In the Summer of my ordination, I had invited a few Belgian teenagers to spend a holiday on the lovely island of Callot, near my home. We enjoyed swimming, fishing, surfing, and they listened to good teachings, sitting on the fine white sand. A dozen boys were camping under the pine trees, while the girls managed a dormitory in the little school building of the island.
How elating and delightful to wake up at daybreak, listening to the breathing of a gentle sea along the beach! Larks went soaring, exultant in the wide new sky, while large white gulls went gliding silently in the cool morning air…
We had a great time, teenagers, seminarians and a couple of young adults, accompanied by two priests newly ordained.
Every morning we would climb up the dune to the welcoming and lovely chapel of «Our Lady of Callot». We sang the morning prayers and praised the Lord with gusto, as each new day opened to new surprises. Between various activities, I liked to take a time alone, in one of the pretty creeks that festooned the island shores. There I would dive and swim with delight, in the clear turquoise of the sea.
One day, after diving from a rock, I realized that… one of my teeth (an implant) had gone!… Trying to look for it under water was no help: how would you find a tooth in the sand?… I arrested a plan: once the sea would had ebbed low, I would come back. I spotted three rocks, as the limits of a space where the tooth might have dropped. Back with my friends, I summoned a meeting at the foot of the granite cross near the chapel. There, in the gorgeous evening, I addressed my crowd, telling them my story. They mocked and jeered and yelled with laughter. Among them stood a young man on holiday, the son of a lady who hosted some of us. A jolly good fellow, owner of flowers stores in Paris. He joined the joking party who followed me merrily down to the creek. There, on the smooth sand bathed in rose sunlight, I drew a large circle around the three rocks and declared: «Let us search here! The tooth cannot be out of this circle!» Loud laughs greeted my order, yet everybody bent down and crouched, searching sand and gravel and seaweeds… The Parisian «Flower Man» picked up a tiny pearl like periwinkle and sneered at me: «Hey, Father! Is this not your tooth?…» More laughter and gibes. The tooth was lost…
But much more was found….
The joking holidaymaker, amused by the scene, accepted my invitation to attend my first mass in the village, on the coming Sunday. What happened?
The guy was overwhelmed. Out of church, down to the beach and boarding his dingy, he requested the young priest who was with me to… hear his confession! On landing on the island, the merry irreligious sunbather had turned into a totally new person. We all were stunned, as we witnessed the blatant transformation. Now a new «disciple», the man sold out his stores in Paris, and decided to «follow Jesus». «No turning back! No turning back!» indeed. Years elapsed, Yves remained faithful to His Lord, until his last days on Callot Island.
A soul is well worth a tooth.