Father Joseph, the old curator of the Vatican archives, was giving a grand library tour to some novice priests who were visiting for the first time.
At the end of the tour, they came upon a steel vault and Father Joseph proudly proclaimed, “This room contains the oldest copies of the church documents and teachings. Some are even original documents drawn up by the church fathers. From these, monks over the centuries copied these all by hand. And these copies upon copies were used in our training and instruction as priests, and they form the basis for our doctrines.”
One novice raised his hand and said, “Father, did succeeding generations copy everything from the original document or from the copies as well?”
Father Joseph said, “Well, I would suppose they copied from the copies, as over time, the original documents became too fragile to withstand constant use.”
The novice pressed on, “And did anyone bother to check if the copies we have now match the original? I mean, what if someone made a mistake on that first copy? Then everyone else who copied from that source would have passed down the wrong information from generation to generation.”
Father Joseph chuckled and said, “That would be next to impossible, my boy. They had very stringent procedures on copying and proofreading. They had numerous safeguards against it. There were layers of proofreaders diligently checking for mistakes. If they found even one mistake in a manuscript, that would be burned and the monk would have to copy everything all over again. After all, this is the Holy Teachings of the Church we’re talking about.”
The young priest nodded at that answer, and seemed to be satisfied. No one else had any questions so Fr. Joseph dismissed them.
As he was walking back to the library, the young priest’s question came back to his mind and he was overcome with curiosity. He proceeded to the archives, went inside the vault, and carefully took out a small volume on the roles and responsibilities of the priesthood. He remembered holding a copy of this book when he was still a struggling seminarian. His teacher then had been very strict and had made the class memorize the entire book. Thanks to that training, Fr. Joseph was very well-versed with the book and could still recite long passages from memory. He opened the first page and began to read.
That night, there was a commotion at the priestly residences. Old Father Joseph had not shown up for the communal supper and could not be found anywhere. The priests were afraid that something had happened to him. One of them dimly remembered seeing him earlier, going towards the archives building. As they entered the building, they heard someone moaning and wailing. They followed the sound and found Father Joseph, still in the vault, sitting on the floor. His hands covered his face and his shoulders shook as he sobbed uncontrollably.
One young priest rushed over and wrapped an arm around the old man. “Father Joseph! Father Joseph! What is the matter? Why are you crying?”
“We got it all wrong! We got it all wrong!” wailed Father Joseph, refusing to be consoled.
“What’s wrong? What did we get wrong?” The young priest asked.
“CELEBRATE!” cried Father Joseph as he raised his hand and slammed the floor. “The damn word is CELEBRATE!”
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.