing profession to
broadminded people.  If you didn’t mind a
generous amount of sneers from your countrymen, all you had to do was set up
your booth, fold your hands, and wait for the money to pour in.
I. R. C.:  Were you
lacking in national sentiment, St. Matthew?                                                                                                                                
St. M.:  Commentators
on my Gospel are always careful to point out that I was writing specifically
for my own people.  If you have a look at
it, you will notice that I have put in a lot of prophecies from the Old
Testament relating to the Messiah, and I point out that these prophecies were
fulfilled in Our Lord.  And I may say,
that once I began to understand the mission of Our Lord, the more I appreciated
my own peoples’ history.  Remember all
the holy prophets the Israelites had, all the battles that we won thanks to
God’s help, and as to literary achievements, well, you simply can’t get much
better that our own Royal Poet, King David!

I. R. C.:  St.
Matthew, why do you think that people always mention you when they are talking
about how important a Vocation is?      
St. M.:  That is a
very good question.  I think that St.
Peter, or even St. John sort of made a bigger show of sacrifice when they left
their trusty fishing boats and all their nets and hooks and things behind and
followed Our Lord.  I was only leaving an
old desk in a dusky, noisy custom house! 
Perhaps because of my particular situation at that time – that of a
money-grubber.  What with so many young
people today worried about getting a good job and making as much as they can,
they run the risk of ignoring or simply not hearing the Master calling them to
His service.  My story is perhaps
particularly relevant to them.

I.R.C.:  Could you
tell me your story, about when Our Lord called you, St. Matthew?


St. M.:  Well, it was
a day like any other.  There I was sitting
in the Custom house, bent over my piles of coins – I think I was in the very
middle of adding up my morning’s collection. 
I had done rather well that day, I remember, and I was just trying to
add up a whole pile of small change – you know how fiddly that is!

I. R. C.:  Yes, I
do.  Fortunately I don’t need to worry
about money at the Convent!  That is the
job of the Sister Bursar.

St. M.:  She has a responsible
job – one which can try the patience sometimes. 
Well, I think that I had mislaid a piece of silver and miscalculated,
and was trying to figure out where I had gone wrong.  I was a bit warm under the collar – it was a
hot day in any events – when all of a sudden, a shadow fell across my
table.  That bothered me more still,
because one likes to have as much light as possible when one is working at a


 I. R. C.:  I have had
the same feeling, studying tiny print out of a history textbook at 8:30pm when
a blackout happens.
St. M.:  It’s not
calming to the nerves.  Anyhow, I tried
to command a pleasant manner, because I sour faces are never good for business,
and I looked up to see Jesus of Nazareth standing at my bench.  He had such an expression on His Face!  It was almost as though He felt sorry that I
was getting so bothered over such a trifling thing as a miscalculation in small
change, and He just said:  “Follow
I.R.C:  And what did
you do, St. Matthew?         
St. M.:  The only
sensible thing – I followed Him.   
I.R.C:  Weren’t you
sorry to leave your money there?  I mean,
didn’t it worry you that the other tax collectors would grab all your
earnings?  Didn’t you even snatch up a bit
of cash so that you’d at least know that your next meal would be taken care of?
St. M.:  No – have you
forgotten how many times Our Lord multiplied bread?  Meals were not going to be an issue!  But really, food was far from my thoughts at
that moment.  I was simply overcome at
the thought that here was the one Treasure worth having, and to leave all of
one’s possessions in order to secure it was no sacrifice at all.

I.R.C.:  You mean like
the parable of the treasure hidden in the field?


St. M.:  Yes – only my
case was rather different.  I wasn’t
actually digging for the Treasure at the time – I was trying to find it in my
receipt book.  The Treasure came looking
for ME.  

I.R.C.:  What did you
do after Our Lord ascended into Heaven, St. Matthew?  Besides writing your Gospel, I mean.


St. M.:  You may
remember from your study of History that due to the bad feelings of the Jews
towards the Infant Church, we Apostles dispersed into various far
countries.  I went to Ethiopia, a region
on the Horn of Africa.  It was ruled by a
king whose daughter, the Princess Iphigenia, had recently died.  By the grace of God, the princess came back
to life again, and consecrated herself to Our Lord as a virgin.  The king was converted to the Faith, and so
was his whole kingdom. 

I.R.C:  How
splendid!  Then what happened?


St. M.  The king died
some time after that, and he was succeeded by a young man called Hirtacus.  He wanted to marry Princess Iphigenia.  However, Iphigenia refused him, since she was
the spouse of Our Lord already, so he got rather upset about that, and barged
into the chapel one day when I was saying Mass –


Contarelli Chapel and Works of Caravaggio: St Matthew’s call, inspiration and martyrdom
I.R.C:  Why did he
want to go and bother you?

St. M.:  Well, I had
given Iphigenia the idea of consecrating herself to God in the first place, so
he held me responsible for his disappointment. 
Anyhow, Hirtacus drew his sword, and after a few nasty moments, I heard
a Voice was greeting me with the words: 
“Well done, good and faithful servant!”

I.R.C:  That happened
on the 21st of September, didn’t it?  I
seem to remember that was what the Matins readings said.                                                                                                                                                     St. M.: Yes, and the 21st of September is also my feast  day.                                                                                                                                I.R.C.: 
I know – we
celebrated it!  We even included berries in
the dinner menu because the Matins readings said that that was mostly what you
St. M.:  Very fitting
– but you also had chocolate and things like that, I noticed!
I.R.C.:  Well, we
figured chocolate was symbolic too, because cocoa beans grow in places like
St. M.:  Oh yes, any
excuse will do.  How did you like the surprise
I sent you?
I.R.C.:  You mean all
those boxes?  Oh, they were simply the
best!  This car zoomed up our drive, and
a man came and politely asked if he could have some help unloading stuff for
the sisters.  There were about 8 enormous
cardboard boxes – I don’t know how he managed to fit them all into his
boot.  We staggered into the Barn with
them, and unpacked them on our table tennis table.  Some of the sisters were afraid that the
table would collapse under their weight. 
And inside . . .
St. M.:  Your shouts
of excitement echoed right up into heaven, I do assure you.
I.R.C.:  Books!  More books than I’d ever seen outside of a
bookshop!  Lovely old ones, on just about
all the religious topics you’d care to mention, from piles of saints
biographies, to works on the spiritual life, plus over a hundred of those
A.C.T.S. pamphlets.  There was even a
book on stenography!
St. M.:  I thought
that it would be a rather fitting thing for the cargo from the kindly Brisbane
parish to arrive at your convent on my feast day, seeing that I am a writer
myself.  I hope that you remembered to
say a prayer for your benefactors from there, especially Mr. Gary Wilson?
I.R.C.:  Yes, we did;
and I’m sure we do every time we see the books neatly arranged in our
library.  People are very generous to us
here at Rosary Convent, St. Matthew. 
Won’t you say a prayer for the Brisbane parish, and all our other
benefactors, too?