Sunday, 14 February 2010
Time was when priests were more approachable and people felt more at ease discussing their problems with them and seeking guidance. But times change and with them habits and customs change too.
Nowadays people are more willing to spend their hard-earned cash consulting psychiatrists and counselors than asking the man of God for his wisdom and opinions.
Somehow, this distancing from one’s flock has been precipitated by busy modern lifestyles where people are working all hours at their disposal. And priests too are pre-occupied with Parish meetings, Ecumenical Councils, and various other tasks and targets set upon them by their clerical hierarchies.
Father Ignatius was well aware of this changing trend, and being an old-fashioned old-school type of priest he did his utmost to keep in touch with grass roots in his church. He knew most people personally by first name, he visited them at home often, or in hospital when they were ill, or at the police station or jail when they were in trouble. And in turn, they did not hesitate to trouble him with their worries and problems at all times of night and day.
Many times did he settle down of an evening to watch his favorite team play football on TV, or to listen to his favorite classical music when the phone rang and a parishioner needed help. Or the door bell rang, and they brought their problems to his doorstep or lounge even!
Mrs Frost was such an example when she turned up to the Parish house one evening in tears.
“My husband has just left home” she sobbed as she sat down on the settee clutching a handkerchief tightly in her hand.
Father Ignatius listened attentively and sympathetically. There was very little he could practically do straightaway. The newly married couple had a row about something or other and Mr Frost stormed out of the house in a temper.
The priest tried his best to console Mrs Frost and after saying a prayer together she calmed down enough to return home; which was within walking distance of the church. Father Ignatius promised to call on them the next day after morning Mass.
Thankfully Mr Frost was at home and with his usual patience and gentleness Father Ignatius succeeded in getting them to discuss their problem. Amongst the tears and prayers it soon became apparent that their troubles stemmed from lack of communication leading to misunderstandings and confusion.
“Praise the Lord …” said the priest gently, “you really do love each other deeply; yet you can’t hear each other because of the noise of your busy lifestyles.
“Let me tell you a story which perhaps may help you to focus on what is going on here …” continued Father Ignatius,
“There once was a married couple who'd been together for many years; longer than the two of you have been married.
“One day the wife was unwell with a heavy cold. Her loving husband stayed at home and helped around the house. After seeing the children to school he offered to make her something to eat.
“She asked for a salad sandwich made with a French baguette which they had just bought that morning.
“The husband went into the kitchen, cut the ends of the French baguette, and with the middle bit made the most delicious sandwich, with tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers - just as his wife likes it.
“She must have felt pretty bad that day, because when he presented the sandwich to her she snapped ‘Why do you always cut the end bits of the baguette for yourself? They're my favorite!’
“He smiled and said ‘My dear, I hate the end bits, they're crunchy and dry ... I've been having them for years because I thought you hated them too!’
“You see … all these years he was trying to please her, and little did he know that she preferred the end bits of the French bread … and all this time she thought he was selfish by taking her favorite bits of the bread to himself, but she said nothing because she loved him as much as he loved her … all because of lack of communication.
“How many problems can be avoided in life if we learn to communicate honestly and openly with each other?
“So as I leave you can I urge you please to find out how you like your sandwiches,” he concluded with a smile.