Thursday in the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

“Be reconciled with your brother.”  The Irish have an expression about taking a risk for a desired result, even if it is dangerous and might not succeed. It’s called “Chancing one’s arm.”  The expression originated from a feud in 1492 between the heads of two prominent Irish families that despised each other, the Butler’s of Ormonde and the Fitzgeralds of Kildare. Each wanted to be the Lord Deputy of Ireland.  Violence erupted between the two families. When Lord James Butler saw that the fighting was going badly, his family took refuge in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. 

Here were two families who worshipped the same God, in the same church, living in the same country, trying to kill each other.  But then Sir Gerald of Kildare had a change of heart, realizing that the feud was insane.  Knocking on the door of the cathedral, he promised on his word of honor that if the Butlers opened the door there would be no more fighting.  He urged them to come outside and make peace.  Fearing treachery, they didn’t open it.  So, Sir Gerald had a hole cut in the door and thrust his hand and arm through the opening, risking the chance that they would cut it off. They didn’t. Instead his hand was grasped by a friendly hand inside the church.  The door was opened and the two lords embraced, thus ending the family feud.  From that noble risk-taking gesture came the Irish expression “chancing one’s arm.” 

The original door that was used to make peace in 1492 has been renamed the Door of Reconciliation. It is preserved to this day in the north transept of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.  Being reconciled as Christ insisted was far more noble than fighting to the death of one another. 

Sometimes we also take risks to do what is right, to go out on a limb or stick out our necks or “chance one’s arm” for the sake of justice. Do not our vocations as Christians and monks put our lives at risk for love of Christ even by white or red martyrdoms?  Is not the pro-life movement “chancing one’s arm”?