Effie Caldarola: Fishers of men

Best fishing story this year so far: A small group of fishermen and an Irish fishing association stopped the Russian navy from conducting war games in fertile fishing territory off Ireland’s coast.

By Effie Caldarola

The little band of Irish fishermen vowed that they would continue to send up to 60 trawlers continually into the waters during the military maneuvers to protect the fishery from harm, despite the Russians warning them of danger. The fishermen met with the Russian ambassador, and eventually the Russians agreed to go somewhere else.

Score one for David against Putin’s Goliath. Wouldn’t it have been great to be in an Irish pub the evening the Celts won that skirmish?

Fishing stories are always great. And the New Testament is full of them.

Some of my favorite Scripture takes place at the shore. Of course, for Jesus, that meant the Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Tiberias. At 64 square miles, it’s the largest freshwater lake in Israel.

Jesus walked along the lake when he called Peter and Andrew. Later, James and John left their boats, and their father Zebedee and his hired men, to follow Jesus. They were going to fish for people, Jesus told them, and somehow he was persuasive enough to make them put down their nets.

The Sea of Galilee, most likely, is where Jesus walked on the water.

I reflect, often, on Jesus at the shore after his resurrection, cooking fish on a fire and waiting for his fishermen friends to come back to land. Here is the Lord who has conquered death, yet he waits in the ordinariness of the early morning to treat his friends to breakfast.

My own fishing story came during the winter when I was spending a few months at a beach house. It was a lovely place, a comfortable house two blocks from the ocean. But we didn’t know anyone there, and the continuing pandemic kept us out of most shops and restaurants. Sometimes it was lonely.

But people along the beach would always wave and smile. And at high tide, there were often fishermen down by the water. One day, I approached a couple of them and asked what they might be catching.

A conversation commenced. I learned about striped bass and their migration from the north. They said they might see sand sharks or eel, something my husband’s Italian grandmother used to cook. They laughed and joked.

I told them where we were house hunting, they told me they were from suburban Philadelphia. After 10 minutes I walked off down the beach. A deep reminder washed over me of how much I need community and friendship.

Jesus, I believe, was not just calling helpers or co-workers when he singled out the women and men who would become his disciples. He was looking for a community. He was recruiting friends who would share their lives with him, and sometimes that pulled him to the shore.

He wanted people who could start a revolution of the heart, but also people who were reflective. And the best fishermen I’ve known may not catch the most fish, but they are the most reflective.

This year, I reread an old classic, “A River Runs Through It,” by Norman Maclean, and then I rewatched the movie. You might say the book is about fly fishing in Montana, and of course you’d be right. But fishing stories always go so much deeper, and this book plunges into the depths of relationships and family and place.

A good fishing story is always so much more than the one that got away.

Effie Caldarola writes for the Catholic News Service.

Top photo: The Sea of Galilee is seen in Israel in this undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Today’s Catholic)

Author: Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ news and information service.

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