Excerpt from ‘Strangers and Sojourners,’ IV

[Nathanael and Stephen, grandson and grandfather, are talking about Jonah MacPhale, a cheating townsman.]

Stephen: “I’ve told Jonah MacPhale to his face many a time what I think of his practices. It’s like water running off a loon’s back. He just laughs and calls me a good old mick. But I don’t believe you can give up on people, write them off, you know, like so many do.”

[Then Stephen tells a story about the fighting when he was a young man in Ireland.]

Nathanael: “But it was war. Ireland and England were–”

“War? Oh, yes. Men are always at war with one another. But it doesn’t make it right. You see, when I looked down at that face as they were carrying him off the mountain, I saw something that scarred me for the rest of my days. His head was all busted, but I saw.”

“What, Grandpa? What did you see?”

“I saw my own face.”


“I looked at his broken face, and it was my face. Do you understand, lad?”


“I pray you’ll never have to.”

They sat side by side, unable to move.

“All my life, I’ve despised Jonah MacPhale,” said the old man. “But you see, I was wrong. Each of us chooses one form of betrayal or another. Some betray people. Some betray truth. We kill or steal or twist things up with a gun or a word, and all because we’re frightened little creatures. I can’t abandon Jonah to his fate. He is me, if you can understand, boy. And someone has to be there if his soul ever opens up long enough to ask why or cry for help.”

“You’re too good, Grandpa. He’s a rotten, corrupt sort of person.”

“I’m not good. And it may be he’s not yet doomed.”

~from Strangers and Sojourners, by Michael O’Brien, Part 3, Chapter 32

3 thoughts on “Excerpt from ‘Strangers and Sojourners,’ IV

  1. So true…SO true!! We’re called to be the rocks, the ones that never change, grounded on Christ, waiting for those around us to open their hearts. Sometimes there’s not much we can do besides pray and wait…and never give up! Thanks for sharing.

  2. This is a great part; i remember this part from when i read the book. Profound. when are you heading to Ireland, by the way?

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