Friday, 27 April 2012
It was another one of those “Questions and Answers” sessions which were held at the Parish Hall every now and then. The parishioners would gather of an evening and after enjoying hot drinks and cakes they would ask their priests any questions about the running of St Vincent Church or indeed about the Catholic Faith and the priests would answer as best they can.
“Is it a sin to be superstitious Father?” asked a parishioner sitting at the front.
“Well … I’ve never been known to walk under a black cat!” replied Father Ignatius as everyone laughed.
“You mean walk under a ladder surely?” continued the questioner.
“Yes … of course you’re right. Some people believe you shouldn’t walk under a ladder. Do you know where this belief comes from Harry?” asked the priest of his questioner.
“No Father … there are so many superstitions and I wondered if it is a sin to believe them.”
“It may surprise you to know that a lot of superstitions derive from the Christian Faith, believe it or not,” explained Father Ignatius.
“The Holy Trinity was often symbolized in ancient times by a triangle denoting God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
“A self-standing ladder is shaped like a triangle, and so is a ladder leaning against a wall. So to walk through it, or under it, if it is leaning against the wall, was considered walking through the Trinity; which is wrong. And therefore, bad luck.”
“That’s interesting … I never knew that!” said another young man sitting at the front.
“Personally … I would advise you never to walk under a ladder,” continued the priest, “especially if there’s someone standing on top with a pot of paint in his hand!”
They laughed again.
“You will have noticed that a number of people touch wood, or knock on wood, when they say something,” Father Ignatius went on.
“Yet again, this originates from Christianity when the Crusaders returned from the Holy Lands with wood which they claimed belonged to the Cross Jesus died on …
“Apparently, so much wood was brought back that you could have built your own Cathedral!”
“So is it a sin then …” asked Harry once more, “to believe in these superstitions? Or is it harmless fun?”
“Well … I suppose it could be considered a sin. Although I’ve never had anyone confess it to me,” joked the priest.
“Why Father?” asked someone else, “what’s wrong in saying knock on wood? Or wearing a good luck charm or something like that. God didn’t say it’s a sin did He?”
Father Ignatius paused for a while.
“I’m not so sure about that,” he said, “it says in the Commandments ‘worship no other god but me’ so it could be argued that if we put serious reliance on our superstitious belief then, strictly speaking, we are sinning against God.”
“Wow … so it’s a mortal sin then?” retorted Harry.
“It could be …” said the priest cautiously, “but let’s not run away with ourselves.
“We need to ask how much relevance, and how seriously does a person take these beliefs.
“Personally, I wouldn’t consider anyone saying ‘knock on wood’ as having committed a mortal sin, especially if said in jest. But if the individual honestly believed that by touching a piece of wood he has averted evil from happening, then this does become more serious, and yes … it could be a sin.
“Our Christian Faith teaches us to believe and trust in one living God, who loves us and cares for us.
“God protects us from many evils every day without our knowledge and beyond our imagination.
“So to seriously believe that touching a piece of wood has the same effect is surely an insult to Him!”
“I understand …” replied Harry.
“I would also like to say something about wearing good luck charms, as someone has just mentioned,” continued Father Ignatius gently.
“Many of us wear a Cross on a chain round our neck, or a medallion of Our Lady or St Patrick …
“I would like to ask you to consider why you do this.
“As a reminder of the sacrifice Our Lord did for us … or as a reminder to pray to Our Lady or the Saints …
“There’s nothing wrong with that of course. As there’s nothing wrong in having statues in church or at home and lighting candles to them.
“But there’s certainly a lot wrong if you believe that the medallion or Cross, or the statue has some mystical or magic power.
“Be careful, as this is verging on idolatry.”
The silence that followed underlined the seriousness of what Father Ignatius had just said. He hoped to say something to lighten the mood a little when another questioner asked,
“I suppose taking horoscopes seriously is also wrong Father?”
“You’re so right Debra …” replied Father Ignatius.
“There’s absolutely no relationship between the position of the stars and the planets when we’re born, or at any moment in time, and our character or our future …
“It’s all nonsense …
“Except for one thing …”
He paused for a short while to gain their full attention.
“I knew someone who was born under Taurus the bull … and boy did he smell bad!”
More Father Ignatius stories in my book "Golden Drops". Download yours FREE from the link on the right.
Saturday, 21 April 2012
In Chaos Theory the butterfly effect is an assumption that if a butterfly somewhere far away flutters its wings then the air turbulence it creates, no matter how small, will move a little more air, and that little air will in turn move more air, and more and more that eventually, several weeks later, a hurricane will develop somewhere else far away.
Can you imagine that? A flap of a butterfly’s wings creates a hurricane weeks later?
Actually, I have seen Chaos Theory happen in reality as I’ll explain right now.
This happened several years ago in Scotland one New Year’s Eve. I had been invited by a friend to his large house to celebrate Hogmanay with his family and friends. There we were, about fifty people or so, gathered in his back garden waiting for the midnight hour to start our outdoor celebrations. Most people were in traditional costumes and I, to oblige and be polite, agreed to wear a kilt provided me by my host.
I must admit it felt a bit draughty and awkward, especially since it was a little cold that night in deepest Scotland.
As I was the guest of honour, or so he said, I agreed to give the countdown to midnight so that the celebrations might begin.
There we were chatting politely to each other, and I standing on the makeshift rostrum next to the band consisting of about a dozen pipers and drummers, when a lone moth, or similar such like insect, flew up my kilt. I immediately and as a reflex action started hopping from foot to foot as the confused insect tried to find its way round in total kilt-induced darkness.
The band leader thought I was doing a modern hitherto unknown highland jig and he gave the signal for the band to start playing.
At this, someone else lit the bonfire in the garden which immediately rose to ten feet flames lighting the whole place.
This prompted another person to start the fireworks display which lit the sky in numerous colors and resounding bangs all over the neighborhood.
The guests all held hands and started singing Auld Lang Syne at the top of their voices around the fire.
This brought out the neighbors from next door into their garden.
“What are you playing at Henderson?” shouted MacTavish the neighbour, “It isn’t midnight yet. We’re at least seven minutes away man …”
“Of course we’re not!” Henderson shouted back, “your clocks must be slow!”
“And you’ve no purpose to dress up in our national costume and have bagpipes and drums … you’re not even Scottish!” retorted MacTavish.
“Of course I am … my great great grand mother was from Dundee, I’ll have you know!” said Henderson getting red in the face.
“Yes … and she was exported or deported to Australia for reasons best known to herself. You’re no more a Scot than a kangaroo is. You’re even having a barbecue … now you can’t get more Australian than that. A barbecue on New Year’s Eve!” MacTavish came back with obvious laughter from his friends on his side of the garden fence.
“I’m Scottish enough to give you a Glasgow kiss old man …”
“Leave my husband alone” interrupted Mrs MacTavish, “you’re Australian all right; and like all Australians you want to celebrate the New Year before every one else …”
At this, for some unknown reason, the band-leader decided to get the pipers and drummers to play Waltzing Matilda and all of Henderson’s guests started dancing round the bonfire and singing the Australian National Anthem.
“There you have it …Waltzing Matilda …” shouted MacTavish drowned by his dogs barking at Henderson’s dogs, “you’re Australians … the lot of you …”
“And you’ve made us miss the New Year countdown …” added Mrs MacTavish, “it’s ten minutes past midnight at least … and we haven’t done first-footing.”
At this point, Henderson’s neighbours from the other side came out into their garden and, believe it or not, they were Greeks.
“Happy New Year to you all” shouted Stavros obviously the worst for wear with drink, “does anyone want a cup of Ouzo?”
Some of Henderson’s guests stopped dancing and went towards Stavros.
“We also have stuffed vine leaves plenty … and youvarlakia with avgolemono and baklava too. Plenty … plenty …” continued Stavros as his wife brought out a large dish laden with food.
At this point two police cars arrived, no doubt called by some other neighbours, and four policemen entered Henderson’s back garden.
“We’ve had reports of a disturbance” said one of the cops.
“Of course it’s a disturbance … it’s the New Year. What do you expect? Get a drink down your neck officer …” replied Henderson offering the policeman a bottle of whisky.
“I think you should keep the noise down, Sir!” said the policeman turning down the drink.
“Sarge … you can’t get them to celebrate quietly. Not tonight surely?” asked the second officer.
“Take a baklava with you!” shouted Stavros from his side of the fence as the police left, “or a Greek kalamata olive. It is the best!”
The shouting, singing and music continued through the night as the MacTavish’s and the Stavros’s joined the Henderson’s in their back garden and celebrated the New Year international style.
I never got to find out where that moth ended! Must have flown away by a sudden gust of Southerly wind.
Wednesday, 11 April 2012
Years ago I was a member of a group of entertainers. I presented the variety acts on stage and did a bit of stand-up comedy and chat with the audience. The shows consisted of pop music and songs, a bit of classic music and opera, old tyme “Victorian” songs, a bit of dancing and comedy sketches mainly written by me.
We rehearsed for ages beforehand and did our shows in church halls, old peoples’ homes, Women’s Institute Meetings and so on; to raise money for charity and to entertain the old folks.
A particular sketch came to mind out of the blue the other day.
Imagine if you will, on stage a number of men dressed as nuns, led by a tone-deaf tenor with a strong pronounced accent, singing this beautiful song from the Sound of Music.
Thursday, 5 April 2012
Father Francis Maple
Wednesday, 4 April 2012
This week, many churches re-enact the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet before the Last Supper. The priest washes the feet of 12 people representing the disciples. You can bet that the chosen 12 have ensured that their feet, (or foot, because usually one foot is washed to speed the whole procedure), are/is as clean as could be, to avoid embarrassment during the re-enactment.
At the time of Jesus, however, things were different. Streets were not as modern and clean as they are now in our towns and cities. They were dusty, muddy if it rained, and no doubt full of deposits from horses, camels and cattle. People wore sandals or even walked in bare feet.
So when they entered a house as guests washing their feet must have been an essential task rather than the symbolism it is in today’s churches. A task left to the servants to undertake.
When Jesus offered, insisted even, in washing His disciples’ feet He was teaching them, and us, a very important lesson.
Here is God Himself, born in poverty, raised in poverty, living in poverty, submitting Himself to perform a task reserved for servants.
Perhaps the disciples didn’t understand the significance of what Jesus had just done. Maybe we don’t understand it ourselves right now.
Yet, He was preparing for an even greater submission and humiliation for us.
Dying a most horrible and painful death on the Cross.
Just for us.
Monday, 2 April 2012
Once again Father Ignatius was teaching Catechism to the 5th Form at the local Catholic School. They were discussing the Commandment about respecting one’s parents and as one would expect the youngsters had plenty to say about that.
“It’s alright to have to respect our parents,” said a young girl, “but surely they should respect us too?”
“I suppose I understand,” replied the priest reassuringly, “can you elaborate on this?”
“Well …” she hesitated, “I am fifteen years old and I don’t think I should be told what time I have to be home by …”
“What does anyone else think?” asked Father Ignatius.
“I agree …” replied another young girl, “my parents are just the same. They insist I’m at home by 9.30; can you imagine that? 9.30!!!”
“It’s their way of exerting power” said one of the boys, “my parents always think they know better …”
“That’s right …” added another lad, “my father has banned me from visiting the disco in town. It’s not fair!”
The priest let the youngsters vent their frustrations for a few minutes, and then he got up from his desk and moved towards the blackboard.
This had the desired effect of shutting them up for a while. He then picked up a piece of chalk and wrote on the board in big letters:
“IT’S NOT FAIR”
And proceeded to sit down once again.
After a few seconds silence he said in a soft voice, “I’ve heard many of you say it’s not fair just now … do you agree?”
“Yeah !!!” said one or two of them.
“I can understand that …” continued Father Ignatius, “from your perspective it may seem not fair that your parents impose certain restrictions on you. Perhaps it’s because the reasons for the restrictions have not been explained to you … but no matter for now.
“I would like if I may to explore the statement ‘It’s not fair.’ Can we do that do you think?”
They nodded in agreement. They had a lot of respect for his kind approach and the way he sympathized with their situation.
“No one has ever said that life is fair” continued the priest, “or meant to be fair even.
“What we perceive as fairness in our eyes may not be so to someone else.
“I visited a few of our parishioners in hospital yesterday. There was a young boy of twelve with an incurable illness. That’s not fair … the chances are he will not make it to his next birthday and his parents were totally distraught.
“I also met the family of a man in a coma. He had been injured in a road accident and has been unconscious ever since. No one knows when or if he will recover. The family is now short of cash and they may well lose their home. That’s not fair.
“Every other day or so, I hear of someone in our Parish being made redundant, and losing their job because of the current economic situation. They’ve done nothing wrong and they’re now on the street. That’s not fair.”
He stopped as he noticed one of the girls upfront getting a little tearful.
“What I’m trying to say …” he said gently after a short pause, “is that I sympathize entirely with you. You see your parents actions as unfair, yet perhaps you miss the point that they do what they do out of love for you. It is because they care.
“I had similar problems with my parents when I was young. My father was a farmer and as you’d expect he brought vegetables fresh from the land home for dinner. And like many a young child, I hated vegetables. Especially spinach … it looked like boiled grass!”
They laughed in unison.
“But they made me eat my vegetables … it’s not fair!”
They laughed again.
“And talking of fairness …” went on Father Ignatius, “I read that an innocent man has been falsely arrested, beaten up and tortured, and nailed to a Cross to die.
“Now that’s really not fair.
“You can read all about it in the Bible.”
He paused again to gauge the situation before continuing.
“So whilst I understand how you feel about your parents and the way they restrict you sometimes, I urge you please to accept it in obedience for the sake of Jesus who did so much for you. And still does.
“Is that a deal?” he asked with a smile.
And as always, his gentle loving empathy gained him their respect and sincere appreciation.