Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Fox and Moon

It was a lovely summer’s day as I sat on the park bench enjoying the take-away meal I just bought from my favorite burger bar.

I’d just finished my large portion of French fries and I put the empty packet on the bench to dispose of it later. To stop it blowing away I put my cell-phone and keys in the empty fries container to weigh it down, and proceeded to enjoy my burger and cheese bun.

As quick as a flash, a fox came out of the bushes, no doubt attracted by the smell of food, grabbed the empty fries container in its mouth and ran away.

I ran after it frantically and it eventually dropped my cell-phone, but unfortunately it hid in the bushes before I could retrieve my keys. I searched everywhere to no avail. The bushes in that area were quite thick and almost impenetrable.

I walked back to my car intent on phoning for help when I found a park ranger standing next to my vehicle writing in her notepad.

I immediately recognized the lady in question.

I’d seen her several times in church talking in the car park after Mass with friends, but I never spoke with her.

She’s a short woman in her mid-forties well built all over and a little rotund. She must have a great sense of humor apparently since she’s always laughing loudly outside church with a contagious laugh which makes you want to join in the fun even though you’re not part of the conversation.

Today of course it was different. Dressed in her tight ranger’s uniform she was as severe as befits a person in authority.

“You have parked beyond the stipulated time,” she said sternly, “and I must issue you with a fine to be paid within a week!”

I tried to explain what had just happened and why I was late driving away from the parking space.

“You’re from our church …” she declared, “I recognize your face. Show me where it happened.”

We walked back to the bushes and I showed her where the fox had run away.

“We have had sightings of a vixen and a young family around here,” she said, “the mother is probably trying to feed her cubs!”

She handed me her jacket and continued, “I’ll go in there to look for your keys. I wouldn’t want you to disturb them if they’re in there!”

She got down on her hands and knees and like a dog she slowly and carefully made her way forward into the thick bushes until all I could see was the sole of her shoes.

Eventually she said “I got them …” and started reversing back slowly, on all fours, just as she got in.

Suddenly, there was a loud ripping sound and her very tight trousers tore from top to bottom at the back revealing very minute skimpy underwear and leaving nothing to the imagination.

I stood there frozen, holding her jacket.

To my amazement and total confusion she suddenly burst out in uncontrollable fits of laughter. She stayed there on all fours for a few seconds laughing herself out of breath despite her obvious expose.

She then continued reversing ever so slowly, presumably to avoid disturbing any foxes which would no doubt be as confused as myself; and then standing up and still giggling she said, “You can stop ogling my derriere now and help cover up my modesty!”

She wrapped her jacket round her waist to cover her rear and said, “I must have given you quite an eye-full there. How are you going to explain that to Father Frederic in Confession?”

Before I had time to reply, she continued, “You’ll have to drive me home to get changed.”

I did drive her home and we became great friends with her and her husband.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Our Father ...

"Our Father who art in heaven....."

“Yes. How can I help you?”

”Hein? Who’s that?”

“You called me. I’m listening …”

”I didn’t call anybody … I was just praying … The Lord’s Prayer! Our Father who art in Heaven …”

“That’s me … Your Father in Heaven … now carry on praying …”

“Eh … Hallowed be Thy name …”

“Ha … Do you remember when you were very young you used to say ‘Harold be Thy name’? For a long time you were convinced my name is Harold; until someone put you right. What does it mean anyway … Hallowed be Thy name?”

“Eh … hmmm … does it mean you are Holy?”

“That’s right … carry on …”

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”

“Hold it just there … Do you really mean what you just said?”

“Sure, of course I do …”

“Or do you mean ‘Thy will be done’ as long as it is what you want? Do you really accept my will all the time? Even when it’s not convenient for you, or when life gets a little difficult?”

“Well … sometimes when things get really bad I get very worried …”

“At least you’re honest. Remember this always; when things are really bad for you it is still my will. I allow it to happen but I never abandon you. I’m always close to you … all you have to do is trust me.”

“Gee … thanks.”

“Carry on …”

“Give us this day our daily bread …”

“Let’s stop again … This means that I will provide for all your needs. It’s good of you to ask; but rest assured that I will always provide you with what you need. Go on with your prayer …”

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us …”

“Even your neighbour?”

“What?”

“You never forgave your neighbour after that argument you had a few days ago … In fact you still hope that you’ll get even some day …”

“But … but … You know it was his fault!”

“Of course it was … and he did apologise. But unless you truly forgive him, you truly no longer hold a grudge and have no ill-will or ill-feelings towards him; it doesn’t count does it?”

“That’s not always easy …”

“I agree … But true forgiveness means that you no longer wish any retribution or revenge against those who have hurt you. Sure … you’ll always remember the wrong done to you, but let that be a reminder to forgive them once again and to pray for them.”

“Can I go on now?”

“Yes …”

“And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil.”

“This bit is a reminder that Satan is always there trying to take you away from me. He tried to tempt my only Son Jesus, so you’re not going to be much of a challenge to him. Whenever he tries to lead you astray repeat those words over and again and I will come to your help.”

“Thank you …”

“It’s getting late … go to sleep now!”

Friday, 20 February 2015

Richard who?

Ever since I have put the above Coat of Arms on my sidebar on the right I have been inundated with letters and e-mails asking me what it is and what it stands for.

I do not lie. I have received at least one e-mail enquiring about the Coat of Arms and a phone call asking if they could speak to Sandra. As I do not know who Sandra is I assumed they had dialled the wrong number; but the caller assured me this could not be so because Sandra does not have a phone. I also had a door-to-door salesman asking me if I wanted to buy a new door. He had a small suitcase full of samples but I declined to buy any because they were all too small for the apertures in our house.

Anyway, back to the Coat of Arms. This dates back to medieval times and is the family crest of one of my ancestors - the Baron Sir Richard The Lion Liver - as you can see from the depiction of a lion wearing a crown.

The crown is significant because Baron Sir Richard The Lion Liver was indeed a king of a northern land where men were strong and big and tough and women told them what to do. Can you imagine ... big red beards covering savage warrior faces, mighty muscles bulging from their arms and a six-pack that looked more like a twelve-pack on their chest? And the men were just as masculine!

My brave and courageous ancestor was known as The Lion Liver on account of his excessive drinking which surprised many doctors of the time as to how his liver survived all that alcohol. Apart from mead, which is an alcoholic medieval drink made from honey, Sir Richard also drank all sorts of wines and spirits. They may not have had whisky or vodka at the time but he certainly drank spirits just as potent as the ones we have today, if not more so.

As a Baron and Knight in his own right, he usually fought many jousting tournaments up and down the land, where he charged another knight on horseback with a lance, with an aim to unseat him from his horse.

Because Sir Richard used to drink so much he was not that steady on his feet, never mind on horseback. So his aids used to lift him on the horse and then tie his legs together underneath the horse's belly.

Since horses at these tournaments were always covered with large decorative blankets depicting the colours of the knight rider, no one noticed that brave Sir Richard was literally tied to the horse. Consequently, he won every jousting tournament in the land and was never un-seated from his horse; even that time when sadly his horse collapsed and died and Sir Richard was still seated upon him. He won a special medal on that day as his horse was carried away with him still seated upon it.

Sir Richard The Lion Liver is best known for the invention of the triangular table. As King of his own northern kingdom, he shunned King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in Camelot and decided to create his own army of valiant knights.

He designed his own triangular table because Sir Richard had only two knights in his army, so a triangular table suited him best as the three of them could sit around it quite comfortably and none of them would think himself superior to the others; (although he knew full well that he was!)

In a famous battle against one of his fiercest enemies Sir Richard showed his prowess as an incredible warrior and strategist. The advancing enemy army had surrounded his castle and planned to take it at night when all the soldiers and villagers were fast asleep. Sir Richard ordered his peasants to collect and bring every cat they had in their towns and villages. In those days cats were in abundance to keep down the rats and vermin population. Sir Richard commanded that all cats which were not black by nature had to be dyed black using a mixture of coal dust and oil.

At midnight precisely he opened the castle gates and the villagers let all the cats run loose. At the same time his soldiers played the violin as loudly, and as badly, as they could. The cacophony of thousands of screeching violins and hundreds of black cats running wildly everywhere frightened the attacking army and their horses who thought Sir Richard had unleashed evil spirits to attack and kill them. They all ran away not to be seen ever again.

That episode gave rise to the superstition still prevalent today: It is bad luck to walk under a black cat.

As already mentioned, Sir Richard The Lion Liver drank so much that he had little blood in his alcohol circulation system. Once during a medical check up he was asked to give a urine sample and it had an olive and a little umbrella in it.

He died at the fermented old age of 101 and according to his wishes he was cremated on a funeral pyre on the grounds of his castle. It took the fire brigade a fortnight to put the fire out. They then had to beat his liver with a stick to stop it wriggling around in search for a drink.

And that's Sir Richard The Lion Liver - a great ancestor of mine whose Coat of Arms is proudly displayed above. Let's drink to his good health.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Oh No ... not ANOTHER post about LENT !!!

I LOVE PIZZA

This is the time when people try to give up something for Lent - which is good. But let's remember first of all that there is nothing we can do which would repay the great sacrifice Christ made for us on the Cross. Not a million prayers, a million candles, or a million flowers ... God does not need any of these "gifts" or sacrifices as repayment for His love for us. He is in no way diminished, lacking in any way, if we stop doing these things.

But we do them all the same. We do them as a sign of reverence, love, and respect. And I repeat - this is good.

Here's a short list of things we could do during Lent.

1 Give up something (chocolates) and give the proceeds to charity.

2 Do someone a good turn or a kindness.

3 Pray for someone without them knowing it. Just anyone, not only your  loved ones. If you see an old person struggling as they shuffle along in the street, or you hear of someone with a problem or difficulty; just pray for them without their knowledge. Prayer is the greatest gift we can give and receive.

4 Give up TV (or music or other entertainment) for ten minutes (or more) and spend the time reading the Bible.

5 Finally a DON'T. Many people decide to give up their Christian Blog or website during Lent. I urge you not to. Whatever we write to spread the Good News on our Blogs is often the only opportunity for someone to read about God. Don't stop God's message during Lent or ever. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Flagellation, Hairshirts and Repayments of Debts.


 God loved us so much that He gave us His only Son to die for us.

Christ’s was the ultimate sacrifice, to lay down His life to redeem us and to re-build our relationship with God which sin had destroyed.

There is nothing we can do to repay that sacrifice. Not a million candles lit in church, not a million flowers, or a million Rosaries. Nothing we do will repay what Christ did for us.

That is not to say that we should stop doing these things. We do them out of reverence, love and respect for our Creator and not as an act of repayment. I have lit many a candle in my time and will continue to do so.

Fasting and abstinence are also similar forms of sacrifices which we do out of reverence rather than as an act of repayment.

And then … we come to the wearing of hairshirts, flagellations and similar bodily punishments practiced by the faithfuls since times long past.

Saint Francis of Assisi suffered severe self-afflicted penances like flagellations and the use of a hairshirt.

Saint Catherine of Sienna used to undergo extreme fasting for long periods, wore sackcloth and scourged herself three times a day.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola practiced severe mortifications. He wore a hair shirt and heavy iron chain, and was in the habit of wearing a cord tied below the knee.

Saint Thomas More, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque, and many other Saints and elders of the Church practiced mortification and self-punishments.

Even Pope John Paul II, I understand practiced self-flagellation and fasting before important events.

I’m sure you can name other Saints and prominent members of our Church who did the same.

I understand the need for such extreme sacrifices originate from many quotations from the Bible, but mainly from the words of Jesus when He asked us to take up our Cross and follow Him.

I wonder and ask:

Did He really mean that we should inflict pain and mutilation on our bodies to gain forgiveness for our sins and that of others?

Or did He say that this world is full of suffering, some of which will come our way, and that we should accept it as best we can in Faith and trust that it is His will and that it will turn out for the good? And that He will not allow more suffering to come our way than we can possibly endure?

Does self-inflicted bodily harm have a place in our lives today and does it buy us any favors with God?

Christ’s Commandment to us was to love Our God and to love one another. No where can I find Him saying that we should punish ourselves in order to gain entrance to Heaven.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Deal

There are times that whatever Father Ignatius says or advises is sure to be misinterpreted or misunderstood. Yet, his duty as a priest and guide to his flock is to teach them, as best he can, about God our Creator and His unrelenting love for us.

One day he entered the church from the Sacristy and saw an elderly lady kneeling in the middle aisle right at the back of the church. He said nothing and proceeded to the Altar where he took away the candlesticks back to the Sacristy for Mrs Davenport to clean.

A few moments later he re-entered the church to find the same old lady still on her knees but a few paces further forward towards the Altar. He approached her gently. He hadn’t seen her before in church.

“Welcome to our church” he said in his soothing kind voice, “you’re new here … I haven’t seen you visiting us before …”

“I can’t get up Father …” she said looking up at him from her kneeling position.

“Are you in pain?” he asked, “Do you wish me to help you up?

“Oh no Father … I’m able to get up … but I can’t … I don’t want to upset God.”

“I’m sure God will not be upset if you have a rest for a while …” said Father Ignatius comforting her, “here … sit down for a while … and tell me all about it.”

He held out his hand and the elderly lady got up with some difficulty and sat down on the nearest pew. He sat down beside her and asked, “Why did you think God would be upset?”

“Well Father …” she hesitated, “my son is fifty years old, and he’s just lost his job … he has a wife and three children to look after … he won’t find another job at his age … not in the current situation. So I said to God that I’d pray the whole Rosary on my knees … walking one step at a time … from the back of the church to His altar. Then I’d do the Stations of the Cross on my knees … so that He would help my son get a job.”

Father Ignatius was touched by the love of this elderly mother for her son. He smiled gently and said “It’s good of you to pray for your son … it shows how much you love him and his family …

“But God does not want you to walk all around the church on your knees.”

“I’d do anything Father …” she said, “tell me what to do … and I’ll do it no matter how much it hurts me …”

“God does not want you to be hurt …” replied the priest gently, “God loves us and He listens to our prayers as long as they’re honest and come from the heart …

“He does not want us to beg like dogs … He does not want to humiliate us and make us lose our dignity …"

He stopped for a while and then continued.

“Humiliation and loss of dignity is the work of humans. See how we humiliated Jesus when we stripped Him of His clothes, we spat on Him, beat Him and mocked Him; and eventually killed Him most cruelly by nailing Him to the Cross.

“The Stations of the Cross are a reminder of how we humiliated Him and took His dignity away. And we still do so today when we hurt and hate one another instead of loving each other as He commanded.

“God does not want you to walk around in pain on your knees … He listens to your prayers no matter how or where they are said. Even sitting at home just say to Him in your own words how you care for your son and his family … ask God to help them. I’m sure He’ll listen and … in His own way and time … He will respond.”

“But I promised to do the Stations of the Cross on my knees …” she protested.

“Hey … trust me …I’m a priest …” Father Ignatius said with a smile, “I’ll pray to God for you and your family … Believe me, you don’t need to go down walking on your knees. Just sit here for a while and say a little prayer.”

“I’ll do that Father …” she said as the priest got up to go back to the Sacristy, “although I might stay on my knees for fifteen minutes to show God I’m willing …”

Friday, 13 February 2015

Relaxation Techniques



I think I’m generally, most of the time, a pretty relaxed sort of person. That is when my cat does not plot against me and does something or other to raise my blood pressure.

You can imagine therefore my skepticism when it was suggested that as a family we’ll try a few relaxation techniques to help us all “get better” – whatever that is!

First off the mark in this new regimen of prescribed relaxation was music. Off went the bagpipes and drums CD and on came some turgid soft music played on some wooden pipes accompanied by humming from a tone-deaf singer who would have benefited from some throat lozenge.

“Hmmmmmm” went on and on the female singer, “Tweeeeet tweeeeet” accompanied the pipes.

As this did not work the CD was changed for one with recordings of gentle rain from the rainforests. I mean, what’s the point in that? It rains here most of the time. Why do I need the recorded sound of rain in a far off land?

This was followed by waves splashing against the shore. Every so often … “Woooosh” went the waves. “Woooosh” again and again. You’re supposed to close your eyes, listen to the sound of the waves and relax.

There was no chance of this happening whatsoever. Instead of relaxing me the continuous woooshing sound made me want to go to the toilet!

The next track was no better either. It was the sound of whales singing.

What’s so relaxing about that?

Have you ever heard a whale sing? It goes something like “Woooooo Woooooo”. It’s an elongated intermittent very tedious screeching whistling sound which is neither tuneful nor relaxing. If a whale went to a music producer or agent and said “I want to sign a singing contract to make records and to perform in Carnegie Hall” it would certainly get thrown out of the building quicker than it got in.

The annoying high-pitched shrill sound reminded me that the kitchen door needs oiling to stop it squeaking. Yet another neglected job which would have been attended to after being reminded several times had it not been for my relaxation schedule.

I would have been more relaxed if the whale was dressed in an evening suit and bow tie and sang “Nessun Dorma”.

Since music did not soothe the beast it was suggested that a long soak in a warm bath would do the trick.

When I reluctantly agreed to get up from the football match on television and make my way upstairs I found that, to my surprise and total bewilderment, the bathroom lights were off and the place was lit by a million candles.

“It’s relaxing!” I was assured.

Believe me, there is nothing relaxing or reassuring about standing there amongst all those flames and fearing that you’d singe parts of your anatomy.

Why do people light candles in the bathroom? How can sitting in a hot tub like an ornament on an over-sized birthday cake supposed to make you feel relaxed?

I believe candles are bad for the environment. Just think how many candles are lit all over the world on a daily basis. In bathrooms, at the dinner table, in restaurants, churches, birthday cakes as well as numerous other places such as outdoor concerts at night to add to the atmosphere created by a supposedly melodic singer! All these candles contribute to global warming, you know! Not to mention the swarms of hard working bees busily producing the wax to see all their hard work go up in flames.

And then the bathroom was filled with this lingering smell of lavender, or was it lily of the valley, or some other concoction of plants and herbs infusing in the hot bath water and meant to convey to the imagination relaxing feelings of beautiful idyllic countryside meadows and hills covered with every blossom one could imagine. It was all feminine and gentle and beautiful and …

I mean, what’s wrong with Wright's Traditional Coal Tar Soap, with its long-established strong manly smell used by generations on end to their satisfaction?

Why do we need all these bottles of liquid soaps in a variety of colors and perfumes and silly names like “Angel Bubble Bath”, “Zingvigorating Shower Gel”, and “Action Hair Shampoo and Conditioner”?

Can anyone tell me the difference between a bubble bath and a shower gel? And the ingredients you find in these things makes one’s mind boggle. Some have coconut oil, and mango juice, lemon, passion fruit and a million other ingredients you would not imagine would find their way in your bathroom. A hair shampoo we sometimes use apparently has wheat germ in it; although what purpose this particular ingredient is meant to provide totally escapes me! I suspect we have more cooking ingredients in our bathroom than in the kitchen.

I sat gingerly in the hot tub and felt far from relaxed with all those candles burning around me. I was very nervous in case the cowboy hat I was wearing at the time might catch fire.

Can you imagine?

If the long feather in the hat accidentally came into contact with one of the nearby flames and that spread to the whole hat and then to my bountiful curls? What a disaster that would be!

I just remained there rigid amongst the pink bubbles all around me and did not dare move an inch for the prescribed thirty minutes or so which are meant to make you feel relaxed and wash away all your troubles and worries. Far from being tranquil and stress-free I dreamt longingly for the soothing companionship of my rubber duck and little sailing boat which had been confiscated from me for the purpose of this exercise.

“Are you nice and relaxed?” asked the voice from outside.

“Yes … never felt more relaxed in my life. This is wonderful!” I lied through gritted teeth.

I then got out and treated myself to a pint of Guinness and a large measure of single malt 12 years old whisky.

Now that’s what I call relaxation.