Sunday, 2 September 2012
Coffee in Heaven
The French priest was visiting from France to attend a Conference at Bishop’s House, but as there was no accommodation for him there it was decided to house him at St Vincent, where he was Parish priest many years ago before Father Ignatius, and for him to travel daily to the Conference from there.
On the appointed day Father Ferdinand arrived and was greeted by Father Ignatius whom he had never met.
The two men spent some time getting acquainted with each other before settling down to a sumptuous evening meal prepared by Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper.
At the end of the meal the French priest complimented Mrs Davenport on her culinary skills.
“That was marvelous Madame,” he said, “perhaps you should come with me to Tours in France where you can be my chef in our Parish!”
“What is that?” asked Mrs Davenport not understanding the man’s distinct French accent, “you want me to do the Tour de France? You expect me to cycle at my age?”
“Non … non … Madame,” continued the priest, “I said Tours in France. It is a City in Central France where my Parish is situated. I am known jokingly there as Le Curé de Tours … as in the book by Balzac!”
“Balzac?” asked the housekeeper as she left the room with a tray full of empty plates and cutlery, “I’ve never heard of him. But then I don’t know much about French cyclists!”
Father Ignatius smiled and said nothing, knowing full well that to have a conversation with Mrs Davenport is sometimes like speaking to a being from outer space.
“Eh bien …” continued Father Ferdinand, “how is the state of affairs in your little corner of God’s Kingdom on earth?”
“Generally things are getting along fine …” replied Father Ignatius, “most people are struggling in a small northern town where the economic crisis has had most effect. Poverty and desolation are widespread but people are coping as well as they can, with the help of God!”
“At least God is still with you …” said the French visitor, “even in this cold and damp place which I remember all too well from my days here! It has always been poor as I remember. Poor in wealth but rich in Spirit! I really liked my time here Ignatius. I regret having to return to France and handing over this bit of Heaven to you!”
Father Ignatius smiled and said nothing. He’d never heard his town described as a bit of Heaven before.
“You see …” the French priest went on, “there is in France a trend, a modern movement if you like, where it is fashionable to reconsider one’s beliefs in an Almighty Deity.
“It is now trendy, enlightened even, to say that God does not exist. He is either a figment of one’s imagination … or an invention created by man to soothe and protect himself from adversity, or even to control lesser educated fellow humans.
“We often see famous figures writing in the press or speaking on radio and TV about the non-existence of God.
“It is bad enough in itself Ignatius. But these people encourage others to follow in their beliefs. It’s as if the devil himself has visited our affluent towns and cities and he is on a recruitment drive.”
The French priest stopped and sipped a little coffee.
“That is sad …” commented Father Ignatius quietly.
“It is a crisis in every respect …” the French man responded, “the Church, in France and elsewhere in Europe I suspect, seems helpless in this situation …
“Sermons on Sundays and Church teachings have been toned down … mustn’t frighten the horses you see … as you English say!
“Talk of the devil and hell from the pulpit is greeted with ridicule and derision.
“But he exists all right. Ignatius. I’ve seen him often in my town … He is certainly winning over many souls at the moment with his fine convincing arguments on the media and the temptations he puts in our way to lure people to his way of thinking!”
Father Ferdinand stopped again as he put his cup of coffee down.
“I pray daily Ignatius,” he went on, “that this trend does not spread throughout Europe and beyond. But I fear that as wealth increases throughout nations and their populations the devil advances in its wake!”
“In that case the devil may never come here …” joked Father Ignatius, “this town has always been very poor … so much so that even the church mice are on a starvation diet!”
Father Ferdinand smiled as Father Ignatius went on, “In Christ’s death and Resurrection we know that God has conquered evil.
“He knows full well those who believe in Him and love Him. Whether we do this with full intellectual knowledge; or just with humble, simple humility and understanding.
“And the Lord knows full well those who stand against Him in defiance, and worse still, encourage others to do the same!”
The two men were interrupted by Mrs Davenport entering the room with another pot of hot coffee.
Father Ferdinand looked up and said, “Madame … you are one of God’s treasures here on earth. One day the Good Lord will be most pleased to have you serve coffee in Heaven!”
“I don’t know what you mean …” she said as she gathered more empty plates on her tray, “Do they have coffee in Heaven? What do you think Father Ignatius?”