VICTOR S E MOUBARAK

Thursday, 31 January 2013

NO to Ecumenicals



It has long been a notion amongst Ecumenicals that it is a good idea to mix with people from other denominations, to learn from them, exchange views and create friendships hopefully leading to unity.

Well in my experience mixing with Ecumenicals can lead one astray in a direction you never intended to go to in the first place.

As I shall demonstrate.

Some Ecumenical Leaders in our church decided it would be a great idea if they arranged a joint visit to a famous shrine and invite members of a number of other denominations who are part of our Parish Ecumenical Movement. They organized the trip and publicized it widely in all the member churches as well as encouraged our congregation … coercing me more than once … to come along on the pilgrimage and show willingness and unity.

On the day in question about sixty or so people from the five different churches gathered in our church car park ready to set off in two buses waiting for us.

One of the leaders stood on a box so that he could be seen by everyone and addressed us on a portable loudspeaker.

“It is so nice to see so many of you here from our Ecumenical Family. Today we have a great opportunity to make new friends and meet new people. To this end, when you’re on the bus, and during our visit to the shrine, do not sit with people you already know from your own church. Seek out new faces. There’ll be many people you’ve never met or seen before, sit with them, smile, have a chat and welcome a new friend in your life. Mingle … mingle … and mingle some more! A stranger is a friend you’ve yet to meet. Have fun!”

“Great …” I thought, “organized fun. Just what I’ve always wanted. Because I do not have the imagination and initiative to make up my own enjoyment and have my own friends!”

I sat at the back of the bus in the hope that no one would sit next to me and I’d have a peaceful journey. No such luck.

I don’t know why, but complete strangers often stop and chat with me and tell me their life stories … in the shops, on the bus or train, in the streets, anywhere. What is it about me that attracts people to me?

Soon enough an elderly lady came and sat next to me and as the coach left the church car park she started talking.

First she said hello and introduced herself. Then she said something inane about the weather, which we often do in the UK when we have nothing better to say. After that she said how she looked forward to the shrine visit. And before you know it she was telling me her life story.

She talked about the voluntary work she did during the Second World War, about her husband dying, how she grows prize-winning azaleas, whatever they are, about her grandson Quentin and how she bakes the best steak and kidney pies. I mean … who these days calls a boy Quentin???

It was obvious the old lady wanted to talk so I nodded and smiled politely at this continuous monologue pretending to be a dialogue.

I wished I’d never agreed to go on this pilgrimage in the name of Ecumenism.

Is this how Chaucer felt on his way to Canterbury? Having to listen to tales about Quentin, azaleas and steak and kidney pies?

After about two hours of this non-stop listening to this nice but verbally diarrheic old lady the coach drew up at a pub on the way to the shrine to allow us to stretch our legs and use the amenities.

I went to the pub’s beer garden and sat at a lonely table away from everyone else to enjoy a lovely pint of Guinness.

I thought about the shrine we were visiting and about God in His infinite wisdom looking down upon us from Heaven.

What does He make of all this Ecumenical Movement? Does He approve and like the diversity of all the different Christian denominations mingling and making friends? Or would He prefer us all to be of one Church, one trade brand, with one trademark? And which one does He prefer I wander?

What does He think of us Catholics who can be a little bit fishy, especially on Fridays? Arguing amongst ourselves about different types of Masses and other such matters!

Which kind of Mass does He like? Does He enjoy Latin Gregorian chants or does He prefer guitars and waving of hands in the air? And does all that incense going up to Heaven make Him open all the windows to clear the smoke out before the smoke alarms go off?

Having had my personal discussion with God on how He could improve things down here I got up and headed towards the car park.

There was only one coach waiting there. Obviously the other one had already left and would await our arrival at the shrine.

I got in and sat somewhere totally different to avoid the non-stop-talking old lady.

Moments later the coach started filling up and a man in his forties sat next to me.

“You all right mate?” he said and I smiled back. “Did you get to the last game with Granchester?”

“No …” I mumbled, and before I could say anything else he turned round and started talking to a friend sitting behind us.

I leant my head towards the window, closed my eyes and pretended to go to sleep to avoid another unending conversation.

I must have dozed off because after about an hour of driving a few of the people at the back of the bus started singing. Strangely … these were not the familiar “Praise Songs” I’d heard so often at our prayer meetings with the Charismatic wing of our congregation.

No … these were totally new songs I’d never heard before and … wait … the lyrics are quite risqué and at times quite rude. What kind of Ecumenical types are these?

What’s going on here?

I asked the man sitting next to me which church those people at the back belong to.

“Church?” he replied, “I doubt any of them have ever seen the inside of a church … not unless they give free beer there now!”

“But … why are they going to the shrine then?” I enquired being somewhat slow on the uptake.

“We’re going to no shrine pal,” he said, “we’re off to Granchester for the football match. Where you off to?”

As I said … I don’t like Ecumenicals or anything to do with mingling with people you do not know.

I prefer a Catholic bus with a Catholic driver who knows where he’s going and people from my church whom I know well and who have nothing to do with azaleas and steak and kidney pies or Quentins!

 

Monday, 28 January 2013

THE ADVENTURES OF FATHER IGNATIUS



A priest’s life is not always mundane and pedestrian doing the same thing day in day out. There are times when unexpected events turn Father Ignatius’ day upside down and send him to unexpected adventures.

The Adventures of Father Ignatius is a selection of short stories in the life of our lovable priest dispensing his well-intended wisdom and teaching us to love one another as Our Lord commanded.

Also in the series of Father Ignatius short stories are 

Golden Drops
Golden Droplets 
God’s Humble Servant
Father Ignatius Teaches
Theodore Luxton-Joyce

The Adventures of Father Ignatius and all other books in the series can now be downloaded FREE by clicking HERE

All books are available in Kindle format from HERE    

Please tell others about these books and pray for me. Thanx.

God bless.             

Saturday, 26 January 2013

E=MC2


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They both nodded and waited to hear more.

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

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

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

“But God is wiser than that …

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

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

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

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

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

They nodded silently.

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

He chuckled to himself.

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

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

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

They smiled meekly.

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

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

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

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

They smiled again, now both of them more relaxed.

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

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

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

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Italian Experience


Father Ignatius spent the early years of his priesthood in Rome, so he was quite fluent in Italian, although he had no opportunity to use his linguistic skills in St Vincent Parish. Until last week that is.

One of his parishioners, a wealthy businessman, invited him to a new Italian restaurant for lunch and to discuss the proposal to refurbish the church hall and Parish house.

It was a nice little restaurant beautifully decorated in Italian style resembling a typical fisherman’s cottage you’d find in Naples. Although the menu was mostly fish, you could still order a nice pizza or your favourite spaghetti or ravioli.

“We’ve refurbished and decorated this place” said the proud businessman as they sat at a table near the window.

“It’s beautiful” said Father Ignatius, “I hope you won’t decorate the church hall in the same style though …”

And so the conversation progressed throughout a lovely meal with the sound of Italian music playing softly in the background through hidden speakers. The priest recognized Domenico Modugno singing Volare and Mario Lanza’s version of Torna Sorriento. It took him back to happy times spent in Rome and Turin.

But that was not the only Italian that reached his ears that day. He noticed that from time to time the efficient waiters spoke to each other in their native language and commented on the customers sitting at table. Sometimes their comments were quite complimentary and pleasant, whereas at times they were quite rude and certainly inappropriate in his presence … if only they knew!

At one point he heard them speak about him.

“That man at table six is a priest,” said a waiter to another, “how can he afford to eat here? I thought priests were meant to be poor …”

“Don’t you recognize who’s with him?” replied the second waiter, “he’s the contractor who decorated this place. I bet he’s paying … you’ll see …”

“Just as well …” said the first waiter, “the priest looks poorer than a church mouse. I bet he hasn’t a penny on him …”

Father Ignatius smiled at himself and said nothing; except continue his conversation with his host.

When the meal was over, and just as they were leaving, Father Ignatius turned to the two waiters and said in Italian, “Grazie molto. Arrivederci.”

Three simple words, uttered in perfect accent, which spoke volumes to those they were addressed to. You should have seen their faces!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Much Ado About Pants



Why is it when things go wrong they continue to go wrong like a chain of events one triggering the other?

I was at a posh hotel preparing to give an important speech to a group of managers about our budget plans and future forecasts.

It was a two-days Conference and mine was the keynote speech before everyone packed their bags and went back to their homes.

I was in my hotel room packing my suitcase and getting dressed in my best suit ready to face my audience. As I put my leg in the trousers my foot somehow caught the inner turn-up of the trousers and tore into the stitching. The trousers were not torn but obviously with the turn-ups loose one trouser leg was now much longer than the other.

How can I fix it with only a short time to go before I’m supposed to stand on stage facing all these people?

Needle and thread … that’s what I need. What’s the use? Men are no good with needles and thread … I wouldn’t know what to do if I had any anyway.

What else can I use to keep the turn-up back in its original place?

Pins … must find some pins … no … there aren’t any either.

How about paper clips? I have some in my briefcase … no … they don’t hold so well. They keep moving and are clearly visible from a distance. I can’t stand on stage with one foot behind my leg as if I need to go to the toilet.

What if I use the sticky-tape to tape the turn-up back in place? It doesn’t hold very well. It falls down again. There must be something else in my briefcase I can use.

Aha … necessity is the mother of invention … my stapler!!!

I can staple the turn up back in place.

I raise my foot on the chair and click … click … click … click … a few staples later and the turn-ups are back in place. I feel proud of my ingenuity.

I go to the basin to wash my hands.

Why is it that hotel basins are so designed that when you open the faucet the water rushes into the basin, swivels round at speed, and splashes all over the front of your trousers with embarrassing results?

And why does it happen when you’re in a hurry?

I can hardly stand in front of all these people giving the impression that I have been caught short? I have no other suit to change into.

I try desperately to dry the trousers with a towel but the large stain on my front is still clearly visible.

Even if I button up my jacket the wet stain is still there for all to notice.

Aha … I remember seeing a hair-dryer in one of the drawers.

Plug it in … stand in front of the mirror and blow hot air on the stain. Hopefully it will dry quickly and in time for me to get down and give my speech.

Wow … this hair-dryer is hot!!!

And noisy too!!!

So noisy that I did not hear the hotel maid knocking at the door and entering the room.

She is standing there behind me watching as I get forever hotter. One can only imagine what she’s thinking.

“Eh … my trousers …” I mumble, “they’re wet … I’m trying to dry them … I got them wet with water … from the basin …” I try to explain incoherently as my mind becomes more and more confused with the situation.

“I understand Sir,” she replies with a smile, “have you tried the trouser-press? If you fold the trousers in here the heat will soon dry the … water.”

I did not like the pause before she said “water”. She’s got the situation all wrong.

She pulls out the trouser-press from its compartment and switches it on. “It is ready now Sir!” she says with a smile.

“Eh … I think it is better if you now leave,” I mumble again, “I’ll take it from here!”

“Of course Sir!” she smiles broadly as she leaves the room.

I try to take the trousers off in a hurry … drat … why is this stupid trouser leg stuck? I nearly trip standing on one leg and fall back on the bed … drat and double drat … the leg turn-up is stapled to my sock … how did that happen? How did I staple the trousers to the sock whilst I’m still wearing it? Would you believe it? Now of all times I have a pair of trousers stuck to a sock at the end of my foot.

Too late to untangle it! Take off the sock as well as the trousers and put the whole lot in the press. Close the press. Turn on the heat to maximum so the stain dries quicker.

Open the press and put the trousers back on in a hurry … GEEEEEEE … that is HOT!!!!!

I hop from foot to foot wandering whether I have done myself a mischief.

Now I put the stapled sock back on. It is still warm too.

Later that afternoon whilst I was checking out at the hotel reception with my boss the chambermaid passes by and asks me “Did your trousers dry OK Sir?”

My boss looks at me with raised eyebrows and says nothing.

But the chain of disasters does not end there.

As I get to my car and pull out my car key from my pocket I find that the plastic top where the automatic car-opening system is, has been totally melted by the hot trouser-press.

Luckily, I had a spare car key which I always carry in my briefcase.

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.”

“How’s that?”

“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 …”

“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.

Friday, 18 January 2013

PAIN


It’s funny how your mind wanders when you’re sitting in a doctor’s waiting-room. I thought:

Jesus died at the age of thirty-three.

He never lived to a ripe old age and, as a human, whom He was, as well as being God, He never got to experience what we humans experience as we grow old.

The pains of rheumatism and arthritis. The slowing down of our body and the inability to run or walk as fast as we used to. The odd lapse of memory. Difficulty with hearing or with seeing properly; and the many other ailments which beset us as we grow old.

Had He grown old like some of us do; would He have used His powers to heal Himself and take away the pain?

Of course, all this is pure speculation. The reality is that He died a most horrible and painful death on the Cross, which far far outweighs whatever ailments we suffer from as we grow old.

The fact that He has not experienced our old age, or any other experiences we go through in this world, does not mean that He doesn’t understand them and that He does not hurt when we hurt.

He feels our pain because He loves us. He accepted the torture of His death because He loves us.

Perhaps we too should try, as best we can, to understand and accept our age related pains with dignity. For His sake.

I know an elderly man who has had many illnesses and operations – he is in constant pain. Whenever I ask him how he is doing, he replies: Thank God I am OK – there are so many so much worse off than me.

Lately, he chuckled and added: Pain is a sign that you are still alive. When you stop feeling pain that’s when you should worry.

Dear Lord help those in pain right now. Amen.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Hilda, Kenneth and Robert – Ménages à trois ?



I received an unexpected phone call from a colleague at work who had retired a year ago. She’s a pleasant acquaintance rather than a friend as such and in conversation she said that her husband had passed away and that she had moved to a two-hundred years old thatched roof cottage out in the country.

She was her usual jovial self on the phone and, somewhat surprisingly, she invited me to visit her for the day so we could catch-up on old times.

I was not that keen on the idea, but she insisted and I was persuaded to go and see Hilda.

She was her usual bubbly self as we sat down to tea and biscuits reminiscing about work. After she retired she left the city and moved with her husband to the countryside and then he died a few months later.

I nodded politely and made small talk wandering why she had insisted on this visit and then it came … right out of the blue.

“Do you believe in ghosts?” she asked. “You know … you having beliefs and all that? Are there ghosts do you think?”

Before I could answer she went on “The reason I ask is because I believe this house is haunted. I wanted to speak to someone about it and then I remembered you from work.”

“What makes you think the house is haunted?” I asked, “Have you seen anything?”

“Not seen as such,” she replied, “but I heard him … Robert … he’s often screeching especially at night.”

“Robert …” I repeated politely and then after a short pause I asked “is Robert your husband?”

“Oh no …” she laughed, “my husband was called Kenneth. He did not die here. He died in hospital. And he’s far too lazy to haunt me! He was so lazy that if he ever fainted he’d need help to get him to the ground” she giggled.

“I see …” I said still not seeing where all this was leading to. “So Robert must have lived in this old cottage centuries ago?”

“No … no …” she giggled again, “He lived here with us. Robert died here four weeks ago and a few days later his ghost started haunting the place!”

My mind started doing somersaults wandering who Robert was. Was he a lodger? A boy-friend? Living with her and her husband? How did he die? Was it a tragic accident? Or something more sinister?

She interrupted my train of thoughts and totally derailed it by declaring “Robert was my parrot!”

“Parrot?” I repeated.

“Yes … he was my parrot. I got up one morning and found him off his perch. He was lying on his back on the ground with his feet pointing upwards as stiff as a board. I buried him in the garden!”

“And you believe a parrot is haunting this house?” I asked tentatively not believing I’d ever ask such a question.

“No doubt about it … I hear him screeching at night when I’m in bed. I think he’s frightened when I put on my face cream and have my hair in curlers … he’s never seen me like that when he was alive!”

I imagined her in face cream and curlers and suppressed a smile crossing my legs tightly for extra security. I suppose the sight of a woman in cream and curlers would frighten the most threatening of ghosts.

“Well …” I hesitated, “I’ve heard of people seeing ghosts but never the ghost of a parrot before!”

“I’ve not seen him,” she said, “only heard him. I’ve asked a ghost exorcist to come today. That’s why I asked you here.”

About an hour later a man in his fifties turned up carrying a small suitcase.

We sat in the main front room and he brought out a small metal plate explaining that first he needed to incense the place. He lit a few pieces of charcoal on the plate and then added what seemed to me an excess of incense.

There was smoke everywhere; so much so that we could not breathe or even see each other, and then we heard the screeching sound … it was the smoke alarms in the corridor and the kitchen which set off simultaneously.

The three of us stood up coughing and wheezing and dancing as we waved handkerchiefs and newspapers around the smoke alarms trying to dispel the smoke and silence the deafening sound.

Eventually all was quiet again and the man asked Hilda about the ghost.

“His name is Robert” she said, “he’s lived with me for 8 years!”

“Was he your husband?” asked the exorcist cum smoke-maker.

“No … my husband was called Kenneth” she replied “Robert has always been very dear to me and I’ve always loved him” she continued in all innocence not realizing how confusing her answers were.

“Can you describe him for me?” asked the ghost hunter “so that I can visualize him as I send him on his way …”

“He was green, about 11 inches tall and he had a wonderful personality.”

The man looked at her in total surprise as I stifled a guffaw and crossed my legs even more tightly; wishing I did not have that second cup of tea.

“I … I … don’t understand” he said hesitantly “green and only 11 inches tall?”

“Yes … our parrot had such a lovely personality. Even though he could not talk!” she explained with a smile.

“A parrot?” he mumbled, “do you mean to say that the ghost is a parrot?”

“Yes … I thought you knew”.

A cold sweat suddenly appeared on his forehead. He stood up and said “You didn’t tell me … I have to go … I have a morbid fear of parrots, all birds in fact … chicken especially. It’s their vicious beaks … I have nightmares about them!”

“But this isn’t a real bird” I said flippantly, “it can’t harm you, it’s a ghost bird!”

“They’re all the same … dead or alive … all birds have beaks … sharp ones. I was once chased by a turkey you know!” he continued as he gathered his paraphernalia in his suitcase.

“What am I to do?” she asked me after the man had gone “how am I to get rid of Robert’s ghost?”

“I thing the ghost has flown away after him to haunt him” I replied jokingly, “you’ll be OK now.”

As far as I know she has not been disturbed with screeching noises since.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Exhausted


There are times in life when we all get totally exhausted.

Whatever it is that occupies our time, be it work, raising a family, caring for others or doing voluntary service, takes so much out of us that we can no longer carry on.

It could also be a problem on our mind or some other concern that weighs us down to total weariness. We feel physically, mentally and emotionally drained.

Our exhaustion is not always just physical. Sometimes it is through years of carrying unnecessary baggage which originate way back in our past. Our up-bringing perhaps, broken and hurt relationships, misunderstandings, unhealed pains and regrets. They build up on our backs and become a part of us just like a camel's hump until the weight is too much to carry and with one more straw we flop down to the ground unable to stand.

Like a boxer who’s received too many knocks we feel like falling down and not get up ever again.

It is said that on His way to Calvary Jesus fell three times. Of course, this is not in Scripture, but we can assume that after being tortured and beaten, and forced to carry a heavy Cross made of sin, He would have fallen or stumbled at least once.

He could have stayed there on the ground and died on the spot. But He got up and went on to do His Father’s will.

Let this be an example to us when we’re so tired we feel like giving up. Let us try one more time for His sake.

“Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest”. Matthew 11:28.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Hairy Harry



I may have mentioned before that an inventor friend of mine made this concoction type of cream called "Hairy Harry" which, he claims, will aid hair-growth and strengthen one’s curls. Unfortunately, when I tried it out for him the cream was absorbed from on top of my head, travelled right through into my face and made my beard grow at least twelve inches long. It didn’t do much for my curls though.

My friend is analyzing the formulae to find out what’s gone wrong. He says he may have used too much penguin droppings.

The other day, as I was rushing out of the shower, I accidentally picked the jar of cream mistaking it for my usual body-lotion skin-softener. I rubbed some cream on my arms and a few minutes later I had two long beards in my armpits and my arms had long strands of hair running down like curtains or wings.

The more I cut the hair the longer it grew. The almost instantaneous growth was amazing. Just as well I did not rub the cream elsewhere on my body and have unwanted beards in places I would rather not.

I can’t understand why the cream had no effect on the hair on my head but proved so successful elsewhere. What is so different with the hair on my head? Is it made of different material than my beard or other hair? Why is it the cream only affects the hair which is not on my head and even grows new hair where it is not wanted? Even the palms of my hands began to look hairy.

When I put my shirt on the sleeves became all puffed-up with the hair inside them. I looked like a stuffed Teddy bear. I could not bend my arms at the elbows and I walked around with arms outstretched knocking everything in sight. My wife is upset that I accidentally knocked and broke the vase her mother gave her for Christmas. Secretly I thought it was hideous and complemented well the trash can in which it was finally consigned. But my concerns centered on more hairy matters.

My cat became suspicious of the overgrown hairy me and started hissing and arching his back as if to pounce. To calm him down I patted his neck gently.

I must have had a trace of cream on my hand because now although he is ginger he has a long black beard growing from the back of his head. Whenever I come near him he runs away in distrust.

I hid the cream and told my family not to touch it. It is bad enough having my neighbor, old Mrs Grogs next door, with a moustache and beard without having my family looking like her.

All this new growth is costing me a fortunate at the barber’s. Now as well as having to trim the beard on my face he also has to trim the two beards in my armpits.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Father Ignatius visits the cellar



The basement under the church had been emptied of the junk which had accumulated over the years. Some young volunteers had painted the walls and ceiling of the three reclaimed rooms and corridor, and an electrician had connected the whole downstairs to the mains electricity.

The intention was to turn two rooms into meeting rooms and the third into a small kitchenette allowing people to make a cup of tea and prepare refreshments.

Father Ignatius ventured downstairs to check on progress.

Tom was alone busily tiling the floor. He had chosen pink and white tiles to match the colour of the rest of the room.



"Things are improving down here …” commented Father Ignatius as he stood by the doorway.

“They sure are …” replied Tom turning down the volume of his radio a little.

“Are these tiles already fixed?” asked the priest.

“Yes … some are already cemented in and they’re drying out nicely … these others over there I’ve yet to cement … why do you ask?”

“Well … pardon me for saying so Tom,” hesitated Father Ignatius, “those tiles over in that area by the wall are not very even … some are a few millimeters higher than the others … enough that you would notice them from here where I’m standing … and they seem to have been placed haphazardly, rather than full square side by side … eh … forgive me Tom, perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned it …”

“Oh don’t worry Father … no one will see them … I’ll be putting the kitchen cabinet here over them … so no one will know about my careless work …” chuckled Tom.

“Jesus will …” replied Father Ignatius quietly.

“Why … is He a works inspector now is He?” chuckled Tom again.

“Tom I’m very grateful to you for volunteering to do this work … this basement would not have been transformed so beautifully if it wasn’t for all you volunteers working together, clearing the old stuff that was here, painting the rooms and corridor and doing all this work … maybe I shouldn’t have said anything … please forgive me …”

“Oh don’t go away Father …” replied Tom as he got up from the floor to stretch his aching back, “if they’re that important to you I’ll fix those tiles again …”

“It’s not that Tom … I was just thinking … many people go through life enduring their job from day to day and treating it as a means to earn a living – and no more. I know you’re doing this for free … and I’m grateful to you and the other workers … but you know what I mean …

“And as time goes by, so does the pride people have in their work. They just do it as a job, and inevitably their standard of performance deteriorates.

“I feel that somehow this is an insult to God …”

“Hein?” mumbled Tom.

“Hear me out Tom … Whatever job we have to do in life, whether it is an influential position of power, a lawyer, doctor or a skilled worker using our hands to do something, like a factory worker for instance … surely our duty is to do the work properly … to the best of our ability. To give the task in hand all the attention and skill that we possess.

“As Jesus was growing up He worked with His father Joseph as a carpenter. Can you imagine Jesus making a table with a wobbly leg?”

Tom shook his head.

“Then why should we?” asked Father Ignatius, “Whatever task we have been given to do – let’s make sure it is not wobbly.”

Tom smiled silently.

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do” continued Father Ignatius, “I’ll leave now and I will not return until you have permanently fixed the kitchen cabinet over that area there.



Only you will know whether those tiles have been fixed properly or not … only you will know whether the hidden tiles under the cabinet are uneven and haphazardly laid down … or not!”

“Jesus too will know …” said Tom jokingly as the priest walked up the stairs out of the basement.

“That’s true … but I promise not to ask Him!” chortled Father Ignatius.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

The Gift



Father Ignatius was helping a few volunteers clearing out a storeroom deep in the basement of the church. It was dark and somewhat humid down there as well as dusty amongst the cobwebs that accumulated over the years.

The intention was to redecorate the basement, connect it to the mains electricity supply, and use the area reclaimed from years of neglect to more profitable use than just storage space for unwanted bits and pieces.

The helpers had brought with them extension cables and lit up the place a little. Slowly they took out old bits of furniture, wooden boxes full of books and other knick-knacks, church ornaments, statues and whatever else had been deposited there by previous generations.

Father Ignatius and an antique dealer friend started cataloguing the items as they were recovered from the bowels of the church in order to decide whether they were of any value and worth keeping, or whether they would be sold or got rid off.

“Rather musty in here,” commented one of the volunteers carrying a large vase.

“Creepy too … if you ask me,” complained another, “I wouldn’t be surprised if this place is haunted. Is there not an old crypt at the end of this corridor?”

“Boooo … hooo !!!!” moaned another helper eerily covering his head with an old blanket.

“Grow up George …” cried out Sonia.

“Are you having fun down there?” enquired Father Ignatius from the top of the stairs as he catalogued yet another candlestick.

“Hey Father … look what I’ve found down here,” replied Sonia coming up the stairs followed by the other helpers who needed a short break.

She carefully carried a large framed picture with the glass still intact. The wooden frame needed a little cleaning but otherwise it looked in reasonable condition. The helpers wiped the dirt from the frame and glass to reveal a brightly coloured painting of a dove flying high with rays of light or fire descending on a heart.

“Wow … this is beautiful,” said George.

“Isn’t it just …” said Sonia.

“It’s the Holy Spirit …” exclaimed Father Ignatius, “I wonder how long this has been down there.”

“Why is He depicted as a dove?” asked one of the volunteers, “and fire too … The Holy Spirit is a bit of an enigma I think.”

“I understand what you mean …” reflected Father Ignatius, “the Holy Spirit can seem an enigma to some …

“He appeared as a dove at Christ’s baptism, and as tongues of fire at Pentecost when He descended on the apostles.

“I suppose many people still misunderstand who the Holy Spirit is.

“We are taught about God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit …. He doesn’t seem to have a title or a description.

“It was St Hilary of Poitiers, a Bishop in the 3rd Century AD, who first described the Holy Spirit as ‘the gift’.

“He is the gift given to us by God after Jesus ascended into Heaven. He is the very Spirit of God Himself. His very soul come back to us on earth to dwell within us and to help us in our Christian life.

“That’s why He is sometimes referred to as the Helper, the Counselor, God’s own Being living within us.”

“God living within us …” repeated George.

“Yes …” said Father Ignatius, “can you imagine that? God. Living within us. Guiding us. Helping us. Teaching us. Advising us when to speak and when to remain silent. What to say and what to do.

“Isn’t that wonderful? Or is it too difficult to imagine or believe?

“Isn’t it a tragedy that these days many people are too willing to believe that the devil can possess an individual unwillingly and reap havoc in their lives; which of course is true.

“Yet … they find it difficult to understand that the Holy Spirit of God is willing to abide within us and lead us to an eternal better life in Heaven. And He only does so when we ask Him, when we invite Him in our hearts …

“All we have to do is believe … and ask Him.”

They reflected silently for a few seconds when eventually Sonia said “I think we should hang this picture prominently in church.”

“I agree …” replied Father Ignatius, “and it will give me an opportunity to talk about the Holy Spirit in my sermon this Sunday.”

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Father Ignatius faces failure



Father Ignatius was sitting at his desk reading his morning mail when there was a knock at the door.

“Do come in,” he said in his jovial welcoming voice.

The door opened and a young man came in.

“Hello Timothy … I haven’t seen you for a while. Are you well?” asked the priest.

Timothy sat on the armchair by the window. He held his head in his hands and looked down without talking. The priest noticed that he was shaking a little … could he be crying?

“What’s wrong Timothy?” said Father Ignatius as he stood from his desk.

The young man looked up; his eyes were bright red from holding back the tears and trying to compose himself as best he could. Father Ignatius said nothing for a while and waited for Timothy to speak when ready.

“I’ve failed my driving test …” he finally blurted out, “my father will kill me … he paid a fortune for driving lessons!”

“I’ve known your father for a long time,” replied the priest calmly, “and I know for a fact he is not a killer!”

Timothy looked up and smiled a little.

“I take it you haven’t told him yet.”

“No … I ran straight here from the Test Center. I don’t know why … you can hardly do anything about it can you?”

Father Ignatius smiled at the apparent lack of confidence the youngster had in him. He turned to the cupboard behind his desk and came back holding a small camera.

“Do you mind if I take a photo of you?” he asked Timothy.

Timothy looked surprised and before he could say anything he heard the clicking sound from the camera.

“What … what did you do this for?” asked the confused youngster.

Father Ignatius put the camera on his desk and sat in a chair opposite Timothy.

“I just wanted to record this very moment in time ... for posterity do you understand ..." then after a moment's silence he continued, "Let me tell you something …

“Failure is sometimes necessary if we happen to learn from it.

“It is only a picture in time when you happen to click your camera and record it for posterity. Just as I’ve done right now … recorded your moment of failure.

“But if we were to move our camera pictures forward and see other pictures, the chances are that the individual we’ve photographed has learnt from his failure and gone on to greater success.

“When Christ hung dying on the Cross His followers saw failure.

“Here is a man whom many followed and listened to. As many as five thousand at one stage when He fed them loaves and fishes. They witnessed His many miracles and expected great things from Him. A new Ruler, a new King, someone to bring them freedom from their Roman oppressors. Yet here He is, beaten, tortured, humiliated and dying on a Cross amongst thieves.

“Failure indeed.

“Yet, a few more photos further on and we see the Resurrection, the Ascension into Heaven, the sending of the Holy Spirit, a new church born and growing from strength to strength several centuries later. We are redeemed from our sins.

“Everlasting success.”

The priest paused briefly.

“So it really depends on which picture we focus on. The one I’ve just taken of you, or the one in a few months’ time when you’re driving your car all by yourself?”

Timothy smiled.

“I’m sure your father will understand when you tell him your test result. He too was a learner driver once and he wants the best for you.”

“I’m sorry … I just panicked … I’d better get home now,” said Timothy.

“Remember Timothy” added the priest, “Failure is only what is recorded at a particular moment in time … and no more than that.

“Bear this in mind the next time a camera clicks to record your personal failures; and take courage in the knowledge that, with God’s help, you can turn your negative moments into positives for others to emulate.”

Timothy got up to leave.

“And don’t worry … there’s no film in this camera!!!” smiled Father Ignatius.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Missing you



Then He led them out of the city as far as Bethany, where He raised His hands and blessed them. As He was blessing them, He departed from them and was taken up into Heaven. Luke 24:50.

After saying this, He was taken up to Heaven as they watched Him, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They still had their eyes fixed on the sky as He went away, when two men dressed in white suddenly stood beside them and said, “Galileans, why are you standing there looking up at the sky? This Jesus, who was taken from you into Heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw Him go to Heaven.” Acts 1:9.

A few days after the Resurrection Jesus was raised to Heaven in full sight of His disciples.

Can you imagine how they must have felt?

They’d been with Him for three years or so. Saw Him preach and heal the sick. Witnessed His arrest, death and Resurrection. And now … He was gone.

They must have missed Him very badly as they walked back to their homes. Confusion, fear and doubts must have crossed their minds several times.

He is gone … and He is missed.

Missing somebody is a sign that their presence had an influence on your life, your well-being and your happiness.

Their absence now has created a void in your life. An emptiness, and a longing to be with them once again.

We’ve all missed someone at one time or another in our lives. It is usually someone who has been kind to us.

Are we ever missed when we are no longer there? Have we done something nice to someone who will remember us and miss our presence in their lives?