Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Light One Candle
A simple matter of trust

by Dennis Heaney

(From the Feb. 28, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

Dennis Heaney A story I heard the other day has stayed with me, so much so that I wanted to pass it along to you too. It’s not all that profound, but maybe its strength lies in its very simplicity. See what you think.

I heard the story at Mass, during the homily, when the celebrant was quoting the well-known writer (and ordained minister) Frederick Buechner. The tale was one Buechner recounted in his memoir Telling Secrets, and it dealt with a dark period in his life.

Out for a drive one day near his home in Vermont, he pulled over to mull his options, none of which seemed especially appealing. Problems consumed him, and he wondered how he’d ever find a way out.

Another car drove by, slowly enough so that Buechner could read the license plate. It was one of those “message” plates, with lettering instead of numbers – and it spelled out the word TRUST. Now, you and I might not think it was much, nothing more than another so-called vanity license plate. But it had a deep and lasting impact on Buechner.

Yes, he realized, I have forgotten to trust; I have forgotten that Divine Providence will see me through these problems, and any others I come across in the future. It’s all a matter of trust, and for whatever reason he had been ignoring that basic message. He drove off with a new determination to put his trust in the Lord, where it belonged. His life took a new and positive turn. He even delivered a sermon about the experience.

Not too long after that someone stopped by to call on him, someone who had heard the Rev. Buechner speak. As you might have guessed, it was the man who’d been driving that car, the one with the TRUST license plate – and even though the plate was nothing more than an expression of pride in his work (as trust officer at a local bank), he was amazed at the effect it had had. So amazed, in fact, that he had replaced his plates, and presented the original – the one with the word TRUST on it – to Buechner as a memento of the occasion.

Not a profound story, as I said, but a nice one, with a couple of solid messages. One is obvious, and that one, of course, is to trust in the Lord always. Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible abound with reminders of how important that is. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” says Proverbs, “and do not rely on your own insight.”

And then there’s the second message: the one that tells us that at any time in our lives, no matter how unaware of it we may be at the time, we can become messengers of God and instruments of his divine plan. The original story might not have been profound, but I think that thought is. And I think it was that, more than anything else, that brought the trust officer to the side of the writer that day.

And that TRUST license plate? You probably won’t be surprised to learn that it still occupies a central position, a place of honor, in Frederick Buechner’s study.

“It is rusty around the edges and a little battered,” he wrote. “But it is also as holy a relic as I have ever seen.”

(Dennis Heaney is Director of The Christophers, an organization dedicated to the proposition that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. For a free copy of the Christopher News Note “Positive Attitude, Positive Choices,” write to: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail:

Inland Register archives

Home | Bishop | Communications | Parishes | Catholic Charities

© The Catholic Diocese of Spokane. All Rights Reserved