Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Je ne comprends pas!

The other day I attended a business conference in another town. The meeting was open to people from various organisations from many different countries, so there were plenty of people I had never met before.

I was standing in this large area with my briefcase at my feet enjoying a cup of coffee when this very attractive brunette lady wearing a very low cut black décolleté dress a few sizes too short approached me and started talking in Greek.

I couldn't understand a word she said. It was all Greek to me, as they say. I knew she spoke in Greek because a distant aunt of mine (she lives 300 miles away) is Greek and I could make out the language even though I could not understand what this young lady was saying.

I regretted not having my dictionary with me at the time. Not that it would have helped. It's an Italian dictionary. I like to carry it with me to impress the waiters in restaurants when I order a meal. I once ordered a whole meal in Italian and the waiter did not understand a word. It was a Chinese restaurant. But I digress.

Anyway, this young lady was enthusiastic about something or other and she talked fast in her native Greek and smiled a lot.

My mind went back to the many times I visited my aunt and I tried to remember some of the Greek words I had heard in her household. Words like youvarlakia, avgolemono, dolmades and baklava.

But I could hardly spout them out incoherently just because they were in Greek. Besides, they mean meat balls, chicken and lemon soup, stuffed vine leaves and a pastry sweet with syrup. Can you imagine a woman speaking to me in Greek and I reply "meatballs!" She'd think I was insulting her and not believing a word she is saying.

Try as I might to look blankly at her and saying politely, "Yo no hablo español !!!" she still continued smiling and speaking in Greek without as much as taking a breath.

I then remembered the famous Voltaire quote and said, "I may not understand a word you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to confuse me!"

She stopped for a while, perhaps wondering why I replied in English, then continued speaking to me in Greek as if nothing had happened.

It was then I remembered another phrase which my dear aunt used to say, time and again, to her daughter. I repeated it silently in my head once or twice to get the intonation and the pronunciation right and then, taking a deep breath, I said, "I foústa sas eínai polý mikrí ..."

The woman stopped abruptly and then slapped me in the face. She then turned round and walked away and vanished in the crowd of people in the conference room.

I just about managed to hold on to my cup of coffee and save it from crashing to the floor. I tried to compose myself and look as if nothing had happened, hoping that no one noticed me.

It was then that a man approached me and asked me, "Why did you tell her 'Your skirt is too short?' "  

MORE FUN STORIES HERE

Monday, 26 June 2017

Jeremy - R.I.P.

Solemn occasions are meant to be just that … solemn.

Well, at least that is the intention, although at times events conspire to turn things differently.

As happened at Neighbor Jeremy’s funeral.

Jeremy was generally a good neighbor. I liked him well. Always polite, wishing me “Good morning” when we met on our way to work, or “Good evening” should we happen to see each other on our way home.

He kept himself to himself and never parked in front of my driveway blocking me from going in or out whenever I wished; unlike some other neighbors of mine! But the least said about them the better. After all, we’re meant to love all our neighbors; are we not?

Every so often Jeremy would borrow some of my garden tools, or other bits and pieces he required, but he always returned them cleaned and in pristine condition.

Anyway, like all funerals, Jeremy’s was certainly a solemn occasion.

Relatives and friends and neighbors gathered in church and then followed him to the graveside. There were tears aplenty as we all remembered him and in our own way knew that we would miss him.

Although I’m no relative of Jeremy, at the graveside I was one of those who stood near the gaping hole as he was lowered down; purely because I had taken with me in my car one of his relatives who had no transport of her own. This elderly lady stood next to me on my left; and on my right was another neighbor, a young lady, who also had no transport and had come with me.

I noticed whilst the priest was saying his final prayers that the young lady on my right was somewhat tearful and had nothing to wipe her eyes with. Being the gentleman whom I am, I put my hand in my right side pocket and pulled out, fortunately for me, a brand new handkerchief which I handed to her.

As I did so … dash it all … my car key had got into one of the folds of the handkerchief and fell to the ground, on the grass, without making a sound, and then … dash it all once again … it rolled into the open grave just as the coffin was being lowered.

No one noticed except the young lady on my right. She took my handkerchief and asked: “What was that?”

“My car key …” I mumbled quietly.

She burst out laughing and then stifled her laughter with the handkerchief, pretending to be emotionally distraught and unable to control herself. Her outer appearance to one and all was one of utter despair and total grief; yet I knew from the shaking of her shoulders, and her breasts bobbing up and down, that she had great difficulty controlling the hilarity engendered by my predicament.

One or two mourners raised their eyebrows and wondered why this young lady was portraying more grief at his demise than Jeremy’s own wife standing nearby. But let’s not feed suspicious minds when my own is doing backward somersaults trying to figure out what to do next.

Almost instinctively, I placed my arm round the young lady’s shoulders and ushered her away from the graveside. As I did so, I accidentally bumped into the frail old lady on my left and almost knocked her into the grave with Jeremy. Luckily, she fell backwards away from the hole and was caught by some mourners before she slid down with Jeremy.

The young lady and I walked away from the crowd and stood a distance away by some trees. She continued laughing out of control but mercifully not loud enough to raise any suspicions.

What could I do in this situation? I could hardly let Jeremy borrow my car when I knew sure well that he had no intention of returning it?

If I did nothing, how could I possibly get home, and what would I say to the frail old lady expecting a lift back in my car?

I noticed the grave-diggers sitting some distance away ready to complete their work once everyone had gone.

I left the young lady still laughing away by the trees and walked towards the grave-diggers to explain the situation.

When all the solemnities were over and done, I arranged for someone else to give the two ladies a lift home; and explained that I had some urgent business to deal with at work.

The grave-diggers brought Jeremy back up and retrieved my key; and for once, Jeremy did not get to borrow anything of mine!

P.S.

One should always have dignity in death.

I attended a clown’s funeral once and he was lying there peacefully in his open coffin with a red nose and a big smile painted on his face. They couldn’t put the lid on because of his big feet! 
MORE HUMOUROUS STORIES HERE

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Mother's Love

 
 It had been a long day and Father Ignatius had traveled to the city and driven back all on the same day; something which he hated to do, especially when he had to navigate his way through heavy city traffic.

He was a little tired so he settled down in his armchair next to the fireplace and put on his favorite classical record.

A few minutes later Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, came in and interrupted the orchestra in mid-flow. She was carrying a large tray with tea and biscuits.

“I’ve made you a lovely pot of tea Father,” she said, “and you favorite ginger biscuits.”

“Ginger biscuits?” he replied turning the volume down on the record player, “but it’s not Friday …”

“I know Father … but I thought you deserved a treat today. What with your long journey and what’s been happening at the Convent?”

The priest raised his eyebrows, “I don’t understand …” he said.

“Oh … no one has told you … have they?” she continued as she poured two cups of tea and sat down, “Sister Martha rang me earlier on and gave me the news …

“Well earlier this afternoon … at about four o’clock it was … I’m sure that’s what she said … anyway, earlier this afternoon they found a baby on the doorstep of the Convent.”

“A baby …” said Father Ignatius helping himself to another biscuit.

“Yes … a wee little mite … about a week old they say … a little boy. Mother Superior found him just by the statue of St Joseph and the Baby Jesus … you know the one … the statue outdoors by the main entrance to the Convent …”

“Yes … yes … I know …” said Father Ignatius, “what happened then?”

“Well the wee baby was crying so Mother Superior took him in … he needed changing … and probably hungry too I shouldn’t wonder … Sister Martha called the police and they took him away to the hospital to check he’s all right …”

“Dear Lord …” mumbled Father Ignatius as he said a quick silent prayer under his breath.

“What kind of person would do such a thing?” said Mrs Davenport angrily as she poured two more cups of tea, “to abandon one’s own flesh and blood like that …”

“A desperate person …” replied the priest gently, “we can only wonder what led her to such an extreme act …”

“But she’s his mother …” interrupted Mrs Davenport, “how could she … she's supposed to love him ...”

“Giving birth in itself does not make a person a loving mother,” replied Father Ignatius, “normally there is a strong unbreakable bond between the mother and child from the moment the baby is born; if not well before.

“That bond of love I believe has been created by God for our own protection from the moment we enter this world. God knows we are born totally defenseless and vulnerable so He created that special protection which is a mother’s love.

“Now I’m not saying this bond of love did not exist in this baby’s case … most probably it does … so can you imagine the terrible circumstances which led this poor desperate woman to abandon her child … as you put it.

“In fact … she did not abandon him … she could have left him anywhere and walked off … that’s abandonment … but she carefully selected the most appropriate place where he would have been found and cared for …

“No doubt she hid behind some bushes in the Convent gardens and waited for the baby to be found.”

“What … like Moses?” said Mrs Davenport, “I thought he was left floating in a basket in the river … not at a Convent!”

Father Ignatius smiled.

“Did they have Convents in Moses time?” she continued innocently.

“I don’t think so …” answered the priest as he got up to remove the record from the turntable.

“Do you think she’s Catholic … the mother that is … is that why she left him at the Convent?” went on Mrs Davenport.

“I really wouldn’t know … no doubt all will come to light sooner or later …” replied Father Ignatius patiently, “in the meantime I suggest we say a little prayer for the little child and his mother …”

At this point Father Donald entered the room.

“Did you hear the terrible news …” he asked gravely.

“Yes … I was telling Father Ignatius about it …” piped up Mrs Davenport, “they found a baby abandoned at the Convent …”

“Well … there have been further developments …” said Father Donald, “I met Sister Martha just now and she told me … they found the body of a teenage girl at the far end of the park behind some bushes … an overdose … all indications are that she’s the mother of the child … she was clutching a letter to her parents in her hand …”

*******
 
“Dear Mom and Dad,

I’m so sorry I left home. I couldn’t take any more arguments and shouting. I went to stay with a school friend.

Sometime later I met a man at a party and we became friends. I went to live with him and I got pregnant. He wanted me to get rid of it. I said no and he asked me to leave his apartment. I went back to my school friend. She helped me all this time I was pregnant and I had a baby boy in secret. She took me to a house of a friend where I had the baby three days ago.

I left him at the Convent and saw a nun take him in. Then I saw a police car at the Convent. I think they are looking for me. I am frightened and don’t know what to do.

Louise.”

Father Ignatius stopped reading the newspaper. It seems the police had no choice but to publish the letter in order to try to identify who the dead teenager found in the park was.

The priest left the room and went to his church to offer Mass for the repose of her soul.

MORE FATHER IGNATIUS STORIES HERE

Friday, 23 June 2017

Believing with eyes closed

Sister Georgina came to see Father Ignatius in his office. She was a nun living in the Convent nearby and whilst it was not unusual for the nuns to visit the Parish House from time to time this visit was somewhat formal. The nun had phoned the priest that morning and asked him for an appointment.

“Hello Sister … come in … come in …” said the kindly priest, “would you like some coffee … or some tea perhaps!”

“No thank you Father …” she said somewhat shyly as she sat down.

“You know you don’t need to phone to make an appointment …” he said as he closed the door and sat at his desk, “just pop in anytime …”

“Well Father … I wanted to make sure you were available … and we would not be disturbed.” She said. “The thing is … I’m finding it very hard believing …”

“Are you having doubts about your Faith Sister?” Father Ignatius asked gently and soothingly.

“No … no … it’s not that. I believe in God and Jesus and the Trinity …” she hesitated, “Can someone be selective in their beliefs?”

“Well Georgina …” he smiled, “it depends on what one is selective about … I do have my doubts about some of the changes we’re making as a Church … What is troubling you exactly?”

“Well Father …”

“Let’s dispense with the formalities for now …” he interrupted.

“Well …” she hesitated again, “for some time now I’ve had great difficulty in believing in the true presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist.

“I can’t quite explain it. Did Christ in the Last Supper ask us to celebrate Communion in His memory … or is it really His flesh and blood? And why would He want us to eat and drink His very Being?”

“It is one of our fundamental beliefs as a Church,” said the priest calmly, “one that has been tested and debated for centuries. You’ve no doubt heard of the Eucharistic Miracle at Lanciano?”

“Yes Father … but how can I make myself believe?” she replied, “I could shut my eyes tightly and convince myself to believe … but at the end of the day my mind says differently.

“I have no difficulty in believing the existence of God … I accept that as fact. I believe in Christ’s Virgin birth, His resurrection, the Holy Spirit and so on … Somehow these beliefs cause me no difficulties and they are part of my being … they are me and have been me for sometime.

“And I suppose that at some stage I must have believed in the Eucharist too. How could I not have?

“I became a nun … studied for years and took on my vocation … and all was well … Yet now, it’s this one aspect of my Faith that I find difficulty with.”

The priest paused for a while and said a silent prayer before going on.

“We’ve all had our moments of doubts and our little stumbles every now and then …” he said.

“It’s our human nature coming to the fore. We’re programmed to think, to analyze … to ask questions and yes … to doubt too.

“It’s what some people call Free Will … and I’m sure you’ve heard the many debates about that and God’s pre-destination of our lives!”

She smiled as he continued.

“God does not want us to work hard at our beliefs. He does not want us to shut our eyes tightly and convince ourselves to believe in this or in that.

“He understands our struggles between total acceptance and the natural desire to examine and evaluate what we’re told to believe.

“He did make us after all … so He knows what makes us tick and how the cogs in our heads constantly turn.

“What God asks of us is to believe like a child. A child never questions the veracity of what he’s told … he just accepts it.

“There’s no need to believe with eyes tightly shut.

“Just accept … like a child. Trust him … like a child. Love Him … like a child.

“And when your mind questions … as it certainly will … just say … Get behind me Satan.

“Look up at God and pray … I believe, Lord; help my unbelief.”

She left with a much lighter heart and a heavy weight off her shoulders.

MORE FATHER IGNATIUS STORIES HERE

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Instant Love

There's a TV program in the UK entitled "First Dates." I understand they have made similar programs in the USA, Australia and Ireland; and no doubt in other countries too.

The idea of the program is that single people who wish to find a partner in life are invited to a restaurant where they meet someone they have never met before and share a meal together; under the watchful eye of the camera, and indeed you eaves-dropping on their conversation at home.

At the end of the meal they are asked if they wish to meet their dinner guest again.

A bit like a dating agency but in full view of the TV. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose!

What I find interesting, however, is that when asked, all contestants say that they would like to meet someone handsome/beautiful, witty, with a sense of adventure and fun, and so on and on. Surprisingly, not one person says they'd like to meet a miserable ugly-looking Quasimodo with psychopathic tendencies.

Seriously though ... ... ... it seems that without exception everyone wants to meet a good looking fun type person as their life partner. Not one person, has ever said that they'd like to meet someone who shares their values, ethics, beliefs, hopes and aspirations in life. They all mention the physical characteristics which they find vital in a life-partner and not the importance of common goals or standards in an ever changing world. If this is the attitude they have in real life, then no wonder it is  difficult finding a mate and they have to resort to attending a TV program such as this one. Unless of course it is lure of celebrity status that is the real motive here.

At the end of the meal, which I guess lasts an hour or so but is obviously edited for TV, the couple, sitting side by side are asked whether they would like to see each other again.

Once more ... not surprisingly, often one or both of the individuals say they would not like to meet again because there was not that "spark" between them. In this impatient world of today, they seem to want an instant connection in the hour or so they have been together, and if this does not happen then they are not interested and move on in their search for instant happiness with a knight in shining armour, or a princess waiting to be awakened with a kiss. 

A friend told me once that when he first met his wife-to-be, he knew within ten minutes that she was the one for him. But she did not feel the same. Somehow, she did not see that instant "spark" in him. But she persevered patiently, and after many turn-downs, she eventually agreed to say "yes".

Let this be a reminder to many of today's potential couples that sometimes you need to strike more than one match before you light a candle. Very rarely is "instant" the road to happiness.

Notwithstanding the above, we have another show on UK TV entitled "Naked Attractions." And it means exactly what it says.

In this program one contestant has to choose a partner from six potential mates standing in a line, full frontal, totally naked. His (or her) decision should be based entirely on the physical attributes of the naked people lined up in front. The six naked people are not allowed to talk and should turn round when asked so that the contestant and TV audience can compare between them. Accompanied by the show presenter, the contestant moves from one naked individual to another and discusses and compares the shape and size of the private parts of the bodies on display; whilst the camera zooms closer to focus for the benefit of the viewer at home.

What makes a person want to stand up naked in front of a TV camera for their friends, family and work colleagues to see them at home; I wonder. Would you do that? 

Weekly programs, lasting one hour, have either six male or six female nude potential dates. The naked candidates are selected by a member of the opposite sex each week hoping to find their ideal sexual partner based on their physical attraction alone.

When the contestant has eliminated five people and chosen one out of six to go to a date with, then the contestant too has to disrobe nude and be discussed by the chosen individual. They then go to a date where no doubt they put their intention into practice.

So there you have it. Instant Love - without the traditional time-wasting getting-to-know-you old fashioned way of dating.

As they say in French - Vive La Difference!

Monday, 19 June 2017

Why bother going to church?

Do you go to church regularly? Every Sunday? More often or much fewer times?

Why? Why exactly do you go to church?

As far back as I can remember I have attended church most Sundays and sometimes at other feasts too. Over the years I have attended many churches big and small and heard many sermons, some good and memorable and some which put me to sleep as soon as the sound from the pulpit reached my ears - which I understand it travels at the speed of sound.

But, why do I go to church? I suppose it is to be with God. And, being Catholic, to receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist. But that's another subject for another time.

The point of this discussion is why people go to church; or to be more precise, why do they not go to church?

In the UK regular church attendance is in decline, and according to various statistics, it is about 5% of the population.

Why? I ask myself and don't seem to hear myself answering.

Is it because people are too busy with their lives, having to work all hours they have to make ends meet, and they have no time to attend church?

Is it because they are too busy enjoying the material things the modern world has to offer to be bothered with spiritual, non-provable, wishy-washy beliefs from a time gone by?

Is it because the message they receive from Christianity is so confused that it has become so unclear almost to be irrelevant to today's modern society?

Speaking for the Catholic church only, their message and teachings on many issues such as marriage and divorce, re-marriage, annulments, homosexuality, contraception, Confession and sin, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, celibacy of priests as opposed to married priests from other denominations joining the Catholic Church; all these issues are so unclear that they not only confuse the congregations but leave many adrift to make up their own rules anyway.

Often you see and hear priests teaching totally contradictory views on the same subject. For example, and this is based on fact, I know of some Catholic priests who openly believe that Christ is not present in the Eucharist, and this is not His body or His blood received at Communion. Yet, these priests, teaching something that is contrary to the Catholic faith, are still in their churches teaching their congregations. No wonder the people in the pews are confused.

No doubt other denominations have their anomalies too. But are these the reasons that church attendances are low and falling; and new vocations are also in continuous decline?

Or is perhaps something more serious and staring us in the face. The elephant in the room we fail to see.

Is it that more and more people simply do not believe in God. They do not believe in a supreme living spiritual Being ruling the universe and what is in it?

A recent survey in the UK discovered that only 28% said they believe in God or a higher spiritual being.  

And as more and more people do not believe in God, for whatever personal reasons, and they exclude Him from their lives; He just gives them that freedom of choice and withdraws, leaving them to their own devises.

No wonder the world is in such a state.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

God Calling

 
Father Ignatius’ policy with the people he met was to be as open and honest as possible when discussing matters or when giving advice or guidance. This included the youngsters he met at both Catholic schools, who, more often than not, asked direct personal questions and expected a straight answer. They were astute enough to know when someone was avoiding the question or giving them flannel.

The discussion during Catechism class was about vocations and the celibacy of priests and nuns.

Father Ignatius had been asked by a young pupil why priests and nuns are celibate.

“Let me see if I can answer this honestly and in personal terms,” said Father Ignatius. “There is, as you know a physical life which we all live right now, and a spiritual life which some people choose to follow at the same time.

“God wants us to enjoy our physical life and for us to live it in service of others so that He may be glorified by what we do. This can be done by being married and raising families and also indeed by remaining single in life.

“People who choose to follow a spiritual life, like Catholic priests and nuns, promise to remain chaste and not get married.”

“Like Jesus …” interrupted one of the 15 year-old students, “why did Jesus never marry?”

“That’s a good question.” Replied Father Ignatius, “in my opinion, I believe that Christ’s mission on earth was so important that He could not allow anything else to detract Him from His main objective.

“As you know, Jesus came to teach us about His Father’s Word; but more important than that; He came to offer Himself in sacrifice by dying on the Cross so that we may be reconciled with God.

“If, as you suggest, He would have married, and perhaps have children, this would have in many ways sidetracked His main mission on earth. But that’s only my opinion.”

“Do you think He ever wanted to get married?” asked another student innocently.

“Being human, I suspect He was not immune to the many feelings and emotions we experience. Yet, being God at the same time, His job on earth was to obey His Father and take on the ultimate sacrifice for us on the Cross.

“He always knew what His mission on earth was and how He would die on the Cross. And although He was tempted before His arrest, and He prayed to God that His ordeal may pass Him by, He knew and accepted that ultimately He had to obey His Father’s will; and that nothing should deflect Him from it.”

“Is it the same with priests,” asked Rose, “is their mission to teach about God and not get married. And to obey the Pope?”

“Father John got married,” corrected Paul, “he left the church and got married. Should he have done that Father?”

“It is not for me to judge what Father John did. Jesus told us never to judge each other,” replied Father Ignatius.

“Father John decided to leave the priesthood and to get married. I’m certain that he did not make this decision lightly. He must have agonized and soul-searched for a long time before deciding to leave his vocation as a priest. Which, I must add, he undertook in an exemplary manner in his time as a priest. Yet, eventually he decided to do what he felt was right for him at the time.”

“Have you ever wanted to get married and have children?” asked directly a pupil sitting up front.

The rest of the class gasped at what they felt was an impertinent question. Father Ignatius smiled and responded calmly.

“It would be a lie to deny it. Many people would like to have a family and raise children, especially if they are as well turned out as you.”

They smiled almost in unison.

“But when I decided to become a priest, I knew full well what I was giving up. Sharing my life with and loving another person, and raising a family, is a great privilege.

“Matrimony is a Sacrament which Christ taught about several times. It is a mission and a full commitment which married couples undertake throughout their lives together.

“However, by becoming a priest I promised and accepted that I would not get married.

“Having made that decision, God has rewarded me by making me a member of all your families here in this Parish.

“You and your parents have welcomed me in your homes as one of your family. I have been privileged to have been invited for meals with many of you at home. I have shared with your families moments of happiness and moments of sorrows too. I have seen many of you grow from little babies whom I have baptized many years ago, to who you are now.

“I am grateful to God and to you for welcoming me in your families.”

“Should everybody get married then,” asked Mark, “except for priests and nuns?”

“Married life is a Sacrament which we should take seriously and it is the best foundation in which to raise a family. But no, not everyone has to get married.

“Remember that God’s wish for you in this life is for you to be happy.

“Some people find happiness in marriage, others prefer to remain single. Celibacy can be a vocation too. Just like marriage.

“I have found that being single allows many people the time to do more for their communities and for the church. Things they would not have been able to do if married; when their main commitments should be to their families first.

“I have just returned from America as you know. I met there a young priest from Houston in Texas. He was brought up in a loving Catholic family and something he said to me still sticks in my mind,

“He said, ‘the way my parents brought me up, it was inevitable I’d become a priest!’

“His sister is a nun, whilst his other sisters are married and raising their families.

“So you see … his lovely parents created the conditions whilst raising their family that two of their children chose a vocation in the Church whilst the others are raising their children in the same Christian tradition their parents taught them.

“Whether you are married or not, a priest or a nun or not; the important thing that really matters is to live your life in the service of others and to glorify God at every opportunity.”

MORE FATHER IGNATIUS STORIES HERE
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