Sunday, 28 February 2010

Ignatius' dilemma.

There are times in life when similar events happen in close proximity to each other and we’re left to wonder whether it’s only a mere coincidence, or a God incidence. Maybe the Almighty is telling us something, or leading us in a certain direction perhaps.

A few days after Father Ignatius witnessed one of his parishioners shoplifting from the local supermarket, he had occasion to witness something else similar which taxed his tact and diplomacy, not to say his duties and responsibilities as a priest.

He was at the local Grand Hotel for an Ecumenical Meeting of a number of churches in town. As the meeting broke up for a coffee break he approached the Reception Desk to ask the attendant where the phone booth was located. It was then that he noticed, quite by accident, one of his parishioners, a man in his early fifties, sitting at a table in the lounge with a young lady well half his age.

At first he thought nothing of it; but when he returned from the phone booth it occurred to him that the parishioner was unusually well dressed in a smart suit. Not the sort of attire he’d seen him wear in church; not even on a Sunday. Granted the man was well dressed when he attended Mass with his wife and children, but never in a suit, just casual clothes.

“Perhaps he’s here on business” said the priest to himself, as he dispelled any thoughts from his mind; no doubt planted there by the devil just to tease him.

An hour or so later, when all the priests and vicars gathered together in the large dining room for lunch, Father Ignatius noticed the parishioner and his young lady companion having lunch at a corner table. The waiter had just opened a bottle of wine and was serving them.

The priest mingled with other Conference delegates and sat at a table as far away as he could, just by the window facing the car park.

He tried to concentrate on the business in hand and discuss Ecumenical matters with the other delegates; but the devil must have been particularly mischievous that day as he bombarded Father Ignatius with all kind of thoughts.

As the waiter offered him a cup of coffee at the end of the meal Father Ignatius noticed through the window the couple wave for a taxi. As the cab approached, the man hugged the young lady tightly and kissed her on the cheek. He then waved her good-bye as the taxi drove off, and blew a kiss in her direction. It all happened so quickly that the priest could not believe what he had seen.

“Aha …” said the devil in his ear, “who are you going to believe now? Me or your eyes?”

This encounter at the hotel preyed on Father Ignatius’ mind all day. It could all be a perfectly innocent situation, easily explainable, he convinced himself. But the devil would have none of it and continued pestering him with alternative scenarios.

That evening he broached the subject with Father Donald as they sat for their meal.

“Suppose you suspect one of the parishioners is doing something wrong Donald, what would you do about it?” he asked innocently.

“Well … it depends what they were doing …” replied his colleague in his broad Scottish accent.

“OK … last week for instance I saw a parishioner shop-lifting … I said nothing at the time … but dealt with it during Confession …”

“Seems fine to me … I would probably have done the same …” said Father Donald.

“Let me then give you another example … suppose for instance you suspected a married man was cheating on his wife … what would you do then? Would you confront him with it and tell him it’s wrong?”

“Where I come from in Scotland you would probably get a Glasgow kiss resulting in a broken nose or worse, if you did that,” chuckled Father Donald.

“So we look the other way … we condone a sin … is that it?”

“It’s a fact of life Ignatius … modern lifestyles and all that … we may not like it but we can’t do much about it … People will sin … just as well I say, otherwise they’d get us out of business …” Father Donald laughed heartily

“Seriously though …” continued Father Ignatius, “is it not incumbent upon us to put them straight when they err … is that not our duty as priests?”

“What I like about you Ignatius is that you’re a very kind sort of person … you have this great ability to empathize … you feel for the other person and you’d do anything to help them … to keep them from the wrong path and to lead them to salvation … I’m more pragmatic I suppose … I’ll let them sin and absolve them when they ask me to …” joked Father Donald.

He was only joking, of course, because in reality Father Donald cared for his flock deeply.

“You know …” continued Father Ignatius after a short pause, “we priests have a huge responsibility towards our Lord. Because when we get to meet Him He’ll ask us how we led those He put in our care. It won’t be a question of how many Ecumenical meetings we’ve attended, or how many confessions we heard; but how many of those He sent us we have led safely to Heaven.

“Let’s say for instance a priest faces God and it is found that only 1 % of the people he had in his care throughout his priesthood made it to Heaven.

“What will God say then? A good and faithful servant, or a shepherd who has lost most of his sheep?

“And that’s the responsibility we owe God when we take on our vocation.”

The few seconds of silence which followed spoke volumes in their minds as they mulled over the situation.

Father Ignatius pondered the dilemma of the modern day priest compared to the preaching of John the Baptist who reproached his King so much that he lost his head. Or to the teachings of St Paul never shying away from telling it as it is.

Yet somehow … times change and it takes a very brave priest indeed to approach a parishioner and tell him that what he is doing is wrong. Or indeed to speak out against the wrongdoings of society.

“I wonder …” he thought to himself, “has any priest ever refused to absolve someone in the confessional?”

The following Sunday Father Ignatius was surprised to see the parishioner in question with his wife and the young lady attending Mass.

After Mass the young lady was introduced as the man’s niece visiting from France. She’d been staying secretly at the hotel and plotting a surprise Wedding Anniversary holiday in Paris for her uncle and aunt. That very evening the whole family had gathered at the hotel to celebrate their 25th Anniversary together with other relatives who had traveled from near and far.


  1. This was excellent and a real cliff-hanger!! Thank you for my Sunday bit of fiction!!!! Good day to you! Cathy

  2. Good day to you too Cathy. I'm glad you enjoyed this story.

    God bless.

  3. Very interesting. The tip off for me was that he waved good bye to her as she was getting into the taxi. If something was really amiss, I imagine he would have gotten into the taxi with her!

    If I were Fr. Ignatius and I was really suspicious, I would have went and said hello. Then he would have had to introduce her and he would have known right away!

    Love Fr. Ignatius! How I wish all priests were like him!

  4. Hello Anne,

    You're right ... the difficulty with being a priest is knowing when to do or say something and when not. I'm pleased you liked this story.

    I wonder what other readers make of the point about the priests' responsibility towards their flock.

    God bless.

  5. What a wonderful story, I was hoping it would have a happy ending.......I love these stories of Father Ignatius, he is an amazing priest be it fiction or not. Thank you Victor....:-) hugs

  6. Victor, I meant to tell you that I have ordered your book, Visions and am so looking forward to reading it. Thank you, Bernie

  7. Hello Bernie,

    I'm so glad you enjoyed this story.

    Thank you for ordering my book. Please, please tell me what you think of the story when you have read it. Thanx.

    God bless you Bernie.

  8. That was one of those iffy scenarios that are tough to figure out. I didn't think the man was cheating but could see why Father Ignatius would wonder. Good thing he said something to the other parishioner, though - that one made me laugh. Imagine seeing a parishioner stealing:)
    When my mom was a little kid a priest refused to absolve her once. I can't remember what it was about but it shocked her...maybe that was the point.

  9. Thought provoking post. I think he did the right thing by waiting. If God wanted him to do something, he'd probably have a peace about it--or maybe not peace, exactly, but a strong sense of purpose. Sometimes when God tells us to do things, it doesn't FEEL peaceful until after we've obeyed.

  10. Hi Mary, Marylea and Sarah,

    What a dilemma for Fr Ignatius. Of course, he wanted to think the best of the situation and take it off his mind; but the devil continued to tempt and pester him to think of the worst. As he often does when he tempts us too.

    However, this situation brought something else to Fr Ignatius' mind. The very real responsibility that priests have towards their parishioners. Their role is not just to preach and teach them, or visit them when in need - their main role in life is to lead as many of them to Heaven as possible, surely.

    Thank you for commenting here. May God bless you Mary, Marylea and Sarah.

  11. Hi Victor

    I am on my way to the Post Office so I will have to read this post when I get back (it will be a reason to not linger in the shops).

    I just wanted to wish you a VERY HAPPY ST DAVID'S DAY (1st March).

    I'll be back in an hour or two.

    God bless you.

  12. Hi Victor
    I'm back! I have just read the post and, as usual, it's a winner. I did guess that it was a daughter or some other young relative but the bit about being dressed up threw me a little. Anne made a good point when she said Fr Ignatius should have gone and said hello then the parishioner would have been obliged to introduce her. Phew! You sure keep us on our toes Victor. Yes, it's the priest's duty to help us on the way to heaven but they have to be pretty certain of the facts before they act. Thanks for another great post and God bless you, Victor.

  13. Hello Breadgirl,

    Great to see you visiting us from Wales on St David's Day.

    You're right ... the point I was trying to make is how much responsibility has a priest towards his flock. Let's for instance consider another scenario. If a priest knew for certain a parishioner was having an affair. Would he be obliged to comfront him and tell him it is wrong? How does that square up with the example of John the Baptist? Or St Paul's teachings?

    I'm glad you enjoyed this story. Another one follows tomorrow.

    God bless you always Breadgirl.



God bless you.