Monday, 31 May 2010
But your footprints are a disorganised stream of zigzags, starts, stops, turnarounds, circles, departures, and returns.
For much of the way, it seems to go like this, but gradually your footprints come more in line with the Lord's, soon paralleling, His consistently.
You and Jesus are walking as true friends!
This seems perfect, but then an interesting thing happens: Your footprints that once etched the sand next to Jesus' are now walking precisely in His steps.
Inside His larger footprints are your smaller ones, you and Jesus are becoming one.
This goes on for many miles, but gradually you notice another change. The footprints inside the large footprints seem to grow larger.
Eventually they disappear altogether. There is only one set of footprints.
They have become one.
This goes on for a long time, but suddenly the second set of footprints is back. This time it seems even worse! Zigzags all over the place. Stops. Starts. Gashes in the sand. A variable mess of prints.
You are amazed and shocked.
Your dream ends. Now you pray:
"Lord, I understand the first scene, with zigzags and fits. I was a new Christian; I was just learning. But You walked on through the storm and helped me learn to walk with You."
"That is correct."
"And when the smaller footprints were inside of Yours, I was actually learning to walk in Your steps, following You very closely."
"Very good.. You have understood everything so far."
When the smaller footprints grew and filled in Yours, I suppose that I was becoming like You in every way."
"So, Lord, was there a regression or something? The footprints separated, and this time it was worse than at first."
There is a pause as the Lord answers, with a smile in His voice.
"You didn't know? It was then that we danced!"
Thursday, 27 May 2010
The gardens behind St Vincent Church stretched out for an acre or so. The land was part of a Monastery which stood there years ago which has long since been destroyed; although some ancient walls still exist outlining the perimeter of some ancient buildings.
The gardens were well maintained by a team of volunteers who had planted several fruit trees, flowering bushes and a vegetable patch which Father Ignatius and Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, use to plant beans, carrots, tomatoes and several other vegetables in season.
At a secluded corner of the gardens stood a large statue of Our Lady on a pedestal, surrounded by rose bushes and overlooking a small pond containing goldfish and several plant-life. Father Ignatius held many prayer meetings there in summer evenings with the youngsters from the Youth Club, followed by a barbecue and Praise singing by an open fire.
Beyond the church gardens a thick hedge separated St Vincent’s property from a field leading to the hills and countryside.
Father Ignatius stood by the kitchen door one September evening at about six o’clock admiring the light rain as it drizzled gently through dark skies. It was that time of day when departing light met early darkness resulting in various shades of gray mingling with brown and golden autumnal leaves.
He looked out pensively and smiled to himself as he recalled lovingly his dear departed mother. Whenever it rained lightly as it did just now, she always used to say “the Angels have turned on the garden sprinklers in Paradise”. He smiled again recalling to mind her many sayings which often involved Angels and Saints living happily in Heaven above.
His thoughts were cut short suddenly by the front door bell ringing. He opened the door and there stood a young man and two boys, one aged about twelve and the other slightly younger. They were wet all through as they tried to shelter underneath a small umbrella.
“Please sir, can you help us …” said the man, “we believe our small dog has got into your gardens through the fence … we were on our way home through the fields at the back and he escaped from his dog collar … it’s a bit too large you see … can we search your gardens please?”
“What … in this rain?” asked the priest incredulously.
“He’s a small dog …” said the older boy wiping his face of water and tears, “he won’t make it through the night … please mister, let us look for him … we won’t be long …”
“Let me help you …” replied Father Ignatius as he put on his coat and took with him a small dog collar and chain often used by his own dog Canis, “we’ll also need a couple of electric flashlights as it’ll soon get dark …” he continued, handing a flashlight to the young man.
Moments later they were all out in the drizzling rain looking for the lost dog in the church’s grounds.
The two boys ran here and there shouting “Bruno … Bruno …” in the hope that the lost creature may come running to them.
At one point, as Father Ignatius pointed his lit flashlight left and right, he thought he noticed some movement amongst the rose bushes around the pedestal on which stood the statue of Our Lady. He approached the statue quietly and got down on his hands and knees pointing the flashlight at the foot of the pedestal in the hope of finding the small dog sheltering amongst the bushes. There was nothing there.
He looked behind him, and discovered the young man and the two boys kneeling on the wet grass with their heads bowed low.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“We are praying … like you … so that Mary can find the dog for us …” said the young man.
“She’s got more sense than to be out in this weather …” replied the priest gritting his teeth and wishing he was at home by the fire enjoying a hot cup of chocolate drink.
A few minutes later, after they'd been soaked right through, one of the boys found the dog behind a shed. They picked him up joyfully and he greeted them warmly shaking his little tail in delight.
The priest suggested they carry him home to make sure he doesn’t slip through his collar again. They thanked him most profusely and left hurriedly through the side gate and onto the main road.
Father Ignatius made his way to the Parish House still carrying his dog’s collar and chain which he had taken with him, and the two flashlights.
As he entered the house, totally drenched with muddy knees and wet trousers where he’d been kneeling, he was greeted by Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper.
“How come you took the dog for a walk without the dog?” she enquired looking at the collar and chain in the priest’s hand, “and in this terrible weather too … at least Canis had the sense to keep warm by the fire!”
Father Ignatius said nothing as he went upstairs to get changed. He wondered whether Jesus meant the Good Shepherd would go out looking for the lost sheep in all weathers.
Friday, 21 May 2010
Father Ignatius really didn’t like visiting the nearby City, especially by car. So when he had to go for a Conference called by the Bishops at the Cathedral he took the train and then a taxi to the Cathedral.
The Conference itself was somewhat long and tedious with many people too fond of their voice and ready to hear it pronouncing pearls of wisdom ad infinitum. Father Ignatius took notes in order to report back to his Bishop when he returned to his Parish at St Vincent Church.
When the Conference was over Father Ignatius stood by an empty taxi stand and waited for a cab to arrive.
Within a minute or so a large black car parked by him and two burly men came out from the back seat.
“Would you please get in the car Father?” said one of them.
The priest hesitated, “This is not a taxi …” he mumbled, “Who are you?”
“Let’s not make a scene in public …” continued one of the men politely, “please get in the car … here’s something to show our good intentions …” and the man put his hand in his jacket inside pocket and pulled out a bunch of notes; “there’s £200 here as a down payment … now get in the car.” And handing the money to the priest the two men eased him gently but forcibly into the car and sat one on each side of him; whilst the driver moved away quickly.
Still clutching the money Father Ignatius said, “What’s going on here … what do you want with me?”
“Relax Father … just cooperate with us for a while and all will be OK … put our little donation in your pocket and we’ll give you another £200 when this is all over … now if you don’t mind; I have to put this over your head. Just as a precaution you understand. It won’t hurt I assure you.”
The man put a hood gently over the priest’s head and tightened it round his neck to ensure he couldn’t see.
“We won’t hurt you Father …” he continued gently, “you have my word, now please relax.”
Father Ignatius had no choice but to sit there between the two giants whilst the car hurried in city traffic. At one stage the car stopped for a while, possibly at traffic lights, and the priest heard the sound of a church clock beating two quarters “it must be half past five” he thought to himself.
He tried to concentrate and listen carefully, but, not being familiar with the city, any sounds he heard meant nothing to him. However, he tried to recollect them in the order that they were heard; and he counted slowly in-between sounds to record the passage of time.
“We stopped for a few minutes at half past five … then we drove until I counted about one hundred, then I heard the sound of an ambulance or police car, then I counted to two hundred and twelve when I heard the sound of a passing train …” and so on went his thoughts.
The car must have joined a motorway or highway at some point or other because the priest heard nothing specific and felt the car pick up speed. This lasted for a long while when eventually he felt the car slow down as it drove over gravel for a bit and then stop. He then heard the sound of two barking dogs nearby. They must have been big dogs by the sound of it … Alsatians or Dobermans perhaps.
He was led by his guards holding him by each arm over the gravel for a short distance, then up two or three stairs and into a building. There they stopped and took off his hood.
It took him a few seconds to adjust his eyes and see that he was in a splendid large hall of some luxurious building. There were magnificent paintings on the walls and beautiful chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. He was surrounded by several large marble statues and ornaments.
With both his bodyguards on each side he waited there whilst another man dressed in a black suit came out of one of the rooms on his left.
“This is not Father Bernard Breally,” said the man approaching him, “who the hell are you?”
“I’m Father Ignatius …” replied the priest feebly.
“Are you Catholic?”
“I suppose you’ll do … one priest is as good as another … what happened to Breally?” he asked the two burly men.
“This was the only priest standing by the taxi place … you told us to get the priest waiting for a cab and this is him …” replied one of the men apologetically.
“OK … take him over there.
“Father would you please mind waiting in that room and make yourself at home. You are not a prisoner here … just our guest for a moment or two … Help yourself to tea or coffee and biscuits; there’s a drinks cabinet in there too if you wish to have something stronger. There’s a rest room in case you wish to freshen up.
“And please … don’t even think of escaping through the windows … the dogs out there would tear you to pieces in seconds.
“I’ll be with you shortly.”
Father Ignatius was led to a side room as richly decorated as the hall he’d just been in. He was left there alone for about twenty minutes or so, where he sat in a comfortable luxurious sofa and prayed silently.
Eventually the man who greeted him on arrival returned and asked him to follow him. He was led up the stairs of this palatial mansion and into one of the rooms.
It was a spacious bedroom as richly decorated as the rest of the house. In bed was a pale looking man sitting up surrounded by a few people. There was a young lady in a nurse’s uniform and another middle-aged woman. Two other strong men stood guard by the door.
“Leave us alone …” said the elderly man.
Everyone left the room silently and closed the door behind them.
“Come over here and sit down Father …” said the man.
The priest approached the bedside and sat in a chair nearby.
“I’m sorry to have disturbed you Father … I needed to see Father Breally but my idiots got the wrong man. They tell me you’re Catholic … so you’ll do I suppose. Do you know Breally?”
“No … I don’t …”
“Well never mind … he’s a priest I knew long ago … I’ve known him since we were Altar boys together. Then as we grew up I got into the wrong company whilst he decided to become a priest. Many a time he warned me not to break the law … to leave my gang and get a good job …” the man chuckled quietly and wiped his mouth with a handkerchief he was holding.
“Do you think if I followed Breally’s advice I’d have this mansion and all my riches? I bet he is as poor as a church mouse …
“I haven’t seen him in years. I was led to believe that he’d be at the Conference and that he’d wait by the taxi stand … instead my men got you.
“So you’ll do I suppose … I need a favor from you!”
“What is it that you need?” asked Father Ignatius gently.
“I’m fifty-nine and I’m very ill. The doctor who was standing here doesn’t think much of my chances … I want you to forgive my sins and prepare me for Heaven …”
“I don’t understand … why all this secrecy and why did you have me brought here?” asked Father Ignatius gaining a little confidence.
“Do you know who I am?”
“No I don’t … I don’t even know where I am … your men blind-folded me in the car …”
“I’m sorry for that,” interrupted the man, and then after a short silence went on, “it doesn’t matter who I am …
“Suffice it to say that I don’t have a glorious past, but I guess you’ve already worked that out … I haven’t always been what you’d call a good Christian … not since the Altar boy days … ” he chuckled again reminiscing on his childhood.
“Don’t get me wrong Father … Ignatius is it?”
The priest nodded silently.
“Don’t get me wrong Father Ignatius, I’ve never done anything really bad myself you understand … but I’ve often asked my boys to do certain things for me … I’m sure you understand what it’s like.
“Sometimes in my line of business you need to be a little forceful in order to be respected by your peers …”
The priest said nothing and waited for the man to continue.
“So there you have it … will you forgive an old gangster and get him to Heaven?”
“It’s not as easy as that,” replied Father Ignatius.
“What do you mean? My boys gave you a handsome donation which we’ll supplement with another one when you leave. What else do you want?”
“Confession is not bought with money …” said Father Ignatius still holding his gentle yet firm tone of voice, “you may well confess your past sins and I may well absolve you of them … but that in itself is no guarantee to entry in Heaven.”
“When I was an Altar boy I was told that a priest can forgive your sins and all is well again with God. That’s what Jesus said to His disciples to do …” protested the man sitting up.
“Yes … that’s true. But with Confession there should be true repentance and regret for what we have done. It is no point just confessing one’s sins and hoping that all is well.
“God is not an insurance policy. Providing we pay our premiums by way of Confession, Communion and attending Mass every now and then; our place in Heaven is guaranteed.
“It just doesn’t work like that …
“Tell me something …” continued Father Ignatius gaining confidence all the time, “suppose you were one of the victims of the many things you claim to have done … how would you feel if you knew that the person who committed such crimes against you suddenly said sorry on his death bed, recited a prayer or two as a penance and got entry into Heaven?”
“What else can I do? My crimes are done and gone … I can hardly turn the clock back … You’ve got to help me Father … that’s what you priests are here for isn’t it?” pleaded the man his hand shaking a little.
“I will pray for you … and I will absolve your sins by the power given to me by our Lord Jesus …” said Father Ignatius.
“But I will not give you a penance … this is not a matter of asking you to say a Hail Mary and all will be well again …
“I’ve never been in such a situation before … and they never taught us what is an appropriate penance in these circumstances …” Father Ignatius bit his lip, thinking he’d probably overstepped the mark.
The man laughed heartily.
“A priest with a sense of humor … I like that …” he said after a short pause.
Father Ignatius continued.
“I will leave the matter of final absolution in the hands of God, since only He knows your heart, your intentions and your genuine repentance.
“I will also leave the money your men gave me right here … the Lord’s absolution is not for sale … it is given freely by Him alone.”
Father Ignatius heard the man’s Confession and prayed with him for a while. He was then driven back, hooded once again, to the city and dropped at the railway station where he caught a train home.
Weeks later he read in the newspaper that the man had died. The papers had his picture, which Father Ignatius recognized, and they named him as an infamous gangster who terrorized the city for many years. The papers also said that he had left large sums of money in his Will to various charities and Christian churches.
Saturday, 15 May 2010
My new E Book GOLDEN DROPS is finally available.
I have prayed and thought hard about it and I have decided to offer it FREE in E Book format to whoever wants it. You can download it by visiting my Website HERE.
Also on AMAZON Kindle HERE.
"GOLDEN DROPS" is a compilation of stories about Father Ignatius, a character from my first book "VISIONS".
Each story tells a tale in the life of Fr Ignatius, and none of the stories are taken from "VISIONS". They are all new.
Please feel free to copy the image above on your Blogs and to tell your readers about this FREE offer.
Once you have "GOLDEN DROPS" you are also free to email it to your family and friends or copy it onto CD.
It is yours to do as you wish.
All I ask is that you pray for me.
God bless you dear readers, and thank you so much for your kindness and support.
Victor S E Moubarak
Saturday, 8 May 2010
As Father Ignatius drove into the church car park he was followed by a top of the range very expensive vehicle which stopped some distance away.
“That’s unusual” he thought, “I’ve never seen this car here before!”
Out came a tall well built man in his early sixties. He was immaculately dressed in a good quality tweed suit, white shirt and dark tie, and a heavy woolen dark blue overcoat. He locked his car and walked towards Father Ignatius.
“Good morning …” he said in an impeccable English accent, “are you the Padre here?”
“Yes … I am the Parish priest …” replied Father Ignatius, “can I help you?”
“I’m Colonel Swanwick …” replied the man stretching out his hand “retired!”
The priest shook the man’s hand and was impressed by the firm strong handshake.
“I’d like a few moments of your time please Padre …” he said, “is there anywhere we can talk?”
“Yes … of course … you’d better come to my office …”
Moments later and the priest had taken the Colonel up the stairs in the Parish House and into his office.
“I had a Catholic Padre in my regiment years ago …” said Colonel Swanwick sitting down in the armchair by the window, “fine man indeed …”
“Are you new in town?” asked Father Ignatius sitting at his desk, “I’ve not seen you in church before!”
“Oh no old boy …” chuckled the Colonel in his perfect distinguished accent, “I’m not Catholic you know … I was brought up Presbyterian … same Army I suppose … different regiment what?” He laughed heartily.
“Very amusing …” the priest said feigning a weak smile.
“Any way … I don’t go to church anymore … haven’t been in years. Well Padre … I need your help. It’s something that only someone in your regiment can deal with so to speak …
“You see … not being Catholic myself this is a little peculiar for me and I don’t claim to understand it … not a bit of it, I tell you!”
“What is it you don’t understand?” asked Father Ignatius patiently.
“Well … it’s this friend of mine … I’ve known him for years … we served together in Africa many years ago. Fine fellow of a man I tell you. An excellent soldier indeed! You know … he saved my life years ago when we were under attack in an ambush and I was pinned down with a bullet in my leg. He came out there under enemy fire and pulled me back to safety. He is Catholic you know …”
“I see …”
“I haven’t seen him for years … we correspond every now and then … the odd Christmas card every year, that sort of thing … no more. I’m not one for a lot of meaningless correspondence and all that … too busy old boy. I only write when it’s important to do so and none of this casual chitchat … waste of time and money I say!
“Well, I got news that the poor fellow has died after a short illness … I received a letter from his wife a few days ago …”
“I’m sorry to hear it …”
“Yes quite …” continued the Colonel, “damn inconvenient you know … I can’t possibly attend the funeral. I have an important meeting at our Regimental Reunion Club. It’s down in Wales somewhere or other … the funeral that is, not the Regimental Reunion … that is held at the Grand Hotel in town. Have you ever been to Wales Padre?”
“Yes … several times …”
“Anyway … It’s too far to go to Wales for a funeral … once you’re dead and gone you’re gone … that’s what I always say … no need for ceremonials and all that. Funerals are held for the living not the dead. It’s just a get together to make the living feel better about the departed … Waste of time and money … just like writing meaningless letters and correspondence …
“So that’s where you come in … Being a Catholic just like this friend of mine. I’d like you to help me out of a tight spot as it were!” The Colonel smiled in expectation.
“Do you want me to attend the funeral for you?” asked the priest somewhat confused.
“Oh no … goodness no …” laughed Colonel Swanwick heartily, “it’s in Wales you know … too far to go for a funeral …
“I have been told that you Catholics have a Mass card … is that what you call it? It’s been suggested to me that I should send his wife a Mass card. Apparently they’re not available from the shops and you obtain them from a priest. Is that right?”
“I understand …” replied Father Ignatius as eventually he got to the purpose of this man’s visit, “you wish to offer a Mass for the repose of his soul.”
“I’m not sure I understand what you mean exactly … but that’s right. That’s what I’ve been told. What is it that you do?”
“It’s a tradition in the Catholic Church to offer Masses for others for any intentions. Sometimes people offer Masses in thanksgiving to God, and quite often for the dead. It’s a practice that originates in the very early Church. Inscriptions were discovered on tombs in ancient Roman catacombs in the second century providing evidence of this practice.”
“I see … it’s like paying someone to pray for you. I remember reading about it in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales …” chuckled the Colonel.
“It’s not as crudely as you put it …” continued Father Ignatius patiently, “the Catholic Church considers Mass as the greatest possible prayer of intercession. So we offer the Mass to God for that particular intention … for example for the repose of the person’s soul …”
“Oh I do apologize Padre …” interrupted the Colonel, “I meant no offence … I can understand I suppose … it’s like asking someone to put in a good word for you with the Almighty …”
“I shall offer a Mass for your friend” said the priest patiently, “you can choose one of these cards to send to his widow …”
“That’s jolly decent of you old boy … thank you. I’ll take this one here … how much is it?”
“You don’t have to pay anything … I will sign the card and I’ll need your friend’s name …”
“Oh no ... I insist … how much is the card … and the Mass too of course!” said Colonel Swanwick rather embarrassed about his faux pas.
“Well … if you insist …” Father Ignatius said with a smile to ease the tension a little, “the cost involved is that you have to give money to a charity, any charity you wish … and the amount you give should be commensurate to how much this friend of yours meant to you. How much you really valued his friendship and what he did to you.”
“Good Heavens … that should prove expensive considering he saved my life …” chuckled the Colonel, “but I’ll gladly do it. I promise you of this.
“I’d also like to invite you for afternoon tea at my house. Just to show there’s no hard feelings and all that old boy. We’ve just moved into Happy Acres a couple of months ago … it’s the house just by the Anglican Church out in the next village … do you know it?”
“Yes … of course …” replied Father Ignatius recalling to mind the large mansion he’d passed frequently whilst visiting the vicar at the village Anglican Church.
“Jolly good … jolly good,” repeated the Colonel, “I’ll check dates with my wife … she’s in charge of Happy Acres HQ … she’s a fine old girl you know … does a lot of work at the Anglican Church … choir practice … bell ringing … garden fêtes and all that. The vicar there knows her well … Reverend Fellowes … you’ve probably come across him in your travels … different regiment yet again. Anyway … I’ll check dates with my wife and ring you back to fix a spot of tea and cream cakes.”
As Colonel Swanwick drove out of the car park Father Ignatius wondered pensively about the Catholic Church’s doctrines and traditions.
“I can understand someone like the Colonel being confused …” he thought, “but do we do enough to explain to our parishioners why we do things the way we do them; and the real meanings behind our doctrines and traditions? A good subject for a sermon I think!”