Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Sad Tale of Two Brothers

A tale of two brothers and their families and the animosity that threatened to destroy their village recently appeared in the Catholic Time's View From the Window. The priest relates that the brothers, during their poverty-filled early years, were very close, but at the death of their parents began to fight over the inheritance, each brother gathering support for their cause from the villagers, the feud soon spreading into the neighboring villages. Insults and threats followed, setting villager against villager.

At the beginning of the feud, the economic conditions of the two families were similar. However, the younger brother invested in a business in the village that failed, and everything was lost. He began to drink and raise havoc, which turned many villagers against him and his family.  The older brother's efforts and good luck, however, enabled him to do well, Seeing the deteriorating condition of his brother's family, he tried to help and restore the loving relationship with his brother, but the scars from the past were too many. Over the years, meetings were held and some help was given. It seemed the attempts for a reconciliation were bearing fruit, but the family of the older brother interfered. Unwilling to forgive the harm suffered in the past, they criticized him for helping his brother. The situation had become so bad, it was even difficult to bring up the subject.

However, a few women relatives of the older brother secretly continued to help. Knowing the difficulties the younger brother's family was having, they kept talking about the need for reconciliation, which prompted members of their own family to attacked them. "Whose side are you on?" they would ask the women. "Have you forgotten what they did to us? Are they more important than your own family?" Treated like traitors, they no longer had the courage to speak out.

There seemed only one remaining hope for peace between the two families: the children. But after constantly hearing their parent's warnings such as "Don't play with them, don't talk with them," they developed the same prejudices as their parents-- and the vicious circle continued. The children of the young brother, because of their impoverished lifestyle, were ridiculed by the older brother's children. And the older brother's prominent status in the village, compared with that of their father's, caused the children of the younger brother to seek revenge: scrawling graffiti on walls, throwing stones and breaking windows. The disapproving elders would simply take care of the mess and punish the children, but this did nothing to change the feelings of the two families.
Despite the respect the older brother received from the villagers, the blemish on the family of the younger brother's behavior made them feel uncomfortable. The young brother seemed not to remember or preferred not to think of the help he and his family had received, or to remember the wrongs he had done, but thought it was all his brother's fault. Becoming more arrogant and erratic, he began to move his family from place to place. getting the attention of everyone. The sympathy many villagers once had for the family quickly disappeared, and disdain was all that was left.

Although, occasionally, small sums of money would be given to the younger brother in the hope that he would turn his life around, it was not to be. He began carrying a knife, threatening to kill and to set fire to the village, frightening everybody. 

How does their mother from heaven look upon her sons now? the priest wonders. Is the current situation the only one possible? Is there no way out of this mess?  Sometimes, all we can do, the priest says, as he ends this sad tale, is to offer up our prayers for them. 

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