Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy Noo Year


HAPPY HOGMANAY
 Best wishes to you all for
Blessed and Peaceful New Year
 and thanx for your continued prayers.

May God bless you and your families always.



Monday, 30 December 2013

Message from Father Francis Maple

 
FATHER FRANCIS MAPLE
This Christmas we need to focus on the greatest reality there is - that God loves us so much that He gave us His only Son to free us from our sins! We need to be grateful for His love and respond to His love; and the best way to do that is by surrendering our life completely to Him, as He has surrendered Himself completely to us. How do we do this - by putting Him first in our daily lives? This means that we build our day around Him. We need to give Him quality time in our prayer life. As we meditate on His birth and see Mary holding her divine Child in her arms we can think of her saying, "Would you like to hold Him?" Then she hands Jesus to you and you get to hold the God of the universe in your arms. But we do not just stop there – we realise EVERY DAY we can hold Jesus in our arms when we receive Him in the Eucharist! To believe that Jesus, who is God, and who the Universe cannot even begin to contain, became a little baby for us and continues this humility in the Eucharist is amazing - What a gift He has given to us! How very blessed we are!

I also realize and appreciate that there are some who think Christmas is a hard time. You may be experiencing loneliness or illness, or you may be in sorrow because you have lost someone dear. You need to know that you are never alone! Jesus became one of us so that He could be near us! There is never a time when you need to feel that no one cares or that you have to go through your struggles alone - YOU ARE LOVED! This is what Christmas is about, and this needs to be our hope that brings us through the darkness.

Remember that no matter how dark the darkness is - it can never conquer the Light! Try this - go into a dark room and light a match or candle and watch just how the darkness flees from the power of the light. Jesus is that Light and He is inside of YOU! That is so true. Cling to this Truth, and know His power!

This Christmas let us pray for each other and accept the love of the Christ Child, and of Our Father who gave Him to us, our best Christmas present. Mary and Joseph, we thank you for the part you played in bringing Jesus to our world.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Gertrude’s Christmas


 I may have mentioned previously that Aunt Gertrude, eccentric as she is, is not really as tight-fisted and mean as she leads one to believe.

Before she came to visit us in the UK and stay for a (long) time, she lived in Australia where she moved many years ago, and we had not seen her since. Our only communications with this distant aunt was by yearly Christmas cards. And that’s how she gained the reputation, in our minds at least, of being rather mean.

She used to re-cycle old Christmas cards, and not for any environmental reasons or to save the planet … no, she re-cycled them because it was cheaper than buying new ones every year. She used to save old cards sent to her by relatives and friends and then glue a piece of paper over their best wishes, and write her own seasonal message instead.

The first time we received such a card we were astounded and amused, but yearly, we learned to peel off the paper she glued on the card to discover the original sender. We played a guessing game of “friend or relative” before peeling off Auntie’s message to discover whether we’d guessed the originator of the card correctly. One year she had re-cycled one of our own old cards we had sent her!

Anyway, once she arrived at our home any suspicions of an avaricious old lady quickly faded away. She is a kindly person, most generous, almost to a fault, albeit with quite a few eccentricities which make her somewhat tolerable despite her grating pronounced Australian accent.

It’s traditional in our family to open the Christmas presents, which Santa left under the tree, when we return from midnight Mass. This year was no different.

As we sipped our cups of hot chocolate and enjoyed the mince pies we eagerly opened our presents and thanked each other with hugs and kisses.

To everyone’s surprise, and initial confusion, we discovered that Aunt Gertrude had bought each of us a very large chocolate egg.

Chocolate eggs for Christmas? Surely not.

As we jokingly enjoyed the surprise she explained that she had bought them a few days after Easter because the shops had reduced the price. And, reasoned Aunt Gertrude, “chocolate is chocolate cobber, no matter what shape it is.”

To be fair, this was not an act of meanness per se, because the eggs looked expensive, albeit the shop may have reduced them a little. But her logic was that “you never pay the shopkeeper what they ask for, but what you’re willing to pay!

“If the price is not right cobber, you just don’t buy it. You can always go without!”

Impeccable logic one might say. And perhaps a sign of her careful management of money. Something which today’s younger generation may have forgotten.

But then she spoilt it all when we came to open her second presents left under the tree. Each one of us received a very expensive sweater. And I mean very expensive. The kind of jersey you see advertised on TV in very up-market shops.

“What is the point” I wondered “of saving e few pennies by buying Easter eggs cheaply after Easter, and then spend a fortune on these magnificent jumpers?”  

But then, that’s our Aunt Gertrude.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Gaudete Rejoice. A Blessed Christmas to you all.

MAY YOU HAVE
 A VERY BLESSED CHRISTMAS
 AND A 
PEACEFUL AND JOYFUL 
NEW YEAR

Sunday, 22 December 2013

A Blessed Christmas to you all

Vic Moubarak
 wishes a Blessed Christmas
 to you and your families 
and thanks you for all your prayers. 
God bless.

Father Francis Maple

Father Francis Maple

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

SANTA - As you've never seen him before!


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Something for me to eat



It was five days before Christmas, Father Ignatius drove into the car park and was about to enter the Parish house when he noticed a man standing by the Church door. He walked up to him and the man asked: “Have you got something for me to eat?”

He was in his fifties perhaps, although he looked much older. Unshaven, wearing dirty clothes with tears down the pockets, an open shirt revealing skin that had not been washed since who knows when, and shoes with no socks.

“I’m not from around here …” said the man, “just got off the train … I hid amongst the cattle and no one saw me …” he continued with a grin revealing missing teeth.

The smell of his clothes certainly testified to the fact that he slept amongst cattle, thought the priest.

“I think you’re in need of a good warm bath …” he said without thinking, “follow me …”

He took the man into the Parish house, led him to the bathroom and filled the bath with hot water. He then brought a large plastic bag and asked him to put all his clothes inside it. “I’ll try and find you something new to wear. We’ll have to throw your old clothes away …” said the priest as he left him to it.

He then looked through his own wardrobe and found a few bits and pieces which he no longer needed; and complemented these with other items of clothing donated by parishioners for the monthly jumble/rummage sale.

Half an hour later the man was clean and dressed, minus his shoes. The priest noticed that his toe-nails had not been cut for ages. So he sat him down, went down on his hands and knees and cut his nails for him; for it was obvious the man could not even bend down and do this for himself.

He then took him to the kitchen and prepared a lovely meal of fried eggs, bacon, sausages, black pudding and fried bread. Followed with coffee and toast and marmalade.

It was getting rather dark by mid-afternoon when the man finished eating; so Father Ignatius got him in his car and drove him to the St Bernard Shelter for the Homeless at the other side of town.

On his way back Father Ignatius could not get the man out of his mind. “What a miserable place this town is …” he thought to himself, “high levels of unemployment … businesses shutting down … people losing their jobs and their homes even … I wonder how many are sleeping rough this Christmas …”

His thoughts then turned to his parishioners. “This is definitely the poorest Parish I’ve been assigned to,” he thought as he drove home, “I wonder how many of our old folk will have a miserable Christmas … sitting at home with little if anything to eat … Miss Fletcher for instance … seventy years old and all alone … and the Palmers … both in their eighties … and Mr Sanders …” and the names kept coming to mind as he drove mile after mile.

When he reached the Parish house he was determined to do something about the old folk in his congregation. He decided to invite those whom he knew to be alone and with little money to a Christmas dinner at the Church hall.

He rushed to his office and started by writing a list of people he’d invite. A few minutes later and the list ran to twenty-seven people, all elderly, all poor, all of them he knew very well would spend Christmas day alone in their homes with little to celebrate.

He then started another list of what would be needed to prepare a lovely Christmas meal and to his dismay it totaled over £100.

And his dream was shattered in an instant. Where was he to find such a large sum of money? The Sunday collections hardly amounted to twenty pounds or so a week and every penny was needed for the up-keep of the church, the Parish house, the car and sundry other expenses.

He decided to stop thinking about this project. Doomed before it even started. Thankfully he had not shared his thoughts with anybody. Not his fellow priest, nor the housekeeper.

He looked at the clock and went to church to celebrate evening Mass.

The next morning there was a large brown envelope in the letter box with Father Ignatius’ name written on it in large letters. It had been hand-delivered as it did not have a stamp or postmark. Just his name in bold capitals.

He took it to his office and on opening it he found it contained £150 in bank notes.

There was nothing to signify who had sent it; but it was obviously for him as the envelope had his name clearly written on it.



He did hold his Christmas party for the old folk that year; but he never found out who sent him the money.



This happened many years ago when Father Ignatius first arrived at St Vincent Church. Since then he has held a Christmas party for the old people every year; with money donated by various rich and not so rich parishioners.


More Fr Ignatius stories in my books - Click on top left button.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Divine Detour



It was Christmas Eve, early evening, and it was already dark. It was freezing cold with blinding snow still falling and winds making driving conditions perilous to say the least. Weather warnings on the radio advised people to stay at home.

Yet Father Ignatius was on the road. Driving back slowly towards St Vincent Church determined to be there to celebrate Midnight Mass.



He had been away the previous few days and had planned to return home early on Christmas Eve; but the bad weather held him back. Missing Midnight Mass was out of the question for the determined priest, and as he set off on his journey home the skies were dark and the roads were clear; until suddenly he was caught in a snow storm and had no alternative but to proceed onwards towards his Parish church.



The shortest way home was through treacherous country roads, which he knew well, yet never drove on in such conditions. As he turned a sharp bend on the road he noticed just in time a fallen tree blocking his way. He managed to brake in time and avoided hitting it or sliding out of control into a ditch.



He had no option but to reverse carefully and take another way home.

A few miles further on, just before entering a village he saw a car crashed against a tree. He stopped to help.

He’ll never forget the sight that greeted him.

There in the driving seat was a man covered in blood. He was breathing heavily and still conscious.

“Can you move?” asked the priest, fumbling for something to say.

The man shook his head, then slowly mumbled “my leg … trapped …”

“I’ll go for help …” said Father Ignatius.

“No … my wife … she’s gone to the village …”

The priest decided to wait with the injured man until help arrived. He got a blanket from his car and covered him to keep him warm. He tried as best he could to place another blanket on the man’s chest to stop any bleeding from a wound which, although not clearly visible in the dark, was obvious by the bleeding.



It was still snowing and Father Ignatius was freezing. Yet he stood outside the crashed car leaning through the broken driver’s window, trying his best to comfort the driver.

In between heavy sometimes gasping breaths, the man noticed Father Ignatius white collar and asked, “Are you a church minister?”

“I’m a priest,” said Father Ignatius.

“I’ve never had time for people like you …” said the man, “I suppose I’ve never been able to believe … I tried mind you … but just couldn’t believe in God … Jesus …”

Father Ignatius said nothing but prayed silently.

“Do you think it’s too late … you know … can I believe now … or at least try …”

“It is never too late to put your trust in God. Just accept Him in your heart, right now, as best you can. Tell Him you believe in Him.”

The man breathed deeply once or twice. “Yes … I do want to believe, if He’ll help me do it …”

“Can I baptize you?” asked the priest daringly.

“Ah … it hurts more now … yes  … do as you say … tell your God I’m sorry … tell Him to forgive me for any wrong I've done Him by not believing ...”

Father Ignatius quickly prayed with the man consciously sitting there and baptized him.

As he made the sign of the Cross on the man’s forehead he heard him say “Is that it? … that was painless …” as he forced a smile.

Father Ignatius held his hand and waited for a further twenty minutes or so, praying all the time, and speaking with him until an ambulance and a police car arrived almost simultaneously. He remained conscious throughout, breathing ever so heavily and obviously in great pain.

Father Ignatius eventually drove to the village and phoned a worried Father Donald from a small shop which was still open. He stayed there for an hour or so by the fire to warm up a little and, determined as ever, decided to continue on his way home.

He made it for Midnight Mass all right, but he was too tired and almost frost bitten to celebrate Mass. He sat at the front pew, by Our Lady’s statue, praying for the crash victim.

He learnt a few days later, from the man’s wife, that he never made it to the hospital. He died in the ambulance on the way there. It was then that Father Ignatius remembered that had it not been for the fallen tree blocking his way, he would have got home much earlier and avoided the accident altogether. Obviously, God wanted him to go to the man’s aid.

A tragic Christmas in human terms, perhaps. But a joyous one in Heaven, welcoming a new soul.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

A Christmas Tale



It was a very cold week in early December. Some parishioners asked Father Ignatius if it was all right to build a Christmas crib in the car park as well as the one usually set up in church by the Altar.

The intention was to build a small wooden hut made of old wood they could pick up cheaply from the local saw mill; and then decorate it, and use the Nativity scene statues which they discovered in the store room deep in the basement under the church whilst they were cleaning it in summer.

Father Ignatius agreed, “as long as you don’t ask me to lift those heavy statues from the basement … they’re quite heavy you know. So be careful!” he said.

A few youngsters helped by the leaders of the Youth Club got together and built the wooden hut. At first it looked quite bare and unwelcoming, a little like the original manger in Bethlehem I suppose. But eventually, with loving tender care, mostly by the women involved whilst the men gave instructions or went to the pub for a drink, it looked really magnificent.

The statues were then brought up, with great difficulty, from the basement and placed in position. A local electrician volunteered his services and placed hidden lights at strategic places to make the crib glow warmly at night.

As it snowed and got bitterly cold, even for Northern England, the little wooden hut glowing in the church’s car park made a beautiful heart-warming sight for all passers-by and gave them a little hope for the New Year ahead.

Just beside St Vincent church, by the car park gate, there’s a little narrow lane leading deep into fields at the back of the church. From the street you cannot see the fields. There’s the church’s car park entrance, then the narrow lane entrance, then the entrance to the Convent nearby.

This long lane leads to a small field used by a local farmer to store his farm machinery. He leaves his tractors there, as well as several harvesting equipment and ploughs in a large shed. The field is well enclosed by a high fence and, for extra security; the farmer keeps a dog loose in the field with a small opening in the shed for it to shelter in his doghouse when it is cold and raining.

The dog is not always there; only on rare occasions when the farmer needs additional security on the site.

One morning, a few days before Christmas, the farmer called on Father Ignatius.

“You haven’t seen my dog by any chance Father?” he asked, “it’s a large shepherd dog. I keep him in the yard behind you every now and then, in his dog house in the shed.

“The area is well fenced-off so he shouldn’t have got away. But maybe he found a hole in the fence somewhere and ran off!”

The priest hadn’t seen the dog, but it could be possible that he found a way through the fence and got into the church’s gardens and car park. So he put on his coat and went out with the farmer to search the church’s back gardens first.

It had snowed all night and the snow was very thick and even everywhere since no one had been out to walk on it.

“I hope he’s OK …” said the farmer despondently, “it was very cold last night … well below zero Father. He should have stayed in his dog-house for any chance of warmth. I keep an electric fire on the wall nearby to heat the place … he would have been as warm as toast in the shed. It’s like a sauna in there even in winter!”

“Well … he’s not in the back gardens,” said the priest, “we’d better look in the church car park. Although if he went there he would have escaped in the street by now …”

The two men searched the car park and, eventually, there in the crib, sleeping in the manger just beside the statue of baby Jesus was the large shepherd dog.

As soon as he heard the men approaching he jumped in delight welcoming his master.

“At least he had the sense to find some warmth in the lap of Jesus,” said Father Ignatius, “pity some people do not have as much sense!”

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Joseph's Legacy


Joseph is not mentioned often in the Bible. We read about him before the birth of Jesus when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and asked him to take Mary as his wife. (Matthew 1:18).

Imagine his dilemma. He was engaged to Mary when she found out she was due to have a baby by the Holy Spirit. At first he considered doing what many men with a pregnant girl friend whose baby is not theirs would have done - run a mile in the opposite direction.

Being an honourable man he decided to break the engagement privately so as not to disgrace her.

Then the angel appeared to him in a dream; and based on that dream alone he decided to marry Mary and raise her son as if He were his own.

He was there when Jesus was born in Bethlehem and we read about him when he took Jesus and Mary to Egypt to escape from Herod (Matthew 2:13) and then when they returned to Nazareth (Matthew 2:19).

He is also mentioned when the boy Jesus was twelve years old and found in the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41).

So as Jesus' foster father he was there during His early years protecting Him from Herod and providing a loving family for the Son of God.

What a wonderful man he must have been. Working quietly in the background, without much recognition, doing God's will in raising His Son on earth.

So, what is his legacy to us?

Obedience and trust.

Despite what his common sense told him to do, he did not walk away from Mary. He trusted God and decided to stay with Mary. He decided to provide for her and a child who was not his. He taught the child carpentry and raised Him up as his own.

May his obedience and trust be an example to us all.

This prayer to St Joseph is said to be over 1900 years old. It was found in the fiftieth year of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the 1500's it was sent by the Pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle. It is a novena to be prayed for nine consecutive mornings for anything you may desire. It has seldom been known to fail.

“O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power I may offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen.”

Sunday, 8 December 2013

John's Legacy


A man wandering in the desert, dressed in clothes made of camel hair, and eating locusts and wild honey. (Mark 1:4-8).

Not exactly sartorial elegance. More of an eccentric if you ask me.

Yet this was a man with a mission.

His mission – to tell everyone about Jesus. To prepare them for His arrival.

His name – John, the Baptist. In case you confuse him with another John.

An outspoken man who feared no one in his quest to do what God had asked him. He even dared to criticize the king, and paid dearly with his life for doing so. (Mark 6:14-29).

His legacy to us?

Courage and Obedience.

Despite living in dangerous times, this man had courage to speak out and tell the world about Jesus; and dared tell the King that he was wrong.

How often are we presented with the opportunity to speak about God, about our religion and our Christianity. Do we shy away and miss a good opportunity to witness for our Lord? Or have we got a tiny fraction of John’s courage? And obedience?

Thursday, 5 December 2013

What did she know?



It’s amazing how sometimes a chance remark or a word spoken in jest can lead one to think something anew or with a fresh point of view.

Father Ignatius was helping with the dismantling of the Nativity scene in church and putting away the various statues safely for use the following Christmas. One of the helpers lifted the statue of the Virgin Mary and remarked: “Look at her face. She looks sad. It’s as if she knew what was to happen to Jesus when He grew up.”

“She’s probably tired after giving birth,” replied another helper.

“No … she looks sad, not tired. Do you think she knew that Jesus would be crucified Father?”

Father Ignatius sat down on a nearby chair.

“I think we need a rest, at least I know I do …” he said.

The other helpers stopped for a while.

“It’s a good question you ask …” continued the priest, “many people have argued about the Virgin Mary over the years, and no doubt will continue to do so. Not everyone holds her in such high regards as we do. Some see her as a woman who gave birth to the Son of God, and just that.

“Many doubt her various Apparitions throughout the world.

“As for how much she knew … well that’s another matter.”

“What do you mean Father?”

The priest finished cleaning his glasses and put them on again. It was a trick he had perfected when he wanted some thinking time.

“Let’s consider Mary when the Angel Gabriel announced what is to happen. Did the Angel just tell her about the Birth of Jesus, or did he, or the Holy Spirit perhaps, also tell her of what is to happen after that?

“Was she told that Jesus would grow up to perform many miracles? That His Mission on earth was to redeem us from our sins? That He would be arrested, beaten, tortured, have a crown of thorns put on His head, made to carry His own Cross and then nailed cruelly to it until He died in agony?”

“I’m not sure … the Bible doesn’t say much about this,” said one of his listeners.

“No, the Bible doesn’t …” continued the priest, “it does not record everything. For example, we have a gap in Christ’s life from the age of twelve when He was found in the temple by His parents to the age of thirty or so when He started His Mission on earth.

“The Gospels in particular focus mainly on Christ, as they should, and don’t mention Mary or Joseph very much.”

“Well what do you think Father?” he was asked again.

“What I think is only a personal point of view.

“I doubt that God would have asked her to become the Mother of Jesus without telling her what this entailed.

“I believe the Holy Spirit would have told her what is to happen. We don’t know in how much details … we can only guess at that. And throughout her life, from the moment the Angel Gabriel visited her, she had snippets of confirmation of what is to happen.

“When she visited Elizabeth … we learn that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and confirmed ‘you are the most blessed amongst women, and blessed is the child you will bear!’

“When she presented the baby Jesus in the temple, Simeon warned her ‘and sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your own heart.’

“And when at the age of twelve His parents found Jesus in the temple He said ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ And Mary treasured all these things in her heart.

“Yes … I believe she knew quite a lot what was to happen to Jesus.”

“Wow … no wonder she looks so sad …” exclaimed one of the helpers.

“This leads us to consider something else,” added the priest.

“Imagine you knew every detail that is to happen in your life. Every illness, sad moment and unhappiness that is to happen. And you could not change it. You had to go through it. How would you feel? Would you be able to cope with the fear and agony of knowing what is to happen to you?

“We don’t know how much Mary knew of her future and that of Jesus.

“But Jesus certainly knew what would happen to Him. Every detail from the moment of His arrest to His death. Peter’s denial, Judas’ betrayal, His disciples fleeing in fear. The agony of His torture and Crucifixion.

“Can you imagine how He must have felt as He grew up, as a teenager and young man, knowing that this day was still to come? The horror of it must have been unbearable.

“Yet He went through with it … just for us!”

They were all silent for a few moments as they considered the seriousness of what they’d just heard.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

CHRISTMAS AT THEODORE’S

It had been a busy year for Theodore Luxton-Joyce, the lovable eccentric millionaire businessman, and he hadn’t been in touch with Father Ignatius for some time. So it was a surprise for  the priest when the phone rang early on Boxing Day, the day just after Christmas, and he heard the familiar voice.

“Is that yourself Padre?” asked Theodore in his well pronounced posh English accent.

“Yes … it is. Merry Christmas Theodore to you and your lovely wife Rose …”

“Yes quite … jolly good … what?” interrupted Theodore, “I was somewhat concerned at getting that other French priest on the phone. You know the one … you’ve had him visiting lately …”
 
“Yes … Father Gaston. He has gone back to Paris”.

"Jolly good I say … what? Never liked the French … Father Gaston being an exception of course … he was rather quiet and said very little … just as I like the French to be … what?”

Father Ignatius smiled and said nothing whilst Theodore continued totally unaware of what he was saying.

“Right … now that I’ve got you on the phone rather than that French fellow, I need you urgently to help me out! Terrible spot of bother … old boy … terrible I say!”
 
The priest frowned fearing the worst. “What’s happened?” he asked.

“Well … Rose and I had arranged a quiet after Christmas get-together for this evening and we’d invited the Mortimers … you know them? He’s a businessman working in the US most of the time. Very nice fellow and his wife too. Jolly pleasant both! But of course you don’t know the Mortimers. I've never introduced you to them.

"Have you ever been to America Padre? I’m sure the Vatican has opened a few Branches over there. Nice place America; I've visited often. America that is. Not the Catholic outlets over there.
 
“Anyway … as I was saying ... back to the Mortimers. They’re over here right now for a few days … visiting family … that sort of thing. Rose and I thought we’d invite them for a spot of dinner this evening. Disaster old boy! Disaster I tell you!”
 
Father Ignatius smiled again.
 
“Well, as it happens …” continued Theodore never stopping to pause for breath, “the Mortimers can’t make it tonight. Jolly bad show don’t you think? We’ve got most of the food prepared and all … well, Mrs Frosdick, the cook, and her staff have everything prepared anyway. And the Mortimers can’t make it for dinner. They’re stuck up North because of the terrible snow storms we’ve been having over Christmas. Totally snowed in and cut off from civilization and a decent drop of whisky I shouldn’t wonder! Terrible being without whisky at Christmas; or at any other time, I'd say!
 
“So I thought of inviting the Hendersons … now I’m sure you know them Padre. They live about a mile or so from us, just up the hill. I thought I’d introduced them to you some time ago. Not Catholics you know … but decent people all the same. Better than many Catholics I know, I should say! Anyway … dash it all … they’ve decided to spend Boxing Day with the in-laws. Now what kind of nonsense is that? I tell you. Who’d wish to spend Boxing Day with the in-laws? It’s just like being in Purgatory I imagine … what?”
 
Father Ignatius smiled once more at Theodore’s continuous rant and wondered what all this was leading to … and then it came.

 “Well Padre … as neither of them can make it tonight, I thought of you. Would you care to join us for a quiet spot of dinner this evening? We’re having a goose and Brussels sprouts you know … traditional fare for this time of year sprouts … and I’ll be playing the latest musical instrument I’ve mastered … the harmonica … much less stressful than the bagpipes. I can now play Chopin’s piano concerto on the harmonica as well as the pipes!”
 
The priest was amused at being the third choice as guest at the millionaire’s luxurious mansion in the country, but he knew that Theodore meant no malice by it.

“It’s so nice of you to think of me …” he said quietly, “but I’m afraid I’ll have to decline too. The problem is that this evening St Vincent’s Church hosts the annual Christmas Dinner and get-together for the old folks of the Parish. We bring them to the Church Center and Father Donald and I and a few of the nuns from the Convent prepare a Christmas meal …”

“Bring them along too …” interrupted Theodore with no hesitation, “we’ll make a party of it … we’ve plenty of room over here …”
 
Father Ignatius knew that there was little point resisting Theodore’s generosity and enthusiasm; so plans were hurriedly changed to reschedule the venue of the Parish Christmas Dinner to the mansion on the hill.
 
And so it was that about fifty people including the nuns from the Convent went to the millionaire’s house to enjoy Theodore’s and his wife’s genuine kindness. They all gathered in the grand dining room, which had been festively decorated at short notice, where they enjoyed the best food and drinks sumptuously prepared by the catering staff.

Theodore dressed up like Father Christmas to give each guest a gift and then he entertained them with a sing-along which featured him playing his repertoire of the classics re-arranged for the harmonica!

 
The following morning, Theodore Luxton-Joyce as eccentric as ever jumped into his car, despite the heavy Christmas snow making most roads impassable, and sped towards St Vincent Church.

Half an hour later he was in Father Ignatius’ office, having barged through Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper who opened the front door, mumbling about some emergency or other.
 
“Padre … we have a problem …” he exclaimed to the astounded priest sitting behind the desk, “I tried to phone you this morning but you were permanently engaged … I thought you were probably hearing some late Confessions from sinners who couldn’t make it to church because of the snow! Anyway … here I am. Got in the car and came over as quick as I could!”

“Sit down … take a deep breath. What is the problem?” asked Father Ignatius fearing the worst.

“I was in the library this morning … You know, the room annexed to the dining room where we had the old folk’s Christmas Dinner last night?”
 
The priest nodded.

“Well … just by the section where we have the books of Sir Walter Scott. You must have read him Padre! Scottish novelist, playwright and poet … you know … Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, The Heart of Midlothian and so on …

“Anyway … just by those books I found this beautiful gold necklace on the floor … what? Looks pretty expensive to me … must belong to one of the old ladies you invited to our Christmas party! Must have dropped it when they all went to the library for a spot of Darjeeling. The poor lady, whoever she is, must be beside herself having lost such a valuable piece … I’d say!”
 
Father Ignatius took the necklace from Theodore and said, “I’ll keep it in case someone phones and asks for it!”

“I’ll hear none of it …” interrupted Theodore, “the poor lady who lost it must be looking everywhere for it … under her bed … or behind the piano … or wherever old ladies hide their jewellery! We must get in touch with them all and ask them if they’ve lost this necklace!”

Father Ignatius looked up in disbelief. “There were about fifty old people there … most of them women … you’re not suggesting …”

Theodore was suggesting just that! And for the next hour or so they phoned most of the old ladies to find the owner of the necklace; with no success.

“Well that’s all of them … except these six who are not on the phone,” remarked the priest, “I’ll ask them when I next see them at Mass on Sunday!”

But Theodore’s concern would have none of it.

"I have the car out there …” he said, “why don’t we visit them right now? I also have a bottle of brandy in the car to keep us warm … always prepared what?”
 
Father Ignatius said a silent prayer in his mind seeking forgiveness for what he thought about Theodore right now. Then as a self-imposed penance he decided to accompany the eccentric millionaire on what would no doubt turn out to be a wild goose chase.

And a waste of time it certainly was. At every house Theodore insisted on accepting the invitation for tea and biscuits, or mince pies, or home made cake or whatever other delicacy the old ladies had prepared for Christmas. And at every house he regaled them all with stories about Sir Walter Scott and other Scottish writers and famous people, not forgetting to mention time and again his Highlands lineage and the fact that he could play Chopin’s piano concerto on the bagpipes!

“Where does he put all this tea?” thought the weary priest to himself, “and he hasn’t been to the toilet once!”

Eventually they returned to Father Ignatius’ office at the Parish House both very cold, dejected and exhausted.

“You don’t think we can have a drop of tea to keep us warm?” asked Theodore to Mrs Davenport as she came in to collect the empty cups from this morning.

Father Ignatius held the gold necklace in his hand and admired it pensively.

“You don’t think it belongs to one of the nuns who came to the party?” asked Theodore rather stupidly, “do nuns wear necklaces under their habits Padre?”

The priest smiled and shook his head. “It’s a beautiful necklace with a lovely little rose here in the middle …” he said, “You don’t suppose it belongs to your wife … Rose?”
 
“Dash it all …” cried out Theodore standing up from his seat, “I forgot all about Rose! That little flower on the necklace should have reminded me …
 
“I bought that necklace six months ago for Rose’s birthday in January. I hid it in Sir Walter Scott’s book Rob Roy, which I was reading at the time. I thought no one would find it there … no one ever reads the books in that library … what? The necklace must have fallen out yesterday when someone picked up the books.
 
“I’d forgotten all about it … and for the past three weeks I’ve been wondering what to buy Rose for her birthday next month. I got her a bracelet … I know that for sure … the thing is I don’t know where I’ve hidden it …old boy!”

Father Ignatius sought forgiveness from the Lord once again for what was going through his mind.

He gave the necklace back to Theodore and followed his enthusiastic rush to the car and waived him goodbye as he sped back to his mansion on the hill.
More stories about Theodore in the FREE downloadable E Book HERE

Friday, 29 November 2013

Stars and Celery

It was a beautiful warm summer evening. The youngsters from the Youth Club had gathered in the gardens behind St Vincent Church and enjoyed a lovely prayer service led by Father Ignatius and Father Donald, followed by a barbecue and singing by the fire.

As night drew in they had left one by one as their parents came to collect them and take them home. Even the Youth Club Leaders had gone. Only the two priests and Mrs Davenport, their housekeeper, remained in the gardens. She got up from her chair and started collecting the plates and cutlery to take them in the house.

“Oh … do sit down Theresa …” said Father Ignatius, “you’ve been working all evening. Just sit down and relax.”

“But there’s all this washing up to do Father …” she replied, “it won’t get done by itself …”

“Don’t worry about the washing up …” said Father Donald picking up his guitar and playing a tune, “Ignatius and I will do all the washing up later … I promise. Now sit down and let’s enjoy a few moments by the fire as it dies down …”

After a few moments of silence, listening to Father Donald playing his guitar, she could keep quiet no longer.

“What are you looking at up in the sky?” she asked Father Ignatius.

“All those stars … shining brightly in a clear dark sky. There must be hundreds and thousands of them. And they’re so far away …” said Father Ignatius pensively.

She looked up and said nothing for a moment or two.

“How are they held up there in the sky?” she asked.

Father Donald stopped playing the guitar.

“They are not held … they are just there …” he mumbled in his broad Glaswegian accent.

“But why don’t they fall?” she continued, “something must be holding them in the sky …”

“There’s no thing as a sky as such …” Father Donald began to explain, “there are stars, and planets and solar systems which make up the universe and …”

“Of course there’s a sky,” she interrupted, “it’s up there and I can see it. It is black at night and it changes color in the morning to blue and sometimes it is red in the evenings …”

“Dear Lord …” mumbled the priest as he picked up his guitar once again.

“What do you think Father Ignatius?” she asked, “isn’t God wonderful to have made all these stars … and in seven days too! He must have been working real fast.”

“I suppose so …” replied Father Ignatius gently.

“And then He made us humans and He put us on this earth …” she interrupted yet again.

“That’s right … He created the universe and all that is in it … including us,” continued Father Ignatius.

She gazed at the stars silently for a few moments. You could almost see the cogs turning in her head as she thought her next question.

“Do you think He created other living beings on those stars Father?” she asked.

Father Donald stopped playing the guitar and waited in anticipation for his fellow priest to reply.

“That’s a difficult question to answer …” said Father Ignatius eventually.

“Why should we be His only creations?” she enquired again.

“We really don’t know if this is the case,” said Father Donald, “there’s nothing in Scripture to suggest that God created other beings apart from us …”

“What do they look like? I wonder …” she interrupted again, “do they look like us? Or are they green with antennas on their heads like you see in the films …

“It says in the Bible that God made us in His image … so He must look human. Or does He look green with antennas so the people up there can recognize Him?

“And did He send them Jesus like He did to us … only He looked green too?”

“I think you’re running ahead of yourself Theresa …” said Father Ignatius gently, “we really have no way of knowing whether God created other living beings on other planets or other solar systems. Nor indeed what they look like.

“But in reality … that is not important.

“What is important is to focus on Him here and now. To accept Him as our God and Creator; and to love Him just as He loves us.

“There are enough mysteries in our Faith which we are asked to believe without us inventing new ones such as green creatures living in outer space …”

“One day as I was in the kitchen,” she said, “Father Donald waved a few sticks of celery through the open window and shouted the ‘Triffids have landed … the Triffids have landed …’ he has a wicked sense of humor, Father, don’t you think?”

“Sometimes humor helps to lighten the mood …” replied Father Ignatius defending his fellow priest.

“He also told me that there are no animals or pets in Heaven … what do you think Father Ignatius? Are there animals in Heaven?”

“I hope not …” replied Father Ignatius, “I would hate to come face to face with the Sunday roast reprimanding me for what I had done to it!”

“Aye indeed …” said Father Donald, “humor does help to lighten the mood … I hope it helps lighten the washing up which we’ve promised to do. Let’s get started!”

Monday, 25 November 2013

Aunts Gertrude and Philomena


If there’s anything more testing than having Australian Aunt Gertrude staying with us for a (long) time it is having Aunt Philomena join us as well.
 
Let me explain.
 
Aunt Gertrude is from Australia and has not met her cousin Aunt Philomena, who lives somewhere in Wales with a long and unpronounceable name, for a long time. (That’s the place which has a long unpronounceable name, not Aunt Philomena – her surname is rather short: Tet).
 
Anyway, as I was saying before interrupting myself; the two Aunts have not met for many years. Gertrude went to Australia in her early twenties and Philomena married a Welshman and lived in Wales since she was a similar age. If I remember well, the two ladies are six months older than each other, but don’t ask me who is older than the other since ladies never reveal their age.
 
Have you noticed, by the way, that old people, men and women, never reveal their age directly. They say: I’ll be 79 next September, rather than I’m 78.
 
Anyway, I seem to have interrupted myself once again. Must stop doing that. It confuses my train of thought.
 
Have you also noticed how trains seem to run less frequently than in the past? They announced at the railway station over the loudspeakers that trains were cancelled due to shortage of staff. Why can’t they employ taller people?
 
As I was saying, or meant to say, the two Aunts are in their mid to late sixties and haven’t met for many years.
 
As soon as Aunt Philomena arrived Aunt Gertrude greeted her and then in her pronounced Australian accent declared “You don’t half speak funny cobber! Do you all speak like that in wheels?”
 
Yes, she pronounced Wales as wheels.
 
After a short period of greetings and reminiscing about the past, which lasted about half a day, the two ladies started to exert their authority like two animals marking their territory. Never mind my family and I living here in the first place. We became unwilling bystanders whilst the two Aunties sorted out who was boss.
 
Aunt Gertrude made the first move by declaring that she was the appointed nurse to look after the household’s “invalid”. That’s exactly what she called me. It was her way of saying to Aunt Philomena, “Keep out. He is in my care!”
 
Aunt Philomena hissed sotto voce in a broad Welsh dialect “No wonder he’s not getting any better!”
 
The rest of the family exchanged knowing glances and smiles and said nothing. Better not to interfere when two giants take centre stage on life’s comedic drama.
 
I must say though, the two Aunts, working independently, proved a great help to our family as they took on various household tasks. It allowed life to go on as normal even though I was often left at home alone with the two of them. I dreaded what they would say to each other, or do, to try to help me get better!
 
“You’re not giving him soup again?” said Philomena on one occasion, “you’ll have him run to the toilet every few minutes!”
 
“Better than the stew you prepared yesterday, cobber!” went the quick Australian response, “it looked like road-kill!”
 
“It was not road kill. It was the best cut of lamb!” was Philomena’s hurt response.
 
“I bet the lamb was quite happy to have it cut!” retorted Gertrude resulting in a game, set and match win to her.
 
On another occasion, a light bulb in our lounge reached its end of life. I suggested we leave it until the younger members of the family arrived and then it would be changed. The two Aunts would not hear any of it. They had to prove they were perfectly capable of changing a light bulb.
 
They fetched the step ladder – well, Gertrude went for the ladder first followed by Philomena with a replacement bulb.
 
They simultaneously placed the step ladder under the light fittings on the ceiling. I suggested they let things be, but neither heard my pleas. They were determined to get the bulb changed and each wanted to claim the credit for it.
 
Gertrude tried to climb the ladder first.
 
“No … let me” said Philomena still holding the replacement bulb, “I am fitter than you!”
 
This was like a declaration of war to Aunt Gertrude who replied “What do you mean cobber? You’re fitter than me? You probably meant fatter but I could not understand your wheelsh accent! I’m surprised your thin legs can carry all that weight!”
 
For a few seconds there was silence. I cowered in my seat and prayed for peace.
 
Gertrude climbed up the ladder shakily whilst Philomena held her legs to steady her as she went up.
 
“Let go my legs cobber!” said Gertrude “I’m perfectly capable of climbing by myself!”
 
“I’m only helping” replied Philomena as the ladder shook from side to side.
 
The inevitable happened. Gertrude lost her balance and as she leaned to one side Philomena attempted to help her by grasping at her hips. Gertrude fell pulling Philomena with her and both crashed onto the nearby couch which broke their fall.
 
They landed onto the couch with legs flying in the air. It was a sight not for the faint-hearted.
 
Luckily I was sitting on the easy chair opposite providing me with a vantage viewpoint from a safe distance. Had I been on the couch I would have been crushed by a surplus of Aunties!
 
I waited a few seconds to see if either of them had died or broken any bones or limbs.
 
To my surprise, they both got up and burst into fits of laughter.
 
I knew that all was well and my prayers had been answered. Peace had returned once again. From that day both Aunts became the best of friends. I dread their new found collaboration into nursing me back to good health.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Silence the priests


Whether Confession is in an old style Confession Booth where the priest does not see the parishioner, or whether it is in a face-to-face situation; there's no doubt that in a number of cases the priest knows full well who is at the other side of the curtain.

This being the case, what is a priest to do when he knows more than what is being said in the Confessional.

Here are some scenarios:

SCENARIO 1 - The priest knows that a married parishioner is having an affair with another woman. This sin is not confessed, and the priest knows that the behavior continues.

Does the priest raise the matter in the Confessional?

Does he give absolution for sins confessed, knowing full well there are others not confessed and not repented over?

By giving absolution, is he making a mockery of the Sacrament of Confession?

By giving absolution, is he condoning the sin; by turning a blind eye to it?

By giving absolution is he being fair and right to the injured party (the wife and children)?

Is it his job to "interfere" or should he just give absolution to the sins confessed and ignore others which he knows about?

SCENARIO 2 - Is the priest influenced by what he hears at Confession? Should he be? Can he NOT be?

He is supposed to "forget" the sins he hears, but is this really possible?

A man confesses that he often steals from his employer. Small things like stationery, ink cartridges, that sort of thing. He also steals from shops - a bar of chocolate every now and then.

The man applies for a job at the church - church secretary, or such like admin job.

Should the priest be influenced by what he heard at Confession?

If he ignores the confessed sin and gives the man the job; and the man subsequently steals from the church; where does the priest stand?

Was he true to God in offering the man the job?

Was he true to the church and his bishop by putting the church at risk?

Should he tell the bishop he knew of the man's habitual sin?

SCENARIO 3 - the priest knows that the man who manages the Sunday collection is stealing from the plate. He has hard evidence of this.

No doubt he has a duty to raise the matter with the individual in order to protect church funds.

The man is repentant and confesses this in discussion, and again, subsequently at Confession. He is absolved of his sins.

To keep him away from temptation he stops dealing with the Sunday collection.

The man applies for a job and asks the priest for a reference.

Does the priest mention the collection wrong-doing in the reference he is to write?

If he does not, is he being truthful to the potential employer, and in the eyes of God?

If he does not mention the man's bad behavior, and the man gets the job, and is caught stealing, and it is discovered that the priest knew of this habitual practice when he wrote the reference; where does the priest stand in the eyes of God?

Just three scenarios for now. No doubt you can think of others.

I'd welcome your views.

Monday, 18 November 2013

The long trip of coffee


It was a few years ago when my work colleague Jennifer and I drove to the city for an important meeting with some clients. We'd decided beforehand that she'd drive her own car, giving me the opportunity to read a financial report I needed for the meeting.

On the way back home Jennifer decided we stop at a cafe for some refreshments. She knew that this place served every kind of coffee you could wish for, and of course, she was right.

It was mid-afternoon when we set off again on the way home, Jennifer in the driving seat, and I sitting beside her making notes about the meeting and every so often seeking her advice and opinions on financial matters. She was a keen accountant equal to no one, so her views were invaluable.

An hour into the journey home we met a delay on the highway. All three lanes were full of cars as we slowed down to a snail's pace. Pretty soon we stopped in what turned out to be the longest car park I'd ever seen. Ahead of us, for as far as we could see, there were stopped cars in all three lanes. Behind us, within minutes, a longer queue of parked cars developed into eternity.

Every so often, we moved forward a few yards and stopped again. There'd probably been an accident ahead, or perhaps road works. There was no way of knowing. We were travelling at about 5 miles an hour if not slower.

And that's when the coffee came into play!

I felt I needed to go to the men's room; but unfortunately Jennifer's car did not have such a facility. At first I put up with the slight discomfort which, with every passing minute, grew into ... a more pronounced pain.

"Why are you fidgetting in your seat?" she asked me.

Embarrassingly, I told her. She sympathised by hoping we'd soon be out of this slow traffic.

Fifteen minutes later I became desparate. We'd been at a standstill for quite a while with cars parked all around us.

Jennifer said she had an idea. She got out of the car, opened the boot, and came back holding a small potty in her hand.

"We always keep this in the car for my young son," she said, "perhaps you could use it and then discreetly empty it on the road."

"What?" I asked in a panic, "I couldn't possibly ... besides, it's too small ..."

"I'm not asking you to place it on the ground and stand on the seat aiming at it!" she said irritably, "just do it sitting down."

"With you here beside me watching me? It's too embarrassing ... " I replied crossing my legs together.

"Forget it ..." she said with gritted teeth as she drove forward a few yards and put the brakes on suddenly turning my pronounced pain into extreme agony.

"What I meant ..." I said soothingly, "the potty is too small for me to use fully ..."

"Do it in stages ..." she replied increasing her level of irritability.

"I can't just turn it on and off like a faucet" I pleaded sheepishly.

And that's when I realised the reason for her uncharacteristic bad temper.

"And I can't exactly lift my dress and sit on the potty inside the car, can I?" she hissed under her breath, "or would you prefer me to sit on the potty in full view in the middle of the road?"

She was obviously in the same coffee predicament as myself.

We drove silently for about twenty minutes when we eventually reached an exit on the highway. As soon as we left the highway I asked her to stop by some woodland and I ran behind a tree and some bushes to commune with nature.

Jennifer, on the other hand, was much more of a lady than I ever was, or will be. She got out of the car and asked me to drive.

I sped to the nearest diner a mile or so ahead where we welcomed a much earned comfort break; and then we sat down and enjoyed their variety of coffees.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Events at St Vincent

Sometimes in life a chain of events is set in motion, no doubt with the full knowledge of God above, yet for us down here it doesn’t half cause us a lot of trouble and confusion.

This is what happened one beautiful Saturday at St Vincent Parish Church.

Father Donald was away traveling and Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, had gone away to spend a few days with relatives.

Father Ignatius, the Parish priest, was not quite alone however, for on the Friday evening he welcomed a newly ordained priest, Father Clement, who had been sent un-announced to St Vincent by the Bishop to gain some experience before being posted to another Parish.

Father Ignatius intended to introduce the young priest to parishioners and to the nuns in the nearby Convent on the Saturday but unexpected events changed his plans.

At about eight on Saturday morning Father Ignatius received a phone call asking him to go to the hospital urgently as one of his parishioners had been admitted in a serious condition. He had no time to explain this to the young priest who had not yet come down for breakfast. So Father Ignatius left a quick note asking him to hear Confessions at 9:30 and left him a set of keys to the church and Parish House.

A few minutes later, Father Clement came down to the kitchen, helped himself to breakfast and set out to the church to prepare for Confessions.

St Vincent had one of those old fashioned wooden confessionals which consisted of a small stall with a seat for the priest to sit in, and two positions on either side where the people would kneel, and speak to him in turn through a small window.

Father Clement entered the confessional and shut the door behind him. He made a point of explaining to each person seeking Confession that he was a new priest and that he’d be at St Vincent for a few weeks.

He heard Confessions for about an hour or so until eventually everyone had left the church. He stayed in the confessional for a few minutes longer in case there was anyone else to confess, and then, as no one came, he tried to get out of the confessional. Somehow, the handle to the confessional door broke in his hand and the door would not open. He was trapped in a small wooden room with no means of escape. He called out for help but there was no one there to hear him.

The young priest kept his cool as best he could. He sat there praying and every so often, if he heard a noise, real or imagined, he would bang on the confessional door and call for help. But no help arrived for there was no one there to help him!

Eventually, at about eleven o’clock Stuart entered the church.

Stuart was an elderly gentleman of about seventy years of age. He had served in the military many years ago and was a strict no-nonsense man always wary of any wrong-doings and suspicious of anything that was not the norm. It was his turn to clean the church on Saturday and having called at the Parish House for the keys and received no response he then called at Mrs Davenport’s cottage and got no response either. He looked for the priest’s car and that was missing too. He called at the church and to his surprise found the door open. Courageously, he entered the church to find it totally deserted. His keen mind jumped to several wrong conclusions all at once and somersaulted over them time and again.

On hearing the church door closing Father Clement banged on the confessional door and called for help. Stuart was startled and his septuagenarian heart nearly had a cardiac arrest. His aching knees knocked together in rhythm with his heart and the butterflies in his stomach had their knees knocking too. Even his goose bumps had goose bumps of their own. He steadied himself against one of the nearby pews and took one or two deep breaths to recover from his fright.

Despite his courage, Stuart decided to walk out of the church slowly without making a noise and once out he rushed to the nearby Convent to call the police.

The police arrived in force moments later and let Father Clement out of the confessional. There was no one to confirm his story and the nuns had not been told of a new visiting priest. Having a bunch of keys in his possession did not help the young priest’s case who was taken away to the police station pending further enquiries.

At the police station Father Clement was put in a cell with a man who had spent the night there to recover from too much drink on Friday evening. He had been picked up sleeping on a park bench with no means of identification on him.

“Have you been drinking too Father?” asked the man in the cell.

Father Clement protested his innocence and explained what had happened to the incredulous cell-mate.

“That’s a good story Father. I must use it next time they bring me here!” he said.

“Next time?” asked Father Clement.

“Oh yes … I’m a frequent visitor of the constabulary … usually it’s the police station in town. This is my first time here. I normally sleep at the Mission House in town … got nowhere to live …”

The young priest spent the next hour or so getting to know his companion in the cell until eventually Father Ignatius came to verify his story and he was let out.

Over the next few weeks at St Vincent Church Father Clement visited the Mission many times to see his prison friend. With the help of Father Ignatius they encouraged him to seek professional help to stop drinking, and they helped him find a part-time job at a nearby farm.

And God looked down and smiled at the turn of events.

Friday, 8 November 2013

LOST

I've just lost a game of chess to a vacuum cleaner.

Let me explain.

I like playing chess, especially when my opponent is good and I have to plan a few moves ahead. Shall I move the knight? Or the bishop to trap my opponent?

Anyway, I brought out my white and pink chess board given to me as a present years ago and set out all the pieces.

I then got my chess book recording games from the old masters and set out to role play an old game. Me against an old master.

First I played the master's move by placing his chess piece as recorded in the book. Then I hid the rest of the text in the book, and decided where I would move my piece next had I been playing this game in real life. Then I checked the book to see if I made the right decision.

Slow and labourious perhaps, but it's a great way to learn how old champions played each other.

After about half-an-hour, to my dismay, two pages in the book where stuck together with old age. Married for life and not to be pulled apart until death doth separate them.

Rather than risk tearing the book, I left it aside and went searching for an older book I had in a box in the living room, hidden behind a piece of furniture.

In my eagerness to find the game I was playing, for I was sure it was in that book also, I forgot to wipe the book clean first. Some dust from the book fell on the chess board and the pieces.

I got the vacuum cleaner and with the tube I tried to clean off the dust on the chess board.

The vacuum cleaner sucked off all the pieces from the board and won the game !!!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Friar Alessandro


Voice of Joy is a collection of traditional Christmas carols, seasonal melodies, and sacred arias. All of the artist proceeds are directed to The Order of Friars Minor, a registered charity benefiting Franciscan efforts worldwide.

Friar Alessandro has captured the hearts of people around the world with his beautiful voice and enormous warmth. His new album is set to fill those same hearts and many more with the purest of joy.
 
The Franciscan Friar is a sanctuary guide in Assisi, Italy where he was born. His hope as the first Franciscan Friar to be signed to a major record label, is that his voice will have the ability to foster a stronger Catholic presence in contemporary art & music.
 
Voice of Joy is available on AMAZON and other good retailers.
 
Listen to Friar Alessandro singing Adeste Fideles below.

 

Monday, 4 November 2013

A Hell of Question


There are times when children ask us questions which make us stop and think. Our answer needs to be well thought out and considered before our mouth is engaged into action.

Father Ignatius was at the local Catholic School for his usual Catechism class. This is what happened when a ten years old girl asked him her question.

“Father … is it OK to pray for those people in hell?”

The priest took off his spectacles and cleaned them of imaginary dust in order to gain some thinking time.

“Why do you ask?” he said gently.

“Well …” she hesitated, “we pray for the souls in purgatory so that God forgives them and they go to Heaven.

“Why don’t we pray for those in hell? They were bad when they were alive but now they are dead they are in hell for ever. I feel sorry for them!”

“It’s good of you to feel sorry for them,” replied the priest, “it shows a charitable spirit … it shows you’re very kind and considerate.

“But we must remember this. No one goes to hell by mistake.

“As you say, these people were bad when they lived and they had plenty of opportunities to be good and to do what God asks. They had many chances to repent and ask God to forgive them and to do good. But they disobeyed, time and again, and they turned their back on God.

“God is merciful and He forgives … but He is just too. Those who are in hell have sent themselves there by their behavior.”

Another child raised his hand and asked a question.

“But Father … Sister Josephine when she was here yesterday, she said that Jesus told us to love our enemies. He said to God to forgive them when they put Him on the Cross.

“The people in hell are the enemy of God. Why does God not forgive them? Does He not love them?”

Father Ignatius prayed silently for inspiration before answering.

“Of course He loves them” he replied after a short pause, “God loves everybody because they are His creations. I suspect He even loves those in hell and He is very sad that they are there.

“But there are times in life when people put themselves out of God’s loving nature.

“Let me explain it another way.

“Suppose your parents bought you a puppy for your birthday. You love that puppy very much and you play with him every day. But as he grows up he becomes a little threatening and he growls at everyone. One day he bites your hand. And he continues with this bad behavior to the point where you can’t come near him in case he bites you again.

“For your own safety, and that of others, your parents decide to take the dog away and put him in a Dog Rescue Shelter where he’s looked after by other people.

“It’s the same with us. God loves us all when we’re born and we’re babies. But as we grow up, some people turn against Him and become bad. No matter how often these people are told to do good they never ask God to forgive them and they continue to do bad things all their life.

“When these bad people die they go to hell because of what they have done … God still loves them. Just as you love your dog in the Dog Shelter!

“In fact I believe God grieves for those in hell. He’d rather the place was empty and we were all with Him in Heaven. But some people put themselves in hell by their bad behavior.”

“So do we pray for those in hell or not?” asked the original questioner.

“There is nothing wrong with praying,” Father Ignatius replied, “God will listen to your prayers, as He does all prayers, and will respond in an appropriate and just way. When you pray, say to God how sorry you are that there are people in hell, and ask Him to help you be good all your life.

“Every one of us, young and old, like me, must always pray that we do not give God reason to grieve by behaving badly and ending in hell.”

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Annointing the sick - Part 2

I mentioned in a previous post that, after leaving hospital, I wrote to a priest friend of mine living a great distance from me, Father Francis Maple, and told him of my experience.

He replied that I should have had in hospital the Sacrament of Annointing the sick.

I asked my parish priest and he visited me at home and after some prayers he annointed my forehead and hands with oil. He said this Scrament is important because I had been in a life threatening experience.

I did not have much time to discuss this with him.

But what is exactly the Sacrament of Annointing the sick?

When I was young there was something called Extreme Unction. Is it the same?

Does the Sacrament of Annointing the sick forgive all your sins? Like Confession?

If you die do you go to Heaven?

Is it instead of Communion? Say the patient is "nil by mouth" and cannot take Communion?

This led me to thinking. If whilst I was in hospital, fully conscious and waiting to go to the operating theater, a priest approached me to give this Sacrament. How would I have reacted? Would the fear of seeing him there resulted in a second heart attack?

How do we view a priest on such occasions? A sign that this is the end? Would we rejoice that we're leaving having made our peace with God? Or would we fear what is to come?

Does this Sacrament suffice to forgive sins? Or should Confession and, if possible, Communion also be taken for us to be at peace with Our Lord?

I welcome your comments.

God bless.

Vic M

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Annointing the sick

I e-mailed a priest friend of mine, Father Francis Maple, who lives a great distance from me, and told him about my hospital experience.

He replied straightaway and asked if someone in my family had asked for a priest to attend hospital and give me the Sacrament of Annointing the Sick.

No one had. I suppose they were in shock and too concerned about my health.

Father Francis replied that this is very important and a priest should be called at all such emergencies.

I write this here in case anyone needs reminding.

I'm getting slowly better. Thanx again for your prayers. I hope to start visiting your Blogs again soon.

God bless.

Vic M 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE


**1**

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The events in this book are all true. I have omitted a lot of the medical details as they may be upsetting to some readers. I hope and pray that what I write here may be of some help to someone somewhere facing a crisis in their lives.  

At our darkest hour, or at any other time, God is near at hand ensuring that His will be done for us. All we need do is trust Him.


**2**

On 27th September 2013 I went to my local hospital for a routine check-up. Nothing particularly serious and I had not been previously ill.

I was all ready, wearing nothing but those hospital gowns open at the back, and waiting my turn to be seen. As soon as the nurse put a needle in my arm to prepare me for sedation I felt a sharp pain in my chest. The doctor was called, they withdrew the needle, and gave me some medication.

I was put on a trolley and wheeled at speed to Cardiac Department. The pain was on and off at various degrees of hurt.

At Cardiac Department they said they’d put in some stents. Routine. No problem.

I was made to lie right down on my back and they took several X rays or whatever photos they take in such cases. I was turned to my left and right side; more photos.

I waited on the trolley. The doctors were discussing my case in Conference. Someone came and told me they were not going to put in stents. I remember a voice saying one artery is totally blocked, two are 95% blocked and a fourth is getting blocked not sending much oxygen to the heart. In effect, it’s a surprise I was still alive.

They shared my X rays with another hospital some 30 miles away via the Internet. The other hospital asked for me to go there.

I was put in an ambulance. In my daze, effects of the injections or whatever they gave me to ease the pain, I could hear voices saying “Have we got the defibrillator? Have got this and that?” And so on.

Apart from the two ambulance drivers, there were four or five other people standing around me at the back of the ambulance as I lay on the trolley. The ambulance drove away at speed with siren blaring and lights flashing. I felt every bump on the road, sudden stop and sharp turns left and right.

We arrived at the other hospital. I was wheeled in and they took several other X Rays or photos.

They decided to operate there and then. I was prepared for the operation and remember being wheeled through several corridors. It was Friday the 27th.

The next thing, someone awakened me in the afternoon of Saturday the 28th.

I had suffered a heart attack and they carried out a triple by-pass surgery.

My timing, or God’s timing to be precise, was perfect. I was at the right place at the right time when I suffered the heart attack. That saved my life.

**3**

The next two or three days left me in some sort of daze. I was cared for by an excellent team of doctors and nurses. I was in a room with five other beds – Critical Care Department. By each bed there was a computer on a stand and a nurse or two there at all times. As each nurse left they handed over to another nurse who logged in on the computer and read my progress. Nurses checked me every two hours day and night – temperature, blood pressure and so on. A team of doctors visited at least once a day. 

They tried to get me to eat something but I couldn’t. Eventually I had a couple of spoons of ice cream.

**4**
On the third or fourth night after the operation I awoke with a start in the middle of the night. It was just after 1.00 in the morning. I was in a cold sweat. Suddenly I had seen my reality in a dream. There I was lying on my back in bed unable to move my arms or legs or anything. Motionless and wide awake.

All my life I had been very active and self-assured. Able to make managerial decisions at work and provide for my family. Always in control and always planning ahead and prepared for most eventualities.

And now I was lying there motionless like an insignificant squashed insect. Unable to move.

The thought frightened me. The words “insignificant insect” reverberated in my mind again and again. I felt vulnerable. I remembered Paul on the way to Damascus. Powerful leader of men persecuting Christians, when suddenly he was off his horse and blind. Totally helpless, vulnerable and unable to do anything without someone’s help.

In my tiredness I must have switched off.

Half an hour or so later, the same dream, the same awakening in a start. It was about 1:30 am on the clock on the wall behind the nurse standing by the computer at my feet.

Insignificant insect.

And again and again it happened. Just after 2.00am after 2:40am and so on three or four times. It was as if the message had to be imprinted and understood in my mind.

The nurse approached me and said “You’re having a bad time sleeping. Are you in pain?”

I replied “Do you believe in God?”

The nurse certainly did believe. So I asked “Why did I not die? I could have died at my local hospital when first observed. I could have died in their Cardiac Department. In the ambulance on the way to this hospital. On the operating table. Any time. Why did I not die?”

“It is not your time yet!” was the calm reply.

God must want something of me, I thought, as I fell asleep once again.

**5**
The following night another revelation repeated itself in my mind. I awoke again and the words “Unless a grain of wheat is crushed …” repeated over and again. Just those few words. I remembered Christ’s words about a grain dying to produce a plant and more wheat. But in my mind only the short unfinished sentence repeated over and again until tiredness took over and I fell asleep.

**6**

The following night another dream. I must stress that the dreams did not involve sceneries and people I knew, or various situations like normal dreams. It was just a sentence I could see written clearly in my mind’s eye.

Last night it was “Unless a grain of wheat is crushed”.

This time it was “To know yourself you must get to know yourself.”

What could this possibly mean? The sentence repeated there in my mind until I fell asleep. When I awoke it was still there.

Over and over again the words remained in my mind as I tried to make sense of them.

Eventually, as if someone was explaining it to me, the sentence clarified. Do we really know ourselves? Not our names, our background, family lineage and so on. But do we really know ourselves?

When you meet a new person, a new friend perhaps, you “get to know them” over time. Their likes and dislikes, their views and opinions, their life experiences and so on.

But do we ever “get to know” ourselves? What are our views and opinions based on? Our prejudices even; because we all have prejudices no matter how well we hide them from ourselves. Our views on other peoples’ beliefs, dress styles, hair styles, accents, backgrounds, social standings and so on. What are all our views based on? Are they based on others’ opinions which we follow blindly? Or are they based on well thought out and evaluated criteria, based on right and wrong, based on good wholesome values, based on peoples’ behaviours and actions rather than on their looks.

Basically, what exactly makes us tick? Why do we behave the way we do? Blind prejudice or well thought out opinions based on facts?

“To know yourself you must get to know yourself.”

Who am I? Why did I behave in a certain way in the past? Or thought and acted in a certain way?

Do I really know myself? Now’s the time to get to know oneself.

God certainly know us even if we don’t know ourselves.

**7**

My fourth dream was just as strange a day later. Again no sceneries or storyline. Just a sentence there in my mind.

“The dichotomy between our own free will to behave and do as we want and God’s will be done.”

Now this sentence was really strange. For a start, never in my life did I use or would have used such a word as “dichotomy”. I don’t even know what it means. So where did this phrase come from? Had I heard or read it somewhere and now it came to the surface in my mind?

As before, the sentence repeated in my mind making no sense at all as I fell asleep again.

Eventually, as if someone was explaining it to a child, a thought developed in my mind.

We have all been given a free will by God to behave as we wish. He did not create a race of robots following His every wish, but free people able to decide freely for themselves whether to believe in Him and follow Him or not. That is His gift to us.

However, as we “get to know Him” and love Him our free will is, or should be, that in everything His will be done.

Wow … that thought overwhelmed me. It should be my free will to trust Him so much that to accept that in all eventualities His will be done. It’s as if I’m returning His gift of free will to me and saying “thank you, but I trust you so much that I accept Your will in all events.”

No matter whether the outcome of a situation is good or bad. I should accept His will be done in full confidence and knowledge that it will work out for the best. No ifs, no buts, no not withstanding the afore mentioned clause, or any other legalise you may wish to add. 

In all situations we should trust Him so much that we freely accept that His will be done.

The amount of self-control and trust to give all situations totally to God must be really enormous and require great concentration.

**8**

It didn’t take long for God to test my new resolve. Again, without mentioning any medical details, a few days later I was lying on my back in bed and listening to medics talking in their own language.

Of course I was frightened. What’s to happen now? But I concentrated as much as I could concentrate, “Thy will be done. No matter the outcome. Good or bad. I trust You. Thy will be done.”

Eventually, all went well.

I heard a thought in my mind, “Don’t forget to say thank you!”

I asked God “Why do You test me so much when you already know how I’ll behave?”

I wonder what He made of my impertinence.

**9**

The day finally arrived for me to go home and recuperate. On that morning, at about 6.00am, I felt terrible pains down my spine, across my shoulders at the back and front, and in various places on my chest. I called a nurse.

Again, no medical details, but I was soon surrounded by half a dozen nurses and doctors, all working together to sort out what had happened.

In my pain I prayed “Thy will be done. No matter the outcome. Please make the pain go away.”

Then I asked myself, “Is it OK to say make the pain go away?” Is this not taking back control from God?

Then I remembered that many people asked Jesus to make their pain go away. The deaf, the mute, the blind and the lame. Many people asked for his help and He did have pity on them and healed them.

So it’s OK to ask for help from God and it is not contrary to His will being done.

Eventually the medics sorted me out. They said my timing (God’s timing) was again perfect. What happened to me could well have happened after I left hospital.

I am now at home recuperating. God’s will be done.

**10**

I am not saying or claiming that these dreams or messages were from God. They may well have been. I do realise that many people don’t even believe in God and they may well have their own theories and opinions as to the origin or source of these dreams. Some may even mock; in which case I am glad I gave them the opportunity to smile or chuckle.

I believe in God, and I report here just what happened.

At no time in my “near death experience” were there bright lights, visions of angels or saints or dearly departed relatives or friends. Just the dreams as mentioned.

There were not many prayers either. Repetitive Rosaries or other petitions. Just the full knowledge, with all the concentration I could muster, that “Thy will be done”. This, somehow, seemed to suffice.

**11**

I would like to thank all the medical staff at my local hospital as well as the one I was transferred to, and the ambulance team, for their professionalism, experience and for looking after me so well.

I would also like to thank family and friends for all they have done, and are still doing, since my ordeal on 27th September. I am also appreciative and thank my Internet friends for all their prayers for me.

God bless you all.

Victor S E Moubarak


NOTE: The above post has been produced in PDF Format as a booklet. If you wish to have a copy FREE which may be of help to someone please contact me at enquiries@holyvisions.co.uk


 
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