Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Father Ignatius answers honestly

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.”

Monday, 20 October 2014

Where's your cat litter tray?

Well, I don't mind telling you that we have a problem in our family. And I need your advice.

I may have mentioned before that we have a cat. In fact I mentioned it several times and I've even written a book about it - so where have you been? It's a humourous book which you can download FREE from the tab at the top left - but don't do so right now.

Anyway, let's get on with our cat problem and hopefully your advice and solutions.

For a while now the cat has refused to use the cat tray. You know the one? Where he does his business and I have been nominated to clean it up as often as it needs it.

Well, perhaps in sympathy with my unwelcome task, the cat has now decided to leave his little presents wherever he wishes. On the doorstep. In the garden. On my car, but thankfully not in the house anymore. The cat tray is as clean as the last time I changed it.

I asked my neighbour for advice. Especially about leaving poo on my car roof. And he assured me it was not him.

He then explained that maybe the cat was doing birds impressions and laughed as he got into his house.

In desperation I started asking everyone for advice ... including you right now.

The milkman said "Don't ask me mate! I know nothin' about cats. On the udder hand, I know about cows!"

That's exactly what he said "... on the udder hand ..." as he drove away in his milk float laughing.

Someone suggested I take the cat to an animal psychiatrist. Now, I know such people existed from the last time I had a cat problem. This same cat had started killing birds, mice, frogs and other creatures in the garden and bringing them in the house.

I took him to the animal psychiatrist who explained that the cat was behaving normally and was sharing his trophies with me - hence bringing them into the house. He didn't solve the problem, and I paid him handsomely for pointing out the obvious.

So this time I was reluctant to take the cat back but I was outnumbered a million to one. Something that often happens in our household where the family's votes count more than mine.

The doctor chap put the cat on a couch and started talking to it. "Hello little treasure," he said, " are you unhappy in your surroundings? Has someone upset you? Tell me about it!"

Obviously the cat did not talk back. That would have surprised the both of us I tell you. But it sat there as the man caressed it an purred gently.

After a few minutes the man asked me "Have you been upsetting this cat?"

"Who? Me? Of course not ..." I replied with more of an air of indignation in my voice. "In fact his habits have become intollerable. He started climbing up the curtains and sleeping on top of the wardrobe."

"I suggest that's where you should place the cat's litter tray," he said, "on top of the wardrobe!"


"He'll realise that on top of the wardrobe is not a place to sleep. You don't sleep in the toilet do you?"

"Of course I don't!" I retorted, "But I don't sleep on top of the wardrobe either!"

"Precisely ..." he said with a smile, "it's because you're afraid you'd fall off. Well, the cat is not afraid to fall off because he is a cat and you are not. But when he sees the cat tray there he'll do his business in there instead!"


"Oh's only for a week or two," he said, "then you can move the tray on the floor, then a few feet further away, then a few feet more, and eventually in its original place where it always was. And all will return to normal. The cat told me so!"

I had to pay him a fortune for this outrageous advice.

Well ... what do you think?

Where is your cat litter tray?

And whilst you're at it ... where do you sleep? On top of the wardrobe or in the toilet?

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Are you listening?

There is a great difference of course between hearing and listening.

We hear the noise of the traffic outside, an airplane flying overhead or the TV in the background and we pay no attention.

But when we listen we have to concentrate, to pay attention, to understand and remember what is being said. It is difficult and tiring.

Our level of concentration depends on who is doing the talking. From a baby saying his first words, to a child seeking our attention or our spouse or boss speaking – our level of concentration and listening differs greatly.

It therefore follows that the more important to us the speaker is, and the more vital the message, the more we have to listen carefully.

And who is more important than God?

Is He speaking to you right now?

Are you listening?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

One day I was a boy ...

I was reminiscing the other day when I was a boy at school and my English teacher said to me "Your grammar stinks!"

I remember being quite upset at this sudden outburst, especially since my grandma always smelled of lavender.

When I got home I told my father what the teacher had said and he asked "Which grand-mother? ... I know my own mother always smells of the sweetest delicate best quality Norfolk lavender. Although I'll admit your mother's mom does smell of potpourri!"

I explained that the teacher had not specified which grandma stank. So my father wrote a letter of complaint which I had to take to school with me.

My teacher replied that she had never commented on, nor would she ever presume to comment on, my family's body odour; although she suggested that I eat less beans!

On reading her letter my father gave me a clip round the ears. He then wrote again to the teacher apologising for the misunderstanding and explaining that beans were less expensive than other foods.

On reading my father's letter the teacher gave me detention after school.

On the Saturday I went to Confession. Our church had an old fashioned confessional which was a wooden booth where the priest sat and the penitents would kneel on either side and confess through a small window.

I told the priest all that had happened and how it was really a non-sin on my part thus deserving a lighter penance this week. He said "Don't speak so loud I can smell your grandmother kneeling on my other side!" Although he did not specify which grandma he could smell.

Then he gave me an extra penance for speaking loudly and for drawing attention to old peoples' body odour. Which technically I had not done because it was not me who started all this; it was my English teacher who said "Your grammar stinks!"

I think the church got this whole question of confession and absolution wrong somehow. I got a penance for my teacher's sin!

Moral: So did Jesus.

Saturday, 11 October 2014