Monday, 8 February 2010

Ancient people.

Father Ignatius was on his way back from a school trip to the museum in the big city with the young children from St Andrew’s School.

The young seven-year olds were a little boisterous and excited after their first school outing; and the six adults on the bus had their work cut out keeping them in their seats. When everyone was seated, Mr Foster, the Headmaster, took a roll-call to ensure that no one was missing.

As the bus made its way slowly through the busy traffic the children discussed amongst themselves their museum visit and the souvenirs they had bought from the museum shop.

A few of them sitting next to Father Ignatius discussed the various ancient exhibits they had seen from years gone by and asked him which were his favorite.

“I wouldn’t say I had a favorite as such,” replied Father Ignatius, “but I suppose it is impressive how many of these exhibits have survived all these centuries and how much we have to learn from ancient civilizations …”

“Are you ancient?” asked a seven year old.

“I suppose I am …” replied the priest with a smile.

Mr Foster smiled too, but said nothing.

“Will they put ancient people like you in the museum? And people will come to see you?” asked another youngster.

“Now that’s a good idea …” replied the priest, “do you think anyone would be interested?”

“No …” replied another promptly, “old people are not interesting … my grand dad is old … he is 58 and he does not like burgers and milk-shake.”

“Ah … that’s the ultimate test of antiquity,” declared Father Ignatius, “being 58 and having a dislike for burgers and milk-shake!”

The children continued discussing amongst themselves and the priest started reading a book about Ancient Civilisation which he had bought from the museum.

About half-an-hour later he closed the book and looked up.

“Learn anything interesting Father?” asked Mr Foster.

“I suppose so … whilst reading this book I’ve been thinking about our attitude to age and ageing …”

“What do you mean?”

“We seem to be in awe at something ancient …” continued the priest, “we wonder at the pyramids, and ancient monuments and relics. We marvel at old paintings by the great masters … and in this country we even have some buildings listed so that they cannot be altered or pulled down because of their historical architectural significance …”

“What’s wrong with that?” asked the headmaster.

“Oh … nothing wrong as such … but I can’t help wondering how many old people here in Britain live alone. Their families having grown up and moved on, these old folk are rarely visited by friends or neighbours. Perhaps Social Security visits them every now and again …

“There are quite a few in our Parish you know …”

“Yes … it’s modern society I’m afraid …” said the headmaster glumly, “people are too busy living life to care about each other … or their old folks. Some are too eager to put their parents in an old-folks home … too busy to look after them I suppose … I can understand that …”

“Can you? Some countries do in fact honor and respect their old people. Sending them to an old-peoples’ home is unheard of in those countries. They all live together in large families and the grand-parents have a lot to contribute to the family and the children’s up-bringing …

“But as you say … it’s different here in Britain … our modern lifestyles make us more interested in an ancient vase or similar relic than in human beings … it's such a pity we don't value our old people as much as we value an old building ...”

“Perhaps the Government should have old-folks listed, just like buildings!” joked Mr Foster.

Father Ignatius smiled. “There’s one thing I’ve learnt from this book,” he said with a glint in his eyes, “you’d better make friends with an archaeologist … because the older you get the more interested they are in you!”

The headmaster laughed and then added “Perhaps we can do something about it Father … in a small way … in our Parish that is …”

“What … have our old people listed by the Government or get them to meet up with archaeologists?”

“Can we not organize a group of volunteers from the church to visit lonely parishioners in our midst? Help them with the shopping perhaps, or with small jobs in the home or garden? I could get some of our older pupils to accompany the adult volunteers. It would help our youngsters no end … teach them to respect and help their elders … we could also involve the other Catholic school in town …”

And the enthusiasm of Mr Foster, which started from a conversation on a bus, soon turned into reality in a matter of weeks. And it's still going strong in that small Parish community.


  1. How true, older people don't seem to be given much respect in our society! But it is not all bleak,however, and I am aware of several good schemes which encourage children to go into local care homes and talk to the residents to learn first hand about recent history. Both sides get a lot out of this experience.
    We musn't forget too the excellent work going on in parishes all over the world by groups such as the SVP, Legion of Mary etc.
    On the other hand, even in cultures, where it has always been the custom for the extended family to take care of the older generation, this too is changing.
    It's a fact of modern life that individual families are no longer always able to offer the care required for their aging relatives. Perhaps we should focus more on ensuring that the care offered by care homes is of the best possible quality rather than trying to 'put the clock back' to the days of the extended family?

  2. Hi Miss Ellen,

    It's so nice that the SVP and Legion of Mary visit elderly people at home and in care homes. There are so many people living alone these days.

    Thank you so much for writing in. God bless you.

  3. I have been reading your previous posts for over an hour! I love Fr. Ignatius! I wish he was my parish priest!! (But don't tell Fr. J I said that)!

  4. I am a widow and a senior, and this really hits home. Lonliness can be quite painful at times and happens often especially at holidays.
    Thank you for this post.......:-) Hugs

  5. Hello Mother of this lot,

    It's nice to see you visiting my Blog. I hope you visit again and comment often. I'm glad you enjoyed this story. If you click on the words "Fr Ignatius" at the end of the story you'll get to read all the Fr Ignatius stories on this Blog. Also, he features in my book "Visions" which is a standalone story by itself - not repeated here. Details on the right of this Blog.

    Thank you for your comments. May God bless you and your family always.

    Hi Bernie,

    It's great to see you here again. I know exactly what you mean. I often visit senior people I know and I realise that they tend to be lonely. Sometimes (Lord forgive me) when I'm in a hurry they go on and on and talk and talk non-stop. I realise they wish for some company ... and I try to spend some time visiting when I can ... sadly, not often enough.

    God bless you Bernie. I appreciate your visits here and your comments. Thanx.

  6. I was very lucky to be brought up by a mother that had a deep love and respect for the elderly. She always had my 95yr. old grandma at the house, feeding her lunch, doing her hair and nails, ect. Grandma had many colorful tails she loved sharing with us all, she was truly the entertainer!

    My mom also had us visit seniors at retirement homes, this was always rather sad however, they all seemed so lonely.

    Another wonderful post Victor! Thank you.

  7. Thank you, Victor. I love following the 'adventures' of Fr. Ignatius :)
    They certainly make one think!

    ps: hope future generations won't see priests in museums ;)

  8. Hello Daily Grace,

    Thank you for sharing your lovely family story. Sadly here in the UK there are many lonely elderly people with no one visiting them.

    Hi Gabriella,

    I really hope priests will not end up as museum exhibits. I know currently vocations are declining and many Catholic churches here have to share a priest - like ours for instance. Two churches have been twinned with one priest serving both.

    God bless you Gabriella and Daily Grace. Thank you so much for writing in. I really appreciate your kindness.

  9. Yes, it is odd to value ancient objects but not people, who have so many fascinating and wise things to teach us!

    My husband's grandparents lived with his family until they passed away, and the experience enriched the lives of four generations, including our own children. Bill is thankful to have known his grandparents so very well.

  10. Hi Sarah,

    You're so right ... there is so much wisdom in those grey heads which we don't appreciate and ignore at our peril.

    I believe God created old age to teach us to love.

    God bless.



God bless you.