At the Annual National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 2, 1984. Ronald Reagan, the former president of the USA, told the old story of “the little monk,” Telemachus, a martyr whose self-sacrificial commitment to Christian ideals opened the blind eyes & deaf ears of the Romans and their fifth century Christian Emperor Honorius.

According to the story, this Turkish monk was led by an inner voice to go to Rome in order to stop the cruel and inhuman gladiatorial fights between slaves. He followed the crowds to the Coliseum where two gladiators were fighting. He jumped into the arena and tried to stop them, shouting, “In the name of Christ, hold back!”. The gladiators stopped, but the spectators became indignant. A group of them rushed into the arena and beat Telemachus to death. When the crowd saw the brave little monk lying dead in a pool of blood, they fell silent, leaving the stadium, one by one. Three days later, because of Telemachus’ heroic sacrifice of his own life, the Emperor decreed an end to the games.

In today’s Gospel, which describes the miraculous healing of a deaf mute, we are invited to open our ears and eyes, loosen our tongues and pray for the courage of our Christian convictions to become the voice of the voiceless.

There is a little ritual in the rite of Baptism, called the “Ephphatha prayer,” taken from today’s gospel. The celebrant touches the ears and then the lips of the one to be baptized saying: “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May He soon touch your ear to receive His word and your mouth to proclaim His Faith.

Father Joseph