Friday, 27 May 2016

Moving Mountains


Father Ignatius waited for a few seconds after reading the Gospel in church on Sunday.

“Let us remind ourselves of what Mary read in the second reading today,” he said, “To have Faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.

“There are times in life when events hit us from nowhere and our Faith takes a real knock. Bad health maybe, or loss of a job or something else and we say … why is this happening to me? I’m a good person. I go to church regularly and love God. Why does He do that to me?

“But St Paul, who is said to have written this letter to the Hebrews, is quite clear in what he says … to have Faith is to be sure and certain of what we hope for and what we cannot see.

“And he had good reason to lose Faith … he was not in good health, he’d been arrested, beaten and imprisoned many times for preaching about Jesus, he was shipwrecked and bitten by a snake. He could have said at any time … enough of this … I might as well give up and go back to making tents … which was of course his trade.

“But he didn’t give up. His Faith remained strong. He continued preaching despite all adversities.”

Father Ignatius stopped for a while then continued.

“Jesus said that if we have Faith as small as a mustard seed we can say to a mountain move and it will move … or to a mulberry tree uproot yourself and plant yourself in the sea and it will do it.

“Can you imagine that? We don’t have any mountains near us … but there’s Ben Nevis in Scotland and Mount Snowden in Wales. Can you imagine standing there at the foot of Ben Nevis and saying … hey you Ben … I command you to move over there!

“And to have so much Faith in what you have said that you know for certain it will happen? You wouldn’t be frightened of making a fool of yourself in front of everyone else! You’d shout your command out loud to the mountain knowing full well that it will obey you.”

He paused again for a while and took something out of his pocket.

“I have here a mustard seed …” he said raising his hand, “can you see it?

“Of course not … it’s so small that I can hardly see it myself …

“Suddenly, this tiny mustard seed has never seemed so big … when it comes to asking a mountain to move.”

He stopped again and put the seed back in his pocket.

“But Jesus was not exaggerating when He taught us to have Faith.

“On His way to Capernaum Christ met a Roman Centurion whose servant was very ill. He asked Our Lord to help the servant, and when Jesus made His way towards the house the Centurion said ‘Lord, I do not deserve that you come under my roof. But just say the word and my servant will be healed’

“Can you imagine the Faith of that Centurion? A Roman officer who was no doubt tasked to keep the peace and had probably persecuted Christ’s followers in his time and kept them under control … Yet, this very man had so much Faith in Jesus that he knew that one word from Him and the servant would be healed.

“Can you do that I wonder? Can you have so much Faith in God that you know for certain that He will see you through whatever crisis you are facing? Or does your Faith crumble when adversity strikes?”

He stopped yet again to punctuate his sermon and to gauge the discomfort of the congregation.

“My dear friends …” he continued, “I am no Saint …

“There are times when my Faith falters too … I am as weak as any of you and at times that mustard seed I carry is as large as Ben Nevis itself.

“God knows that … He knows the amount of Faith we have in Him and how it varies in the good and the bad times …

“And yet He loves us all the same.

“A man came to Jesus once and asked Him to heal his son ‘if you possibly can …’

“Note the hesitancy in the man’s request. He was not as certain as the Centurion … he said ‘help us if you possibly can …’

“Jesus replied, ‘If you can? Everything is possible for he who has Faith.’

“To which the man replied, ‘I do have Faith, but not enough. Help me to have more!’

“Jesus took pity on him yet admired his honesty and healed his son.

“We too dear friends … should never be afraid or ashamed when our Faith is weak to say to God in all honesty.

“I believe, Lord; help my unbelief”. (Mark 9:24).

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Sure Way to relieve Stress

We all get stressed from time to time in this ever so demanding and difficult world. And we all have our own way of relieving stress when it happens to us. In fact, I would like to hear how you relieve stress. Please share your ideas which may be of some help to others, as well as to myself.

In my case, when I am stressed I have what I call a dry bath.

I go to the bathroom, take off all my clothes, and then sit there naked in the bath for half-an-hour or so. No water, no bubbles, no sponge or loofah or whatever else people have in their baths. Just me lying down on my back for a while in an empty bath in peace and quiet.

There are, of course, many advantages to having a dry bath. It saves on water and soap for a start. It saves time in that you don't have to dry yourself afterwards. It saves yet another towel which needs to be washed and dried and ironed. And best of all, the lack of gallons of water in the bath tub improves the acoustics in the room when I sing "Nessun Dorma" and other operatic arias. After all, you've never seen an opera singer sing whilst sitting in a water-filled bath, have you? There's a reason for that. Better acoustics.

Of course I do have a rubber duck, and a sail boat; but in the absence of water I have to precariously balance them on my body to make sure they don't tip over. They usually stay there throughout and don't fall off.

I just lie there reading the newspaper, which does not get wet because there's no water; or reading one of my published books - someone's got to read them after all!

Sometimes, if required, I vacuum clean myself with a small hand-held vacuum cleaner I have just purchased. It's quite an efficient way of keeping clean although I have to be careful I don't get my duck caught in the nozzle of the cleaner. Normally, a quick vacuum clean will suffice; although, if needed a few squirts of lemon scented Pledge gives one an extra shine.

At other times, I take with me a small, generously filled, glass of whisky. But again, with no water whatsoever. It helps relaxation and relieves stress.

So there you have it. My way of relieving stress. Have a dry bath. No need to get wet. No need to dry yourself afterwards. Just sit there with your favourite reading material, or knitting, if that's what you like to do, or even take your sketch pad with you and draw pictures of what you see, or anything else you like. You can even take your laptop or tablet with you, place it on your body, and type your next Blog post.

What's your way of relieving stress? Have you ever tried a dry bath or shower?

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Does Ingenious Man need God?


Father Ignatius approached the pulpit and waited until the congregation had settled down before speaking.

“I was reading the other day about Isambard Kingdom Brunel. As you may know, he was a leading British civil engineer who lived in the 1800s. He was famous for building many bridges, tunnels, dockyards and of course the Great Western Railway … our first major railway. He also built steamships including the first propeller-driven ocean going iron ship.

“When I read about famous people like Brunel I never cease to be amazed about the ingenuity of man.

“And of course … the ingenuity of women too.

“Mrs Davenport, our housekeeper, can create an outstanding meal which would make even Brunel envious … I tell you.”

Mrs Davenport, sitting upfront, smiled coyly.

“The point I am trying to make here,” continued Father Ignatius, “is that mankind is very inventive in every sphere of life … engineering, construction, medicine, the arts such as music and the theatre and almost everything we set our mind to.

“And with our ingenuity comes satisfaction for what we have done, a little bit of well deserved pride perhaps, and encouragement to others to pick up what we have done and take it even further and progress it for the benefit of mankind in general …

“Certainly nothing wrong with that …

“Until the devil steps in …”

Father Ignatius paused for a while.

“And when the devil steps in, man thinks he is too clever by half. After all if we can build bridges, and tunnels and ships and planes, if we can gaze at the stars and planets and learn all sort of things from them, if we can heal all sorts of illnesses and study every aspect of life and genetics to the point of Creation itself. We become self-important to the point where we no longer need God.

“Or at least that’s what we think …

“How often do you read in the papers about famous scientists who proclaim in all certainty that God doesn’t exist? After all, these learned men have made many an important discovery and no doubt the world owes them much. So they are listened to and their pronouncements, on matters they know nothing about, are taken as gospel, if you’ll pardon the pun, and revered by one and all.

“As I said, the devil steps in and fills man’s mind with false self-importance. It reminds you of the serpent who said to Adam and Eve that if they eat the fruit of the forbidden tree they would be like God. And they fell for his trick, as many do right now in their mistaken beliefs and self-importance.”

The priest stopped once again to allow the congregation to think about his warnings.

“I often visit the local hospital,” he continued, “and I got to know a famous doctor there. He is not a Catholic, but he goes to church all the same … he watches a different TV channel shall we say …”

The congregation laughed.

“We got talking the other day about religion,” continued Father Ignatius, “and I asked him how he reconciled his vast scientific and medical knowledge to his Faith as a Christian.

“He replied that his job was no different than a car mechanic’s.

“He had learnt over the years how different parts of the body work and function and how to fix them when they sometimes go wrong. Just like a mechanic follows the manufacturer’s instructions when he fixes or maintains a car, so does this doctor do the same.

“But then he added, ‘however, unlike a car mechanic, I do not have the full blue-print designs and instructions to work from … the manufacturer in my case, God the Creator, has decided to leave some things secret from us so that we never know about life and how it was created … just as well I suppose … or else we’d make a mess of that too!’

“So you see … no matter how clever we may become, no matter how ingenious and resourceful … there will always be matters that the Good Lord, in His wisdom, will keep secret from us.

“Pretentious and conceited we may well be; but not half as clever and almighty as He.”

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Calamity Undies

I was reading a magazine recently and the headline of an article was "WOMAN WOUNDED BY HER PANTIES".

What a strange headline, I thought. I noted the alliteration "WOMAN WOUNDED"; but I wondered why they said, she was wounded "by" her panties, or knickers as we call them in the UK. It implies the panties have a personality of their own; it's as if the panties plotted and succeeded in wounding her.

It was an intriguing headline almost compelling you to read the whole story. Which I did, of course.

Apparently, this woman had left her panties lying on the floor just by the top of the stairs. She tripped on them and fell down the stairs and was full of bumps and bruises as a result.

What a let down, I thought. Literally so in her case. She was definitely let down by her panties.

But this story reminded me of another story about women's panties which I posted here back in 2012. Rather than repeat it once more, perhaps you'd like to link back and read the story for yourself.

You can comment here, or over there and join the discussion already started.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

The Holy Trinity



One of the great mysteries of our Faith is the Holy Trinity. No matter how much we may scratch our heads, I doubt we’ll be able to understand it. Not that we are meant to, I suppose. This is because over the years we have treated the Holy Trinity as some sort of puzzle which we are meant to resolve, and once we do so, we gain a prize of some kind.

Let’s see if I can shed some light on this mystery.

For years on end in the Old Testament times people believed in one God. Leaders like Abraham, Moses and David believed in one living God; only one Person.

In those days, and thereafter, there were people who believed in many gods of course. The ancient Egyptians, the Romans, the Greeks, all had many gods.

So if God had revealed Himself to the Jews as three Persons in one, and assuming they understood this, (we don’t understand it ourselves now), then the pagans would have thought that the Jews believed in three gods.

Later on, at the times of the New Testament, the apostles, who were Jews, believed from childhood that there was only one Person in God. That’s what they had learnt from the writings of the Old Testament prophets and that’s what they experienced in their lives. They saw God’s hand in everything that happened. He was the God of Abraham, Moses and David. The God written about in history. The God up there in Heaven who gave them the moral law, (Commandments), and who created everything.

Then one day they met a Man named Jesus. For three years they lived with Him.

They saw that He spoke with authority and conviction, and all that He said made sense. They watched how He lived and the way He related to people.

He showed compassion for the sick, the destitute and those forgotten by society. He cared for the hungry and the poor and showed kindness for everybody.

When anyone was rude or insulting to Him, He did not answer back in anger.
He lived His life on a high moral plain but showed sympathy and understanding for those who were stained and scarred by sin.

He taught them about His Father who was God and that He was the Son of God. One day, when He asked them who they thought He was, Peter was quick to answer “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

They saw Him perform many miracles. They saw Him die and then alive again, and knew He had conquered death and the grave. Time and again they saw Him after the Resurrection, spoke with Him and ate with Him.

It was impossible for them to think or talk about God without thinking and talking about Jesus. They had come to know God their Father through His Son.

When Jesus was taken up to Heaven after the Resurrection the disciples were distraught. What are they to do now? Their Leader whom they saw and trusted all these years had gone. They were afraid, so they hid in houses secretly, wondering what to do next.

As promised, Jesus sent His Holy Spirit, the Comforter, upon them nine days later.

Their eyes were opened and they believed, and understood, that He was the Third Person of God.

To the early disciples, the Holy Spirit was real indeed. They had experienced the power of the Holy Spirit. They received Him at Pentecost in tongues of fire and they were able to speak to the crowds that gathered in different languages. Peter explained to the crowd that the disciples had received God's Holy Spirit.

The disciples, and early Christians, now knew for certain that the one and only living God they believed in, whom Abraham, Moses, and the prophets had spoken of, had sent His only Son Jesus to earth. Because they had met Jesus. They also knew that Jesus had sent His Holy Spirit upon them, because they had experienced the Holy Spirit.

To them this was all a reality. Something they had seen, experienced and understood. Not some sort of puzzle of three in one yet each one separate from the three.


Because the disciples had experienced the Holy Spirit, He became such a force in their lives, giving them strength to spread the Good News that Jesus had taught them, enabling them to live as Jesus had lived.

It was they who handed on to us this mystery that in one God there are three Persons.

Today, many people don’t understand the Holy Spirit. Somehow, over the years the message has been diluted. Miss-understood. Or perhaps deliberately confused to obfuscate the message of Christianity.
 
But the Holy Spirit still can and does descend on people today. And He does transform their lives. If people believe, and if they ask and invite Him earnestly into their soul.

Friday, 13 May 2016

NO STRANGER AT THE DOOR

“ … and there we were both standing at the doorway of the Church,” said Father Ignatius, “and then he asked me if I could spare a cup of coffee. I didn’t think he drank coffee. What do you think he drank anyway?”

“St Peter?” asked Father Donald.

“Yes … St Peter,” repeated Father Ignatius, “what do you think he drank. Surely not coffee. It hadn’t been discovered then! When he was alive on earth.”

“Oh … boiled fish water, I shouldn’t wonder” laughed Father Donald, “must have tasted really horrible I should think!”

“And then …” continued Father Ignatius after a short pause, “and then, as if by magic, we were here in my office. I was sitting at my desk, like now, and he sat in the very armchair where you’re sitting in!”

Father Donald looked around him in the armchair and said nothing. Father Ignatius continued.

“St Peter sat just where you’re sitting Donald. He looked just like we’ve seen him portrayed in the movies. Tall guy and well set. With a beard and wearing a brown tunic … and sandals. I remember distinctly the sandals … Big man, he was … I wouldn’t wish to be on the wrong side of an argument with him. He was here in this office.

“He asked what I thought of him.

“I mumbled the usual things we’ve been taught in seminary … Loyal follower of Christ, leader of the Disciples, Head of the Church … That sort of thing!

“He smiled and picked up a biscuit … he preferred the chocolate covered ones and commented that they tasted different to the ones he was used to in them days … That’s exactly what he said … in them days!”

Father Donald raised an eyebrow and smiled, whilst Father Ignatius went on.

“Then he asked me to be honest. Not repeat what I’d been taught. What did I really think of him?”

Father Donald smiled once more and said nothing.

“Well …” Father Ignatius went on, “I hesitated of course … it’s quite a shock seeing St Peter face to face and being asked such a direct question …

“I said that some theologians consider him to be a bit irresolute of character … Tends to speak first, sometimes acts quickly, yet … a bit hesitant when the chips are down!”

“Wow …” said Father Donald, “did he hit you for saying that? He has a bit of a temper our St Peter you know.”

“No … he remained calm,” replied Father Ignatius, “He said ‘I don’t care about what theologians think … what do they know? I’m asking for your opinion Ignatius!’ He called me Ignatius … so he knew full well who I was. Then he asked me if I had any more of those brown covered biscuits …

“I gave him the whole packet of chocolate biscuits which somehow I had here in my desk; and then I said that I sympathized with his predicament and how he’d been portrayed by some theologians. He was and I’m sure he still is very loyal to Christ. He spoke first because of his confidence and beliefs in our Lord.

“He hesitated a little when he jumped into the lake and tried to walk on water. But anyone would have done that … Jesus had asked him to come to Him … so at least he did show real Faith by jumping into the water … but his Faith faltered … understandable really!

“And that’s when St Peter sat a little forward in the armchair and calmly said to me … ‘Quite the diplomat aren’t you Ignatius?’ I remember distinctly those words … and they were not said in a complimentary way either … He asked me to go on … what did I really and honestly think of him …

“So I swallowed hard Donald … I knew what he wanted me to say but I was too scared to say it. He nodded gently to encourage me …

“And very quietly I mumbled that he had denied Christ three times …

“He looked me straight in the eye and all gentleness seemed to have gone from his face. He waved his hand gently at me, still holding a half-eaten chocolate biscuit, as if to reprimand me … you know, as we do with our finger when we point at a little child, and then he said ‘After over two thousand years you people still hold that against me! And you call yourselves forgiving Christians … The Lord Himself forgave me with His knowledgeable look full of love and pity for me. But you Christians still bring this matter up …

“And it’s the same with Thomas … Whenever I meet him he says that the only thing that people remember about him is his doubting, and they can’t relate anything else he did after that.

“Well let me tell you something clever Ignatius that you are’ … That’s what St Peter called me, Donald. ‘Clever Ignatius that you are …

“Let me tell you something … Have you ever considered what would have happened if I did not deny our Lord? I would have most probably been taken by the crowd and hung from the nearest tree …

“They were horrible they were … and angry and wild. Those same people who pretended to love Him, whom He had healed and taught over the years suddenly became very wild. They became angry, almost feral … And of course I was scared. They were probably scared too, you know. They had to act this way because acting any differently would have resulted in them being hanged too!

“And by denying Christ, the Son of our God, I unwittingly set in course the chain of events which followed. Jesus knew exactly why I had to deny Him at the time of His capture.

“After His Resurrection, when He appeared to us on the shore of the lake as we were fishing; it was the third time Jesus appeared to us after He was raised from death … We had just eaten together, and Jesus asked me three times if I loved Him. And every time I said yes He asked me to take care of His lambs and His sheep!’ ”

After a short silence Father Donald asked “What happened then Ignatius? When St Peter told you that?”

Father Ignatius replied.

“Well, he finished eating his biscuit and then he asked me whether I thought I had done a good job of looking after Our Lord’s lambs and sheep …

“Before I could answer … I just woke up!”

“That’s quite a dream …” said Father Donald, “and quite a message from St Peter.

“Christ knew precisely why Peter had to be spared at the time of His capture … in order to lead the Disciples and the Church!”

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Undercover Boss

I'm sure you've all seen or heard of the TV Series called "Undercover Boss" which has been franchised in many countries.

The idea is that a Chief Executive Officer, or senior manager, of a large organisation visits various outlets of their own company in disguise to find out how things really work at the customer end of the business. They pretend to be working there, but all the time they are studying how their employees work and reward the good ones, or re-direct the not so good onto the right path.

It's a great programme, because senior managers find out how their policies developed at boardroom level are implemented by their employees, and how this affects the whole running of the organisation. Usually, senior managers and CEOs meet really hard-working and devoted staff, whom they reward afterwards when they meet them again in the boardroom and they identify themselves. Sometimes, they meet employees who fail to meet the grade.

Imagine ... that Jesus came into our lives in disguise. He would not be wearing the long robe we associate with Him as we see in the movies. Or have long hair and a beard. Or a kind smile.

He would probably look like a beggar starving in the street and asking us for some money.

Or a sick person in hospital with no one to visit him.

Or an elderly person living alone and no longer able to do simple tasks like cooking for themselves, going out shopping, or cleaning the house. Or someone just wanting company and another voice to hear in the house and to talk to, instead of having the TV or radio always on just for company.

There are so many other disguises Jesus could use in our lives. Like the new inexperienced employee at work not sure what to do and how to get on.

Or the quiet wallflower at a party sitting silently in the corner not speaking with anyone nor mixing with any body.

There are so many disguises He could use.

And when He takes off his disguise and we see Him as He truly is ... what would He say gently and calmly to us?

"Thank you for being so kind to me and for reading to me whilst I was sick in hospital."

"I am so grateful that you found the time to visit me at home and help me with the cooking. Or just chatting with me for a while. I so looked forwards to our little chats. Sometimes, when I am alone and don't speak to anyone for hours on end my throat dries up and I have to cough to clear the dryness. I often speak to the people on the radio just to hear the sound of my own voice. Your visits were the only company I ever had!"

Or will Jesus say to us ...

"Why did you ignore me when I was freezing in the cold sitting on the wet ground in the street?"

"Depart from Me ... For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink. I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, I was naked and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit Me." Matthew 25:41-43.
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