VICTOR S E MOUBARAK

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

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

Friday, 20 December 2013

Chocolate Christmas


In our town there’s a specialist chocolatier. The shop window is always full of the most exquisite and delicious looking chocolates of all sorts and sizes. If Heaven were made of chocolate then this shop would surely be it.

The chocolates are hand-made by the shop owner and his wife and three employees on the premises behind the shop. I remember once visiting their little workshop with a friend of mine, the shop-owner’s niece, and it was a marvelous experience seeing them make all these chocolates with so much care and passion.

Every so often they make different seasonal chocolates like rabbits and chocolate eggs at Easter, special selections on Mothers’ Day, or Christmas specialties.

One Christmas Eve we were in town late, just before going to Midnight Mass, and I decided to visit the shop to get something nice. I left the rest of the family to do some window-shopping and went there alone as a special surprise.

I’d intended to buy a chocolate Father Christmas just as they had in the picture in the shop window. Sadly all Fathers Christmas had been sold. Reindeers too! As well as Christmas tress or any Christmas decorations made of chocolate. In fact it is fair to say that the shop had sold out of any chocolate model relating to Christmas.

The shop assistant looked at me forlornly and suggested a selection from their wild animals’ series would make a good present. “They’ll look good in the Nativity scene beside the Christmas tree …” she said hopefully.

“Hardly …” I said somewhat dejected, “no one would believe that the three Wise Men came from the East on a turtle! It would have taken them ages to arrive. Or that shepherds watched their giraffes at night when the Angel appeared with Good News!”

“They are beautiful though …” she continued encouragingly.

“Yes … they are. But it’s not the same … a chocolate crocodile near the crib would frighten all the sheep away …”

I hesitated for a while. The animal models looked good enough to eat … in fact any chocolate is good enough to eat as far as I’m concerned, regardless of its shape. But this was not for me. This was a present and ideally I would have wanted a Father Christmas, or an Angel … a Christmas tree … it’s the festive shape of the chocolate that matters on this particular occasion. And a rhinoceros or a kangaroo is just not the right shape; even though it might taste just as good when you eat it.

After a lot of soul searching I decided to buy the giraffe. It was big and with such a long neck it meant there was even more chocolate for everyone to share.

“Could you gift wrap it please?” I asked.

As the shop assistant was wrapping my purchase I heard a little girl beside me say: “I want the giraffe … just like in the picture over there!”

“I’m sorry … the last giraffe has just been sold” replied the shop assistant to the girl’s mother.

I looked at their sad faces and knew how they felt.

Now … the right thing to do in such cases is to take my purchase and get out of the shop quickly before my conscience has had a chance to wake up.

But I’m stupid that way and somewhat slow … in my slowness I asked the assistant to sell the giraffe to the girl’s mother instead.

“We have some left-overs from our Halloween series” said the assistant to me after the other customers had gone, “I can let you have two for the price of one!”

That Christmas our Nativity scene was visited by Frankenstein’s monster and a zombie. And the sheep were not frightened at all.

Tasted good too!

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.”

Monday, 9 December 2013

Mary's Legacy


When Mary was visited by the Angel Gabriel all those years ago, times were very different.

It would have been a great scandal for an un-married woman to become pregnant. It was even more outrageous to claim He is the Son of God. That would have been blasphemy surely!

Yet despite her fears of shame, rejection and ridicule, not to mention fear for her own safety, Mary trusted God and said "Yes".

She agreed to be the Mother of Jesus.

So, what is her legacy to us?

Obedience and trust.

Obedience and trust in God despite what must have been a very dangerous situation for her, and her family.

Are we that obedient and trusting when God speaks to us?

FATHER FRANCIS MAPLE

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