Monday, 29 November 2010

I wish we'd all been ready.


Sir Cliff Richard

Entrenched in Good Works.


It the same in most churches I suppose. People volunteer to do certain jobs and they become entrenched in these positions.

Mr Petroni and Mr Richards always stand at the back of the church and welcome people in. They hand out the hymn books and take the collection aided by Mr Harrison and Mr Gregory. They’ve been doing this for years and will probably continue to do so for ever more.

Mrs Florenti has played the organ for years too and does not see herself ever stopping Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Weddings and funerals too.

Miss Jemeson leads the church choir, Mr Duke trains and organizes the altar servers, Mr Malek cuts the grass and does the gardening, Miss Henderson and Mrs Polanski clean the church and undertake the flower arrangements … and so on and so forth. I need not name them all.

Father Ignatius … well, he’s busy every Sunday of course, and he’s grateful for all the help he gets from his faithful parishioners.

One Sunday he faced the congregation and started his sermon thus:

"I’ve been your Parish priest for almost twelve years now. I’ve seen many people join this church, many couples married, many new babies baptized and taking first Communion and Confirmation, and sadly many people dying and departing to be with our Lord.

"I’m very grateful for all the people volunteering to do all the various tasks there are to do in a church like this one. I couldn’t cope alone without your help.

"And in my time with you here, I have seen something else too. Sunday after Sunday as I face you here to preach my humble sermons, and do my best to keep you awake. I want to show you what I see from here.

"Could you all please turn round and look at the stained glass window high up behind you."


"Do you see what I see?

"You must have observed it time and again as you leave the church after Mass.

"There’s a huge cobweb up there that’s been growing year after year. I first noticed it about eighteen months ago when it became more visible and dirty.

"At first I thought of asking one of the more athletic people amongst you to get a ladder and clean it out; because I doubt that I can raise my sixty-three years old bones all the way up there and do it myself.

"But then I thought 'No … I’ll leave it a while and see if anyone else notices it'.

"And I’ve seen it grow week after week after week.

"The reason I mention it today is two-fold:

"First, I’d be glad if someone could help with cleaning it out. But that’s not important.

"The important thing is that the cobweb up there reminds me of sin.

"We all get busy in our lives doing this and that; and in church we volunteer at doing the various tasks which are needed to keep a church like this one going strong. That’s our outer visible self, as we see ourselves, and as we wish others to see us.

"Yet, deep within our souls, in our private lives, we may well hide a sin or two. Small ones at first … hardly visible like the first spider’s threads as they are stretched from one point to another.

"Then to this are added other threads, and others too until we have a whole spider’s web. Mostly invisible at first, unless the bright sunlight shines through that stained glass window to reveal the whole outline.

"In time, dust settles on the web until we have the large cobweb you see up there.

"The small sins are hidden by bigger ones which go un-confessed and hidden from view. Until they are made visible by the bright light of Christ as He enters our lives.

"So let’s all use that cobweb as a reminder to look deeply into our souls and undertake some spring cleaning by seeking the Lord’s forgiveness for our sins."

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Rescue Drive.

For a few days Father Ignatius had been thinking over his conversation with Father Donald about the dream he had.

In the dream, St Peter asked Father Ignatius directly, ‘Have you done a good job of looking after Our Lord’s lambs and sheep?’

“What a challenge!” thought Father Ignatius, “St Peter himself asking me if I was a good priest!”

Jack lived a few yards down the road from St Vincent Church, just the other side of the Convent.

One Friday evening he was waiting outside the Fish and Chips Shop just opposite the church when Father Ignatius joined the queue.

“How are you keeping Jack?” he asked, “you look really miserable right now … just like a mile of bad road, I should say!”

“Hello Father …” mumbled Jack under his breath, “it’s a long story!”

“You’d better tell me about it … let’s move away from this queue …”

The two men left the queue and walked a few paces away from the shop.

“It’s this friend of mine …” Jack said hesitantly, “he’s over seventy years old, lives in Brintown, and he’s not too well. I think he’s dying. I spoke to the lady friend he lives with and she said the doctor is not holding much hope. I’ll go and see him tomorrow as I’m not working this weekend … I hope I get there in time …”

“I’ll pray for him Jack. I notice you said lady friend … is he not married then?”

“Oh … that’s another long story Father.” said Jack, “Many years ago, when he was thirty or so, he met this lady and fell in love with her. She was divorced and his priest would not marry them. In fact he argued the matter with the priest and the priest excommunicated him.

“I think he probably excommunicated her as well … I don’t know.

“Anyway, they’ve lived together ever since … that’s about forty years. I don’t know if they ever got married in the Civil Court.

“But the man kept faithful to the ban imposed on him. He didn’t move to another church and take Communion there, even though they moved town several times. In fact I believe he never set foot in another church ever since that day!”

“We’d better go and see them then …” said the priest.

“What now … it’s five o’clock. It will take us two hours to get to Brintown!”

“The sooner we start the better,” replied Father Ignatius, “you go to my office and phone them from there. I’ll get the car ready!”

Moments later Father Ignatius was driving up the highway as fast as the speed limit allowed.

They arrived just after 7:30 that evening. Father Ignatius went to see the old man in his bedroom whilst Jack stayed with the old lady in the front room.

They could hear talk, and sometimes laughter from the bedroom. The priest stayed there for a while. He heard the old man’s Confession and gave him Holy Communion. Then they chatted away about the past … the old man had spent some time in Italy, not far from where Father Ignatius studied for the priesthood, so they talked about Italy and all the places they visited whilst there.

Eventually the priest came out and asked Jack to go and stay with the old man.

He heard the old lady’s Confession and gave her Holy Communion.

Father Ignatius and Jack set off back home at about 10:45 that evening. In the car, on the way to St Vincent, Jack said, “Thank you Father … being with you is like being with Jesus!”

“Don’t ever say that,” replied the priest, “no one can possibly be like Jesus!”

The old man died three days later.

The old lady also died a few months after that.

(Based on a true story).

Sunday, 21 November 2010

No stranger at the door.

“ … and there we were both standing at the doorway of the Church,” said Father Ignatius, “ and then he asked me if I could spare a cup of coffee. I didn’t think he drank coffee. What do you think he drank anyway?”

“St Peter?” asked Father Donald.

“Yes … St Peter,” repeated Father Ignatius, “what do you think he drank. Surely not coffee. It hadn’t been discovered then! When he was alive on earth.”

“Oh … boiled fish water, I shouldn’t wonder” laughed Father Donald, “must have tasted really horrible I should think!”

“And then …” continued Father Ignatius after a short pause, “and then, as if by magic, we were here in my office. I was sitting at my desk, like now, and he sat in the very armchair where you’re sitting in!”

Father Donald looked around him in the armchair and said nothing. Father Ignatius continued.

“St Peter sat just where you’re sitting Donald. He looked just like we’ve seen him portrayed in the movies. Tall guy and well set. With a beard and wearing a brown tunic … and sandals. I remember distinctly the sandals … Big man, he was … I wouldn’t wish to be on the wrong side of an argument with him. He was here in this office.

“He asked what I thought of him.

“I mumbled the usual things we’ve been taught in seminary … Loyal follower of Christ, leader of the Disciples, Head of the Church … That sort of thing!

“He smiled and picked up a biscuit … he preferred the chocolate covered ones and commented that they tasted different to the ones he was used to in them days … That’s exactly what he said … in them days!”

Father Donald raised an eyebrow and smiled, whilst Father Ignatius went on.

“Then he asked me to be honest. Not repeat what I’d been taught. What did I really think of him?”

Father Donald smiled once more and said nothing.

“Well …” Father Ignatius went on, “I hesitated of course … it’s quite a shock seeing St Peter face to face and being asked such a direct question …

“I said that some theologians consider him to be a bit irresolute of character … Tends to speak first, sometimes acts quickly, yet … a bit hesitant when the chips are down!”

“Wow …” said Father Donald, “did he hit you for saying that? He has a bit of a temper our St Peter you know.”

“No … he remained calm,” replied Father Ignatius, “He said ‘I don’t care about what theologians think … what do they know? I’m asking for your opinion Ignatius!’ He called me Ignatius … so he knew full well who I was. Then he asked me if I had any more of those brown covered biscuits …

“I gave him the whole packet of chocolate biscuits which somehow I had here in my desk; and then I said that I sympathized with his predicament and how he’d been portrayed by some theologians. He was and I’m sure he still is very loyal to Christ. He spoke first because of his confidence and beliefs in our Lord.

“He hesitated a little when he jumped into the lake and tried to walk on water. But anyone would have done that … Jesus had asked to him to come to Him … so at least he did show real Faith by jumping into the water … but his Faith faltered … understandable really!

“And that’s when St Peter sat a little forward in the armchair and calmly said to me … ‘Quite the diplomat aren’t you Ignatius?’ I remember distinctly those words … and they were not said in a complimentary way either … He asked me to go on … what did I really and honestly think of him …

“So I swallowed hard Donald … I knew what he wanted me to say but I was too scared to say it. He nodded gently to encourage me …

“And very quietly I mumbled that he had denied Christ three times …

“He looked me straight in the eye and all gentleness seemed to have gone from his face. He waved his hand gently at me, still holding a half-eaten chocolate biscuit, as if to reprimand me … you know, as we do with our finger when we point at a little child, and then he said ‘After over two thousand years you people still hold that against me! And you call yourselves forgiving Christians … The Lord Himself forgave me with His knowledgeable look full of love and pity for me. But you Christians still bring this matter up …

“And it’s the same with Thomas … Whenever I meet him he says that the only thing that people remember about him is his doubting, and they can’t relate anything else he did after that.

“Well let me tell you something clever Ignatius that you are’ … That’s what St Peter called me, Donald. ‘Clever Ignatius that you are …

“Let me tell you something … Have you ever considered what would have happened if I did not deny our Lord? I would have most probably been taken by the crowd and hung from the nearest tree …

“They were horrible they were … and angry and wild. Those same people who pretended to love Him, whom He had healed and taught over the years suddenly became very wild. They became angry, almost feral … And of course I was scared. They were probably scared too, you know. They had to act this way because acting any differently would have resulted in them being hanged too!

“And by denying Christ, the Son of our God, I unwittingly set in course the chain of events which followed. Jesus knew exactly why I had to deny Him at the time of His capture.

“After His Resurrection, when He appeared to us on the shore of the lake as we were fishing; it was the third time Jesus appeared to us after He was raised from death … We had just eaten together, and Jesus asked me three times if I loved Him. And every time I said yes He asked me to take care of His lambs and His sheep!’ ”

After a short silence Father Donald asked “What happened then Ignatius? When St Peter told you that?”

Father Ignatius replied.

“Well, he finished eating his biscuit and then he asked me whether I thought I had done a good job of looking after Our Lord’s lambs and sheep …

“Before I could answer … I just woke up!”

“That’s quite a dream …” said Father Donald, “and quite a message from St Peter.

“Christ knew precisely why Peter had to be spared at the time of His capture … in order to lead the Disciples and the Church!”

Friday, 19 November 2010

E=MC2.

There was a University in the town where Father Ignatius lived. It was not far from St Vincent Church, just down the hill at the edge of the town center.

Father Ignatius was one of the visiting chaplains at the University. He shared the task with other vicars and ministers from other churches and they took turns to man the Pastoral Center on a weekly basis.

Father Ignatius was at the Center one day waiting and hoping that someone might call-in for a chat when his wish was rewarded.

Two students, a young lady and a young man came in.

“Hi” she said, “we’ve come to ask you a question we’ve been debating. We’re not Christians as such … searchers for the truth more like …”

The priest smiled and said, “Come in, sit down. Help yourselves to coffee from the table over there!”

As they sat down with their coffee the man said in a more reserved tone, “Well Sir, we were wondering about Jesus …

“We are both science students here at the University … I’m reading biology, chemistry and physics and my friend here is studying medicine …”

“That sounds like very hard work to me …” said the priest encouragingly.

“Well, yes … at times,” continued the young man, “We were wondering, Jesus is supposed to be the Son of God. When He was around on earth these subjects like biology and such like were not known at all … people then were very primitive. Did Jesus know all these subjects? Was He knowledgeable to University Degree standard and beyond? Or was He just as ignorant as the people of His time?”

The priest did not reply but cleaned his spectacles to gain a few seconds thinking time. A trick he had used often enough.

“Thus is not a joke question …” said the young lady.

“I am sure it isn’t,” replied the priest, “I was watching a TV programme about animals in zoos the other day …

“You know the new style zoos? The ones where they keep the animals roaming free in a large enclosure instead of cages. The animals feel as if they are in their native environment and the visitors see their behavior in this environment rather than in a cage …”

The two students looked at each other and said nothing. The priest continued.

“Apparently feeding time is quite elaborate. The zoo keepers don’t just throw the food in the enclosures, but they spend a lot of time hiding food in trees and in bushes, behind rocks and under stones and so on … whilst the animals are caged of course. Then they release the animals in the open enclosures and let them search, or hunt, for their food, whatever it is. Be it meat for lions and tigers or seeds and fruit for other animals …

“This of course enriches the lives of the animals. They behave as they would do in the wild. They use their sense of smell and inquisitiveness as they go out searching for food. They climb up trees to reach any food hidden there. They dig under rocks to find the seeds placed there by their keepers. This gives them exercise and no doubt sharpens their appetite.

“And it’s all good fun for the visitors watching them.

“Yes … those zoo keepers go to great length to make the animals feel at home, as it were!”

“What has that to do with our question?” asked the young lady impatiently.

“A lot really …” continued Father Ignatius, “When God created us He could have fed us easily by providing us with all we need.

“He could have invented a magic oven and whenever we opened its door out came the most succulent steak and French fries, my favorites. Or roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes, parsnips and carrots; not forgetting the Brussels sprouts and gravy of course. Or chicken or turkey … and chocolate cake. Do you like chocolate cake?”

They both nodded and waited to hear more.

“Oh … can you imagine having an oven like that? Whatever your wish, you press a button or two and out comes your meal.

“God could have also made things easier for us in many other ways you know. Take travel for instance … I hate driving in busy highways don’t you? We could have a box somewhere in our homes and whenever we got in, press a button or two, and in seconds we’re somewhere else … America! Oh … I love America … How lovely it would be to go there every weekend without having to wait at those airports … There’s fifty States you know. One for every weekend of the year … I could visit them in alphabetical order you know. Then stay at home the two remaining weekends.”

The students looked at each other and smiled wondering whether this priest was really losing his mind. He noticed their confusion and went on, pretending to be totally unperturbed by their bewilderment.

“But God is wiser than that …

“He created us and gave us the power of thinking, questioning, investigating and looking around.

“Then He created a world full of wonders for us to find and enjoy. From the large varieties of trees, plants and flowers and the birds and insects that inhabit them, to the wonders of the oceans and their various creatures. He gave us a whole world to discover and marvel at. And as if this is not enough He also gave us a whole universe full of planets and stars to gaze at and study and research.

“He gave us hidden talents too … investigative talents. Inquisitiveness, like in those animals in the zoo. But we didn’t use them just to search for food. We searched for knowledge and boy did we discover … did we not just marvel at what we found …

“We discovered writing, painting, sculpture, music and the arts. We discovered science and medicine … We learnt who we are, what we are, what we’re made of and how we are made. We learnt to heal ourselves from illness and disease. We learnt to travel and to fly.

“Do you understand where I’m getting at?”

They nodded silently.

“But God is clever you know … He did not give us all the secrets to life and to His creation. There are some things which will always be hidden from us, for our own protection, in case we think we’re a little too clever and can manage everything by ourselves … And make a mess of it, as we seem to be doing right now!”

He chuckled to himself.

“And having given us all these marvels to discover and enjoy, He still remains in control of events. He watches us as we learn and progress through the ages, but He will not let us go against His ultimate will for us.

“You’re both studying scientific subjects right now. This is good. I hope and pray that in your personal journey of discovery you too will one day discover some hidden gems in a tree or behind a rock like the animals in the zoo. And I hope that whatever you discover will help mankind in the field of medicine young lady … or in the sciences you’re engaged in young man.

“Praise God He’ll guide you into purposeful careers for the benefit of humanity.”

They smiled meekly.

“You’re right in the original point you made,” Father Ignatius continued gently, “At the time of Jesus people were primitive in comparison to us … They knew very little of what we know now.

“But they searched, they questioned and they learned … and they discovered many things slowly, year by year until today.

“It’s the way God gave us a purpose in life … instead of having everything ready for us. Like a magic oven …

“That’s what I think, anyway. Call it Father Ignatius’ Theory of Evolution!”

They smiled again, now both of them more relaxed.

“But don’t look for it in the Bible … I doubt you’ll find it exactly as I said it … You’ll discover a lot more about God though … it may even change your lives.

“Oh … and about your original question. How much did Jesus know at the time He walked this earth?

“The Bible teaches us that He is the Son of God … All powerful and omnipotent. So how much do you think He knew then when He visited this world?”

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Cocktail Queen catches up.

There are times in life when whatever we have done in the past has a habit of catching up with us and come back to haunt us, or bite us on the backside, or give us a pleasant surprise even. And that’s what happened to Father Ignatius when the door bell at St Vincent Parish House rang one sunny afternoon.

There at the door was a pretty young lady of about 23 years of age with two toddlers, a girl aged about five and a little boy aged four.

“Hia … Father … Ignatius isn’t it?” she said with a smile, “I have a surprise for you!”

“Good afternoon …” he replied gently.

“May we come in?” she asked, “the little ones want to go to the toilet … and I have something to tell you …”

Father Ignatius led them into the downstairs waiting room and showed them where the toilets were. He then asked Mrs Davenport to prepare some tea and biscuits and orange juice for the children.

Moments later they were all in the waiting room as Mrs Davenport came in with the refreshments. As she left, closing the door behind her, Father Ignatius asked, “How can I help you?”

“You don’t remember me?” she asked.

“Well …” he mumbled embarrassingly, “I get to meet so many people over the years …”

“I’ll give you a clue …” she interrupted, “about five years ago … the age of this little girl; now that should jog your memory.

He looked at her blankly.

“I was the Cocktail Queen working at the Bitten Apple Night Club … I offered to let you in without paying … and you were too embarrassed to be seen there I think!

“I told you I was pregnant, having a baby … do you remember?”

Father Ignatius lifted his eyebrows as faded memories came rushing back from the deep recesses of his mind.

“Ah …” she said in exasperation, “you still don’t seem to remember me … that’s not very flattering to a pretty girl you know … and I thought I had made quite an impression on you!

“Well I do remember that you were none too happy when I told you I were pregnant … it made you quite mad I think …

“As I recall I came to see you and tell you all about it … you took me in your office upstairs.

“And that’s when I told you I were pregnant and I wanted to have an abortion and get rid of it.

“You got very upset with me and you advised me against it. I thought what right have you to tell me what to do? You said it was a living human being and it was wrong to kill it … and that I would always regret it.

“As I said at the time, I was working at the Night Club … the Cocktail Queen I was … very popular with the clientele I were!

“I couldn’t keep the baby could I? It would have interfered with my job. Who has ever heard of the Pregnant Cocktail Queen? You can’t wear those skimpy outfits with a big bump upfront can you?

“Anyhow … I left you and I was proper upset with you I was … telling me to keep the baby!

“Months later we met again at the supermarket and I told you that I had the baby after all …

“It’s this little girl here; you never met her. I called her Ignatia after you. Well it’s her middle name really … Ignatia is rather an odd name don’t you think? But I had to name her after you. Her first name is Hilary.”

The priest smiled feebly.

“So when I had Hilary I gave up working at the Night Club and took on a job at the supermarket where we met.

“I was living with Hilary’s father at the time … When I told him what you’d said to me he agreed that I should not have the abortion … even though he was keen on it at first …

“His name is Alec. We later married you know … not in a church like, but at the Registry Office. A year later we had Mark here … he’s about four years old!”

“Yes … I remember,” said Father Ignatius, “I’m so glad you and your husband decided not to proceed with the abortion … she’s such a pretty girl. I’m sure you love both your children.”

“Oh yes … we do love them very much, my husband and I. We’re ever so happy. If it were not for you I would not have my precious Hilary!

“I still work at the supermarket … part-time like … I have to look after the kids and all! You don’t go to that supermarket anymore … ‘cos I haven’t seen you for ages!” she said, “My husband Alec works at the bus depot you know … he asked me to come and see you … since you helped us the last time when I were pregnant with Hilary … Alec said perhaps you can help us again!”

“I’ll do my best …” he said gently.

“Well, it’s about Hilary here … I took her to the Catholic school down the road and they wouldn’t let her in … the Head Mistress there was a proper snooty fancy pants she was … She said she couldn’t accept Hilary because she didn’t have a Baptismal Certificate. So Alec, my husband, suggested I come to you for a Baptismal Certificate. And could we have one for Mark as well while we’re at it … I hope they don’t cost much! ”

“It’s not that simple …” said Father Ignatius, “I take it the children have not been baptized!”

“No … I don’t think so. I was brought up a Catholic on my mother’s side … she taught me the Hail Mary and showed me a little chain with beads … but I don’t think I got baptized … it was too expensive in them days … is it expensive now?”

“No … you don’t have to pay” he replied gently, “what the Head Mistress at the school meant is that before your children are accepted at the school she has to give priority to Catholic families and their children. I’m sure you understand that.”

“Yes I do … I’d like to come to church with my husband and the kids and learn about God and all that … only I was put off by a woman I work with.

“She said the Catholics are expensive … they have two money collections and sometimes more on Sunday and even on weekdays if you go to church to pray. She said you have to pay to get a Baptismal Certificate … which is what the Head Mistress asked for.

“This friend … Diane is her name … well she said you also talk in a foreign language in church … Italian was it? No … no … Latin. That was it. Only we don’t know Latin Alec and me … I left school at fifteen and can just speak proper English … never mind Latin.

“She also said Catholics have to eat fish every Friday … well we can’t do with that … It’s expensive for a start and Alec is allergic to shell-fish … brings him out in spots it does!”

“There appears to have been a lot of misconceptions about the Catholic Faith …” said Father Ignatius, “what I mean is that you’ve misunderstood about the Catholic Church … never mind. Many people make the same mistakes.

“Can I suggest perhaps that you and Alec come to a few meetings when we can talk about God and Jesus and the Catholic Faith? You said you were willing to learn.

“It’ll be just you and Alec and me, or Father Donald if I’m not here. You can bring the children too and I’ll ask Mrs Davenport, whom you’ve just met, to look after them.

“It’s just once a week, in the evening or at weekends … and in time, if you wish, you can have the children baptized and you and Alec too … if you wish.

“And it will be in English … not one word of Latin will be spoken, I promise.”

She smiled broadly and asked “How much will it cost?”

“There’s no charge at all …” he replied smiling back, “the Love of Christ is priceless but you don’t have to pay … He already has!”

“And what about the fish?”

He held back the urge to laugh and said “Don’t worry about that … you don’t have to eat fish or anything else you don’t want to eat … on Fridays or any other days!”

And that’s how it was that the Cocktail Queen and her husband Alec attended Catholic teachings at St Vincent and in time, the two of them and their children were baptized at a private ceremony attended by both priests and Mrs Davenport.

Hilary now attends the Catholic school and Mark has been registered to attend the following year.

The family is now part of Father Ignatius’ flock!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Miracles.

Father Ignatius approached the pulpit and said, “Hands up all those who have been to Lourdes!”

Quite a few hands went up.

“Keep your hands up,” he said, “now hands up those who went to Fatima, Knock or any other Holy Shrine!”

A few more hands went up.

“OK …” continued the priest, “hands down. Now hands up again anyone who has had a miracle happen to them at any of these places!”

No hands went up.

The priest waited a few seconds and then continued.

“Just as I thought! No one considers that a miracle has happened to them. Which of course begs the question; Do miracles happen these days?

“The truth is that miracles do happen these days; but people are not willing to believe in them.

“Perhaps they expect spectacular miracles to happen … Raising of the dead. Walking on water, changing water into wine … now that was a good one!

“Anything less than that and our Faith has not been stimulated enough to even consider it as a miracle, let alone believe it has happened.”

He stopped once again, as he usually did in his sermons, to allow the challenge to sink into the parishioners’ minds.

“I’d like us to consider for a while what is a miracle and who actually performs it when it happens.

“Spectacular miracles, as you would wish them to be, like healings from incurable illnesses and diseases do happen at Lourdes and elsewhere even today. There is plenty of documented evidence if you wish to research it.

“Many people have been healed suddenly with no explanation from medical or scientific sources. They remain unexplained and are accepted as miracles performed at the many Shrines visited by the sick person.

“Miracles happen elsewhere too … not just at these Shrines. Miracles can happen in churches, hospitals or even at your homes … if it is the will of God that they should happen.

“This then leads to the second question. Who performs these miracles?

“Is it Our Lady, the Mother of God at Lourdes or her other Shrines? Is it the particular Saint you happen to be praying to for help? Or is it God?

“And when we pray to individuals before they become Saints for a particular favor, or miracle even … like Padre Pio, Pere Charbel, and so on before they were made Saints by the Vatican … who performed the miracles do you think? Was it the particular person prayed to or was it God?

“Isn’t it after all the performance of miracles, or the answers to prayers, one of the tests which our Church considers as a requirement to Sainthood?”

He paused yet again.

“There are those who say that only God or Jesus can perform miracles; and to pray to Saints, or even people who have not even yet been considered as Saints, is wrong.

“Let me read you something from Acts of the Apostles … you can look it up yourselves at Acts 3.

“You’ll remember that as Peter and John went into the Temple to pray they met a man at The Beautiful Gate, as it was called, who had been lame all his life.

“The beggar expected money from the two apostles. Peter turned to him and said, ‘I don’t have silver or gold. But what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth get up and walk!’ And of course the man was healed.

“Later on in Acts 5 Verse 12 we read that many miracles were performed by the apostles. Sick people lay in the streets so that Peter’s shadow would fall upon them and heal them. And indeed many were healed.

“The important thing to note here is that Peter said ‘in the name of Jesus Christ get up and walk.’

“So yes … the apostles whilst they walked this earth, and now they are in Heaven, can and do perform miracles; they have not lost their ability to perform miracles, in the name of Jesus, just because they’re in Heaven.

“And so does Our Lady perform miracles in the name of her Son Jesus. As do Padre Pio, Pere Charbel and many other Saints. But they do so in the name of Jesus. It is very important to remember that.”

Father Ignatius stopped once again having pressed his point home.

“And now we move on to our last question,” he said, “for today at least!

“What role does our Faith has to play in the performance of miracles?

“Jesus said time and again to the sick, ‘Your Faith has healed you. Your Faith has saved you.’

“He did not say, ‘Wait … let me click my fingers and hey presto you’ll be healed … Because I’m great at miracles!’ ”

The congregation laughed. The priest continued.

“He made a point of saying that the people’s Faith played a great part in their healing and in their salvation.

“The sick did not stay at home and think ‘Oh well … if Jesus wants to heal me, He’ll do so in good time … I don’t need to go and see Him!’

“They went out to seek Him. They believed in this man who was different. A holy man, a teacher, a healer, the Son of God.

“They had heard about Him, and now He’s in their town or village they went out to find Him … in hope, in desperation perhaps, and even in Faith … as small as a mustard seed! But that little Faith, however tiny it was, is what saved and healed them.

“The blind man shouted at the top of his voice to attract Christ’s attention and to be healed.

“The old lady pushed her way through the crowds in order to get close enough to just touch His cloak and be healed.

“The Roman soldier believed in Jesus so much that he thought just one word from Him would bring healing.

“That’s what I mean by true Faith … it plays a great part in the performance of miracles.

“It need not be our Faith that saves us … the Faith of others, on our behalf can and does bring miracles and healing to us.

“The Roman soldier was asking for healing for his servant, not for himself. His Faith helped heal his servant.

“The men who broke the roof off a house and lowered the man in his sick bed down to Jesus showed Faith on behalf of their friend … and their Faith was rewarded.

“All the people who lay in the streets hoping that Peter’s shadow may fall upon them showed great Faith too.

“As indeed do all those who visit Lourdes, Fatima, Knock and all the Holy Shrines.

“Let me conclude by saying that miracles do indeed happen today. Both great and small. They are performed by Saints and those yet to be Saints through the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ

“Faith plays a great part in the performance of miracles.

“And before you ask … we do not have to go to the Holy Shrines for our prayers to be heard, or for our miracles to happen. All we need is to trust in God and be willing to accept His will in His time and in His way.

“We need a little Faith … not much, just a mustard seed’s worth!”

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Three bells to Paradise.

The Parish House is a very large and old building situated right next to St Vincent Church at the top of the hill overlooking the whole town. Upstairs there’s enough living accommodation to house five priests, and downstairs there’s a very large kitchen and dining room as well as other space used for administrative purposes and as meeting rooms.

Of course, now there’s only Father Ignatius and Father Donald living there; and their housekeeper who works there by daytime but lives in her cottage on the church grounds.

Many years ago a pre-school mother and toddlers group used to meet regularly in the large rooms downstairs. It was like a daily school really and at times it had as many as thirty children and enough adults to care for them.

The priest at the time, Father Ferdinand, of French origin, had three electric push-bell buttons installed by the front door, each ringing in a different tone. He labeled each button “Priests”, “School” and “Kitchen” so that he is no longer disturbed having to open the door for someone who really did not want to see him.

Very efficient Father Ferdinand was … albeit somewhat aloof from his parishioners at times. Unlike Father Ignatius of course!

As soon as Father Ignatius took over at St Vincent he removed the three labels but kept the bells which are still in working order.

On Friday, our friendly priest was at the local Catholic school as a visiting speaker at the Catechism class for the 15 year-olds.

After he gave his short talk, Father Ignatius invited questions from his young audience.

One of the pupils asked, “Why have you got three buttons to press the bell on the front door at Parish House?”

The priest was astonished at this somewhat unrelated question. In order to gain more thinking time, he turned the question back onto his audience. “Good question,” he said with a smile, “does anybody know why we have three bell buttons on our door at Parish House?”

“Variety is the spice of life!” said a young boy as the whole class erupted into laughter.

This encouraged another boy to say, “One bell is for tall people, one for normal people, and the other one is for the short ones who can’t reach the other two bells!”

Father Ignatius said nothing as the pupils continued to laugh.

This went on for a few minutes and eventually the children exhausted their reservoir of wit as one said, “It depends how in a hurry the visitor is. One bell is for urgent, another is for normal and the other is for people who can wait a bit!”

Father Ignatius replied, “If only it were so … I find that most people want to see me in a hurry.

“Those three bell buttons were there when I first came to St Vincent. All three still work. I’ve kept them as a reminder of the three bell buttons on the gates of Heaven.

“There are three buttons there just by the Pearly Gates … and depending on which one you press you go to Heaven, hell or Purgatory!”

“Wow …” said a young girl, “does one know which bell sends you to which place?”

“No!” replied Father Ignatius emphatically.

“That’s hardly fair …” cried out a boy, “what if you press the wrong button and go to hell by mistake?”

“No one goes to hell by mistake!” said the priest as he stopped for a few moments. Then he repeated again gently in a softer voice …

“No one goes to hell by mistake!

“The Good Lord knows precisely who believes in Him. Who has loved and obeyed Him in this life, and who has come to Him through His only Son Jesus Christ.

“He also knows too well who has continuously defied Him. Who has continuously snubbed Him, and who has continuously ignored Him in this world. Not through ignorance, carelessness or stupidity even, but through willful insolence and outright unwillingness to believe.

“The choice between Heaven and hell does not depend on which bell button you push. It depends on your state of sinfulness at the time you die.

“That is what really determines your eventual destination.

“And I repeat … no one goes to hell by mistake. People willingly choose to go there.”