Wednesday, 28 January 2015

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, 26 January 2015

Celibacy of Priests

To Love A Priest 
Victor S E Moubarak
ISBN-10: 1505908558 
ISBN-13: 978-1505908558
Forgive me dear readers for returning to the subject matter of my latest book "To Love A Priest". As the title suggests, it deals with the question of celibacy of Catholic priests.

It has long been a ruling in the Catholic Church that priests should not marry and must remain chaste throughout their lives. This is a vow men make before they are ordained to the priesthood.

In the small town where I live I have known three Catholic priests, good priests at that, who had to leave the Church to get married and have a family. I also know another priest elsewhere who did the same. I am sure you've known of priests or nuns leaving the vocation for new life outside the Church.

I've often wondered how serious a sin, if sin it be, was committed by these individuals. They decided at some stage in their lives that they could no longer follow their vocation and keep to their vows. Is this sin, I repeat, if sin it be, unforgiveable and they are doomed for eternity? Is it a sin that can be "confessed" and forgiven albeit they remain married outside the Church?

How different is the breaking of a vow of celibacy to divorce and breaking the vow of marriage? Are the many divorced Catholics doomed for eternity, whether they re-marry outside the Church or not?

In the small town in which I live I know of one married Catholic priest with a grown-up family. He is a good priest. He was an Anglican priest but left that Church to join the Catholic Church.

How does the Church and our Bishop view him compared to a celibate priest? More important, how does God view both priests? Does He love them both for doing a good job in His service?

Jesus never asked His followers to be celibate. He chose Peter, who was married, as His first priest in His Church.

Is the Catholic Church missing out on good men by insisting they remain celibate?

My book, whether you read it or not, covers all these points in, I hope, a delicate and compassionate manner. It is a "good read" - or so I am told.

I would, however, welcome your views on this subject in the comments box below.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Purgatory - The Purification Center

Many Catholics and non-Catholics have wondered about Purgatory. Does it exist? There's no mention of it in the Bible. Is it just a Catholic invention to make money by asking people to pay for prayers and Masses to be celebrated for the repose of dead family and friends?

How long do souls stay in Purgatory? Is it a day for every venial sin? A week? A month? Longer?

How many days off do they gain when we pray for these souls or celebrate Mass for them?

What does Purgatory look like? Does it have a fire like hell? Is it hot or cold there? Or is it perhaps just warm so you feel uncomfortable but you don’t burn?

Does it have devils looking after all the inmates; like in hell, or are they a little kinder perhaps?

Are we in pain when in Purgatory? Like the fire in hell?

The notion that Purgatory is some sort of Purification Center or Car Wash where all souls with venial sins go to be made clean before entering Heaven has long vexed many wise minds.

The Catholic Church bases its teaching from Scripture. In Revelation Chapter 21 Verse 27 it says ‘Nothing unclean shall enter Heaven.’ So, strictly speaking, if we die with venial sins on our conscience we’re not spiritually cleaned; and that’s why we go to Purgatory.

The belief in the existence of Purgatory goes back to the early Christians; and other Christian denominations also believe in such a place where souls go before they are ready to enter Heaven.

Given that very few of us will die with no sins whatsoever on our conscience, the Church teaches that there must exist a place, or a state of being, or a state of purification, where we are cleansed of our sins and we can enter Heaven. This place, or state of being, is known as Purgatory.

Jesus did describe Heaven at one time as a mansion with many rooms. So it follows, perhaps, that in our imagination we visualize Purgatory as a physical place too.

The pertinent point, however, is that the Church teaches that there is a stage where souls destined for Heaven undergo a period of purification. 

St. Therese of Lisieux, who is a doctor of the church, has her own view of Purgatory.  She maintains that one does not need to go to Purgatory.  While still only a novice, she spoke to Sister Maria Philomena, who believed in the near impossibility of going to Heaven without passing through purgatory.

Therese’s response was, “You do not have enough trust.  You have too much fear before the good God.  I can assure you that He is grieved over this.  You should not fear Purgatory because of the suffering there, but should instead ask God to take you straight to Heaven.  As soon as you try to please Him in everything and have an unshakable trust He purifies you every moment in His love and He lets no sin remain.  It is then you can be sure that you will not have to go to Purgatory.”

She maintained that we offend God if we do not trust Him enough to take us to Heaven as soon as we die.  When she found out that her novices talked occasionally that they would probably have to expect to be in Purgatory, she corrected them saying, "Oh!  How you grieve me!  You do a great injury to God in believing you're going to Purgatory.  When we love, we can't go there."

Now, this is a new doctrine, but only for those who don't know God, who are not childlike, who don't trust.  

It is so correct to see things this way.  It is true that God will judge us at one point, but He is always and first our Father Who suffers when He has to punish His child and sees him suffering.  The child should do His will just out of love, and not to avoid punishment.  This really means that God does not want Purgatory!  He allows His children to suffer, but only as if He had to look away. 

Once Sister Therese had a confrontation regarding this topic with Sister Marie Febronia, who was sub-prioress.  She heard that Sister Therese encouraged her novices to believe that they could go straight to Heaven.  She did not like this as she considered this kind of confidence presumptuous, and thus she reproached Sister Therese and told her that what she taught her novices was wrong.  Sister Therese tried lovingly and calmly to explain to Sister Febronia her point of view but with no success as she clung to her belief.  For Sister Therese God was more Father than Judge, and she concluded by saying, "My sister, if you look for the justice of God you will get it. The soul will receive from God exactly what she desires." 

Soon after this Sister Febronia died.  Three months after her death Sister Therese had a dream which she related to her Mother Prioress, "Sister Febronia came to me last night and asked that we should pray for her.  She is in Purgatory, surely because she had trusted too little in the mercy of the good Lord.  She told her, ‘You were right.  I am now delivered up to the full justice of God but it is my fault.  If I had listened to you I would not be here now.’" 

What is Purgatory?  It is where the souls of the just are purified before they can enter Heaven and live with God. Their suffering is so intense as they wait and long to live with God but are unable because they have to endure this process of purification.  Therese’s advice to each one of us is, “Live your life as best you can and say to God our Father, “Please do not send me to Purgatory.  The moment I die may I come straight to You in Heaven.”  

May I add?  Have a great devotion to Dismas, the Repentant Thief.  He by-passed Purgatory with one request, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

Jesus didn’t turn to him and say, “What!  You have been a rogue and robber for many years.  You have the audacity to say, ‘Remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.’  Let Me tell you this.  If you want to come into My kingdom it is a lifetime’s task.”  Instead Jesus said to him. “I promise you this very day you will be with Me in paradise!”  Here we see how one appeal for love was enough to blot out a life time of sin!

NOTE: I am grateful to Father Francis Maple for the information this post contains. Father Francis publishes a daily homily - Please click HERE.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

O Fortuna

"O Fortuna" part of the collection known as the Carmina Burana.
(Lyrics from Wikipedia).
O Fortuna
velut luna
statu variabilis,
semper crescis
aut decrescis;
vita detestabilis
nunc obdurat
et tunc curat
ludo mentis aciem,
dissolvit ut glaciem.

Sors immanis
et inanis,
rota tu volubilis,
status malus,
vana salus
semper dissolubilis,
et velata
michi quoque niteris;
nunc per ludum
dorsum nudum
fero tui sceleris.

Sors salutis
et virtutis
michi nunc contraria,
est affectus
et defectus
semper in angaria
Hac in hora
sine mora
corde pulsum tangite;
quod per sortem
sternit fortem,
mecum omnes plangite!

O Fortune,
just like the moon
thou art variable,
always dost thou
wax and wane.
Detestable life,
first dost thou mistreat us,
and then, whimsically,
thou heedest our desires.
As the sun melts the ice,
so dost thou dissolve
both poverty and power.

and empty fate,
thou, turning wheel,
art mean,
good health at thy will.
in obscurity,
thou dost attack
me also.
To thy cruel pleasure
I bare my back.

Thou dost withdraw
my health and virtue;
thou dost threaten
my emotion
and weakness
with torture.
At this hour,
therefore, let us
pluck the strings without
Let us mourn together,
for fate crushes the brave.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015


I have two friends ... What I mean to say is that I want to mention two friends. Of course I have more than two friends in real life; but at this point in time I want to mention just those two friends. Real friends; not friends like you get on social networks websites.

Come to think of it, it's amazing how the Internet has changed the meaning of certain words. Like friends for instance.

These days you can go on a website and pretty soon you have gathered a multitude of friends. Dozens of peoples, hundreds even, whom you have never met before, nor are likely to meet, nor would you wish to meet if you knew them in real life, are suddenly your friends through a click of a mouse.

Mouse ...that's another word that has a totally new meaning because of the Internet and computers. That little device you hold in your hand and squeeze is no more furry and mouse-like than a real mouse is. Which reminds me. At a party once, after a few drinks, I asked the hostess if lemons had feathers. She said "Of course not!"

"Oh dear ..." I replied, "in that case I've squeezed your canary in my drink!"

Now where was I? Oh yes ... friends. A friend of mine, a real one that is, has more friends on his social network website than real people I've met in my entire life. Hundreds of them, he has.

I mean, how does he know they're all real? They could be anybody, and not who they say they are. They could have made up their names and photos. Some even have pictures of animals as their identity. How do I know whether Margaret Fontainepiece is not really a giraffe? I may well have befriended a giraffe all this time and I didn't even know it.

Followers ... that's another term misused on the Internet. Instead of friends, some people have hundreds of followers. I'd hate to have that many followers in real life, especially since half the time I don't even know where I'm going. Let's face it, would you want hundreds of followers squeezing in with you in the toilet next time you're at the supermarket?

Some websites use the word "like" to denote some sort of affirmation of what you have written. I must admit that at first I misread it for the word "licks" and my mind boggled at someone having that many licks by people he or she had never met.

Now then ... where was I before you led me astray with your lack of interruptions. Oh yes, I remember ... I have these particular two friends in real life.

One of them is so short that his passport photo is life size. The other one is so tall that he has to stand on a chair in the morning to shave himself.

Monday, 12 January 2015


To Love A Priest 
Victor S E Moubarak
ISBN-10: 1505908558 
ISBN-13: 978-1505908558

When Father Ignatius’ past catches up with him there is no way to escape the consequences for him and those around him. He must face facts regardless of how seriously they could affect his vocation as a priest.

“To Love A Priest" is the most controversial book in the Father Ignatius series and deals with questions on many peoples’ mind, especially Catholics, which are as yet unresolved by the Church.

A heartbreaking story of great sacrifice, grief and regrets with far-reaching consequences for all involved. The author portrays realistic characters in convincing situations and challenges the reader to decide what they would have done in such circumstances.

This is a gripping account of conflict between conscience and dogma, treating a delicate subject with compassion and forgiveness.

My latest book "To Love A Priest" has now been published and is available HERE.

I hope you enjoy reading it and sharing your views on this difficult subject. Thank you.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

God's Timescale

Nothing teaches us patience like waiting.

Remember when you were young and lacked patience? In those days a week was like a year. Especially if you’d been promised something by your parents and you had to wait and wait …

I suspect the same applies to us when we relate to God. We pray for something and wait … but God does not work to our timescales. He has His own plans and maybe what we’re asking for is not good for us … just yet.

Which reminds me of another story which I remember very distinctly from my youth.

The reading in church was from 2 Peter 3:8 where he says: “There is no difference in the Lord’s sight between one day and a thousand years; to Him the two are the same”.

I remember thinking as a child: it must be difficult to have an appointment with God. Imagine God saying to Moses to go to Mount Sinai “tomorrow”; and Moses asking “Is that in 24 hours or in a thousand years time? Because I’d be dead by then!”

I hope God forgave the impertinent mind of young child.

Thursday, 8 January 2015



Monday, 5 January 2015

Chaos Theory Explained

According to Chaos Theory the butterfly effect is an assumption that if a butterfly somewhere far away flutters its wings then the air turbulence it creates, no matter how small, will move a little more air, and that little air will in turn move more air, and more and more that eventually, several weeks later, a hurricane will develop somewhere else far away.

Can you imagine that? A flap of a butterfly’s wings creates a hurricane weeks later?
Actually, I have seen Chaos Theory happen in reality as I’ll explain right now.

This happened several years ago in Scotland on a New Year’s Eve. I had been invited by a friend to his large house to celebrate Hogmanay with his family and friends. There we were, about fifty people or so, all gathered in his back garden waiting for the midnight hour to start our outdoor celebrations.

Most of the guests were in traditional costumes and I, to oblige and be polite, agreed to wear a kilt provided me by my host.

It's really a little strange wearing a kilt. I often wondered how it feels like wearing a skirt or dress; never having done so myself. Women can wear such clothes so elegantly - but men?

As I'd never worn a kilt either I'll admit I felt a little ill at ease with this swinging piece of cloth around me and "open-air" underneath. It was somewhat cold that New Year's eve in Scotland and also a bit draughty and chilly in Southern regions if you know what I mean.

As I was the guest of honour, or so my host had said, I was aked to stand high on a make-shift stage and at the appropriate hour of midnight to give the countdown so that the celebrations might begin.

The guests were in an area in front of the stage chatting politely to each other, and I was on the makeshift rostrum next to the band consisting of about a dozen pipers and drummers all in costume ready to greet the Noo Year! I was so self conscious and worried that a sudden gust of wind might blow the kilt embarrassingly up.

Suddenly, a lone moth, or similar such like insect, flew up my kilt. The darkness beneath me must have confused the poor insect which fluttered aimlessly tickling all it could. Immediately, and as a reflex action to what lay beneath, I started hopping from foot to foot as the confused moth tried in vain to find its way round in total kilt-induced obscurity.

The band leader thought I was doing a modern hitherto unknown highland jig and, thinking this was my signal, he got the band of bagpipes and drums to start playing.

At this point, someone else lit the bonfire in the garden which immediately rose to ten feet flames lighting the whole place.

This prompted another person to start the fireworks display which lit the sky in numerous colors and resounding bangs all over the neighborhood.

The guests cheered and applauded my dance and then all held hands and started singing Auld Lang Syne at the top of their voices around the fire.

All this commotion brought out my friends' neighbours from next door into their back garden. There were about twenty of them; family and guests.

“What are you playing at Henderson?” shouted MacTavish the neighbour. “It isn’t midnight yet. We’re at least seven minutes away man …”

“Of course we’re not!” my friend Henderson shouted back, “our guest of honor gave the signal; so we must be right on time. Your clocks must be slow!”

“And it's typical of ye to ruin Hogmanae pal. For a start ye’ve no reason for ye and y'er guests to dress up in our national costume and have bagpipes and drums playin' … ye’re not even Scottish! None of ye!” retorted MacTavish getting a little angry.

“Of course I am Scottish," Henderson shouted back as the music stopped, "my great great grand mother from Sidney was originally from Dundee, I’ll have you know!”

"I bet she was exported or deported to Australia for reasons best known to herself. Ye’re no more a Scot than a kangaroo is. Ye’re even having a barbecue on Hogmanay… now you can’t get more Australian than that. A barbecue on New Year’s Eve!” MacTavish came back with obvious laughter from his guests on his side of the garden fence who cheered with delight.

“I’m Scottish enough to give you a Glasgow kiss old man …” shouted Henderson approaching the dividing wall between the two gardens.

“Leave ma husband alone” interrupted Mrs MacTavish, moving forward to defend her husband, “och aye ... ye’re Australian all right; and like all Australians you want to celebrate the New Year before every one else.”

At this, for some unknown reason, perhaps to engender some international peace and harmony, the band-leader decided to get the pipers and drummers to play Waltzing Matilda and all of Henderson’s guests started dancing round the bonfire and singing the Australian National Anthem.

“There ye have it …Waltzing Matilda …” shouted MacTavish drowned by his two Scottish terriers barking at Henderson’s shepherd dog, “ye’re Australians … the lot of you!”

“And you’ve made us miss the New Year countdown …” added Mrs MacTavish, “it’s ten minutes past midnight at least; and we haven’t done first-footing.”

At this point, whilst Henderson's guests were still singing Waltzing Matilda, his neighbours from the other side of his house came out into their own back garden accompanied by their friends.

Believe it or not, they were Greeks.

“Happy New Year to you all,” shouted Stavros obviously the worst for wear with drink, “does anyone want a cup of Ouzo?”

Some of Henderson’s guests stopped dancing and went towards Stavros.

“We also have stuffed vine leaves plenty … and youvarlakia with avgolemono and baklava too. Plenty … plenty! Is very good." continued Stavros as his wife Marika brought out a large dish laden with food.

Moments later, two police cars arrived, no doubt called by some other neighbours, and four policemen entered Henderson’s back garden.

“We’ve had reports of a disturbance” said one of the cops.

“Of course it’s a disturbance … it’s the New Year. What do you expect? Get a drink down your neck officer,” replied Henderson offering the police sergeant a bottle of whisky.

“I think you should keep the noise down, Sir!” said the policeman turning down the drink.

“Sarge … you can’t get them to celebrate quietly. Not tonight surely?” asked the second officer. "Is it OK if I have a drink with them?"

“Take a baklava with you also!” shouted Stavros from his side of the fence as the police left, “or a Greek kalamata olive. It is the best!”

The shouting, singing and music continued through the night as the MacTavish’s and the Stavros’s joined the Henderson’s in their back garden and celebrated the New Year international style with Greek food and haggis and black buns.

I never got to find out where that moth ended! Must have flown away by a sudden gust of Southerly wind.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Charade in church

At the back of our church we usually have one or two ushers. Their job is to welcome people coming in to church, hand out the missals and hymn books, take the collection, (and often a second collection), and generally help throughout.

At the end of Mass, just before the blessing and dismissal, our priest usually reads one or two announcements he has to make: change of Mass times during the week, beginning of First Communion classes and so on.

He then looks round the church and asks: have I forgotten anything else?

The other day, the usher at the back of the church, an elderly gentleman in his 70s, raised his hand. The priest looked at him in silence expecting a prompt. The old man raised his leg and started patting his knee. The priest waited in total confusion. The old man then started pacing up and down like a Scot playing the bagpipes. The priest eventually gave up and said: I didn't realise we were playing charades! And gave the final blessing.

As people left the church I heard the priest ask the usher what was all that about.

The usher replied; Pat MacDonald is in hospital. We should pray for him. I patted my knee and walked like a Scot for Mac ...

At which the priest interrupted: How would you have mimed Donald? Impersonate Donald Duck?

Saturday, 3 January 2015

I cannot tell

I heard this hymn for the first time on TV the other day.

Does anyone know it, or heard of it before?
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