Saturday, 19 January 2013
Confrontation for Father Ignatius
Father Ignatius sat down in his compartment and prepared for the long journey ahead. It was one of those old fashioned trains with separate compartments seating eight people per cubicle facing each other. Luckily, this compartment was empty so the priest took out his book and started reading. It was dark outside and it had begun to snow.
Just as the train started pulling out of the station a man in his thirties entered the compartment and sat opposite the priest.
“It’s cold outside …” he said blowing in his hands to keep them warm.
“Isn’t it just!” smiled the priest.
The man sat down, crossed his arms to keep warm and started to tap his feet gently. Father Ignatius ignored him and continued reading.
A few moments later the man got up and started fiddling with the heating control in the compartment. He turned it to the left, then again to the right, and then he put his hand against the air vents.
“I’m sure these controls are only here for show,” he said, “they don’t work at all. They put them here to make you think you’re in control. But you’re in control of nothing on these trains I tell you!”
At this precise moment the train must have crossed a point as it tilted slightly off-balancing the man who fell back into his seat.
Father Ignatius bit his lip to stop him from laughing.
“Eternal damnation …” cursed the man … followed by “oops … sorry … I shouldn’t have sworn … you’re a priest aren’t you?”
“Yes I am,” replied Father Ignatius.
The man sat down peevishly for a few moments, rubbing his hands against each other to the sound of the train moving slowly on the rails. Clackety clack … clackety clack … clackety clack.
“So you’re a priest …” declared the man after a few minutes silence. It was obvious that Father Ignatius was not meant to read his book right now. He looked up and smiled.
“So what would you say to an atheist like me?” continued the man.
“I would say nothing and continue reading,” said Father Ignatius.
“Would you not try to convince me that I am wrong?”
“No … I wouldn’t.”
The man frowned. “Why is that? I thought you priests are meant to preach to people like me … and try to save us … that’s your job.”
Father Ignatius closed his book and put it away. He took off his glasses and started cleaning them.
“In my experience,” he said “people like you don’t need convincing. You already know you are right.”
“Do you believe in God?”
“No. Of course not. I’ve already said so.”
“And that’s precisely what I meant … you are so sure that there is no God that there is no point in convincing you otherwise. Somehow, you have proved to yourself a negative. There is no God. And no amount of discussion or debate will change your mind.”
“I’m certain of it,” declared the young man, “there is no such thing as God.”
“I admire your Faith,” smiled the priest, “ironically, you have more Faith in your belief than many Christians I know have in their belief that God exists. You’d be surprised how many live in doubt and confusion about their Christian beliefs.”
“There you are then … at least we un-believers have no doubts …”
“Doubts aren’t such a bad thing … it is possible to believe in God and have doubts too … doubts help you question your beliefs and in certain circumstances can even strengthen your Faith … God has given us the luxury to doubt. To question, to analyse, and to think. And then to come to the conclusion that He truly exists.”
“So you’ve proved to yourself that God exists?” asked the man.
“No … God proved it to me. He found me willing to take a chance … keep an open mind and dare to believe without any proof at all. And my first faltering steps into believing were rewarded … in time … by enough evidence for me to be certain of God’s existence and His love for us.”
“Wow indeed,” continued Father Ignatius, “all it takes is your courage and willingness to step out in blind Faith and want to believe … He’ll provide the proof you need in due course. You must dare to believe. Dare to lose control.”
“What do you mean?” asked the man sitting opposite the priest.
“A few minutes ago you tried to make that heating system work. You turned the knob one way and another and you felt totally out of control. You said as much … you’re in control of nothing on these trains … those were your exact words.”
“That’s right … I’ve never known any of these systems to work …”
“When you think about it,” continued the priest, “there’s very little in life you are really in control of.
“You’re on this train, but you don’t control what time it leaves the station, what time it arrives and what speed it travels.
“You don’t control the state of your health. Anything could happen to alter it; an accident for instance could totally change your lifestyle.
“You don’t control whether you’ll remain in your present job permanently, or if you’re self-employed whether you’ll continue to be successful.
“You don’t control your marriage, if you’re married that is. Anything could happen to you, your wife and children …
“You may try to influence these things by your behaviour but you do not really control the outcomes.”
“But …” hesitated the man, “someone is ultimately in control. The Government for instance …”
“No … not even Governments or authorities … there are always things that happen which are beyond their control. They may plan for them, try to influence events, prepare for all circumstances … but they’re not in control.
“Only God is in ultimate control of everything which happens in this world and in the whole universe.
“Whether you believe in Him or not does not alter the fact that He controls everything and everyone. He controls with ultimate, unconditional and total love.”
“This is my stop approaching … I have to get off now … I’m sorry I was so rude earlier on … I promise I’ll look further into this … you’ve certainly given me something to think about …
“I like what you said … Dare to believe without any proof … Dare to lose control … I might give it a try …”
The man excused himself and left the compartment.
Father Ignatius smiled and then started praying for him.