Thursday, 29 June 2017

Look at me - I'm famous now!

Someone once said, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." It was either Andy Warhol or me. I can't remember who.

Anyway, it seems to me that these days everyone wants to be an instant celebrity; even though they have no talent whatsoever, no actual knowledge or experience of anything useful to mankind, and nothing in particular to boast about apart from sharing an IQ score of 1 with a dead rat.

If someone has a great singing voice, or can play a musical instrument very well, or can act superbly, or is great at sports etc ... Then that individual is a star. He or she is an individual recognised for his or her talent. There's nothing wrong with that. Equally, if someone is a renowned scientist, doctor, engineer or whatever else profession; then again they deserve their place in peoples' admiration and respect.

However, the no-talent fame of which I speak are those individuals, hitherto unknown to society, and even to themselves, who somehow appear on some reality show, or do something inane to gain them their "15 minutes" in the limelight, who suddenly become celebrities and they are regaled and applauded by one and all.

Suddenly, these previously unknown individuals are all over my TV screen, my radio, and it seems, every newspaper, magazine and online media that exists. They appear on talk-shows as special guests, they are reported on in the news media and suddenly they gain importance far beyond what they deserve.

What is more of concern, is that they become opinion formers, and role models to those sections of society who cannot think for themselves. They appear on political programs and pronounce their views which, I guess, are applauded more because of who said them rather than for the soundness of what has been said.

I suspect some of you reading this think that I am envious and jealous of these talentless celebrities. Well, let me tell you, my friends, of course I am. Where is Andy Warhol when you need him? Why can't I have my 15 minutes or more of fame and adulation? As it is, even my dog ignores me. When I point to his bed and say, "Chalky, go to bed!" he looks at my finger as if to say, "Who's Fred?"

When I walk the streets no one recognises me or asks for my autograph. The other day someone stopped me in the supermarket and said, "Hello. Long time no see! I thought you were dead! Was it you or your cousin who died last year?"

I replied, "It must have been me, because I spoke to my cousin only this morning!"

He said, "Tell him I said 'Hi!' and walked off to pay for his shopping.

And then, to add insult to injury, I was talking to a chap at church only this morning and he said that he'd seen my website and did not realise that I wrote books. I said that I did, and as I had a copy of "VISIONS" in the car, I got it out and gave it to him. Then I jokingly added, "Do you want me to autograph it?"

He replied, "No, I don't want you to damage it. I'll give it to someone I know for his birthday!"

What a humiliation. Not only will he not read my book; but he'll give it away and pretend he bought someone a birthday present.

What more can I do to be famous?

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Je ne comprends pas!

The other day I attended a business conference in another town. The meeting was open to people from various organisations from many different countries, so there were plenty of people I had never met before.

I was standing in this large area with my briefcase at my feet enjoying a cup of coffee when this very attractive brunette lady wearing a very low cut black décolleté dress a few sizes too short approached me and started talking in Greek.

I couldn't understand a word she said. It was all Greek to me, as they say. I knew she spoke in Greek because a distant aunt of mine (she lives 300 miles away) is Greek and I could make out the language even though I could not understand what this young lady was saying.

I regretted not having my dictionary with me at the time. Not that it would have helped. It's an Italian dictionary. I like to carry it with me to impress the waiters in restaurants when I order a meal. I once ordered a whole meal in Italian and the waiter did not understand a word. It was a Chinese restaurant. But I digress.

Anyway, this young lady was enthusiastic about something or other and she talked fast in her native Greek and smiled a lot.

My mind went back to the many times I visited my aunt and I tried to remember some of the Greek words I had heard in her household. Words like youvarlakia, avgolemono, dolmades and baklava.

But I could hardly spout them out incoherently just because they were in Greek. Besides, they mean meat balls, chicken and lemon soup, stuffed vine leaves and a pastry sweet with syrup. Can you imagine a woman speaking to me in Greek and I reply "meatballs!" She'd think I was insulting her and not believing a word she is saying.

Try as I might to look blankly at her and saying politely, "Yo no hablo español !!!" she still continued smiling and speaking in Greek without as much as taking a breath.

I then remembered the famous Voltaire quote and said, "I may not understand a word you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to confuse me!"

She stopped for a while, perhaps wondering why I replied in English, then continued speaking to me in Greek as if nothing had happened.

It was then I remembered another phrase which my dear aunt used to say, time and again, to her daughter. I repeated it silently in my head once or twice to get the intonation and the pronunciation right and then, taking a deep breath, I said, "I foústa sas eínai polý mikrí ..."

The woman stopped abruptly and then slapped me in the face. She then turned round and walked away and vanished in the crowd of people in the conference room.

I just about managed to hold on to my cup of coffee and save it from crashing to the floor. I tried to compose myself and look as if nothing had happened, hoping that no one noticed me.

It was then that a man approached me and asked me, "Why did you tell her 'Your skirt is too short?' "  


Monday, 26 June 2017

Jeremy - R.I.P.

Solemn occasions are meant to be just that … solemn.

Well, at least that is the intention, although at times events conspire to turn things differently.

As happened at Neighbor Jeremy’s funeral.

Jeremy was generally a good neighbor. I liked him well. Always polite, wishing me “Good morning” when we met on our way to work, or “Good evening” should we happen to see each other on our way home.

He kept himself to himself and never parked in front of my driveway blocking me from going in or out whenever I wished; unlike some other neighbors of mine! But the least said about them the better. After all, we’re meant to love all our neighbors; are we not?

Every so often Jeremy would borrow some of my garden tools, or other bits and pieces he required, but he always returned them cleaned and in pristine condition.

Anyway, like all funerals, Jeremy’s was certainly a solemn occasion.

Relatives and friends and neighbors gathered in church and then followed him to the graveside. There were tears aplenty as we all remembered him and in our own way knew that we would miss him.

Although I’m no relative of Jeremy, at the graveside I was one of those who stood near the gaping hole as he was lowered down; purely because I had taken with me in my car one of his relatives who had no transport of her own. This elderly lady stood next to me on my left; and on my right was another neighbor, a young lady, who also had no transport and had come with me.

I noticed whilst the priest was saying his final prayers that the young lady on my right was somewhat tearful and had nothing to wipe her eyes with. Being the gentleman whom I am, I put my hand in my right side pocket and pulled out, fortunately for me, a brand new handkerchief which I handed to her.

As I did so … dash it all … my car key had got into one of the folds of the handkerchief and fell to the ground, on the grass, without making a sound, and then … dash it all once again … it rolled into the open grave just as the coffin was being lowered.

No one noticed except the young lady on my right. She took my handkerchief and asked: “What was that?”

“My car key …” I mumbled quietly.

She burst out laughing and then stifled her laughter with the handkerchief, pretending to be emotionally distraught and unable to control herself. Her outer appearance to one and all was one of utter despair and total grief; yet I knew from the shaking of her shoulders, and her breasts bobbing up and down, that she had great difficulty controlling the hilarity engendered by my predicament.

One or two mourners raised their eyebrows and wondered why this young lady was portraying more grief at his demise than Jeremy’s own wife standing nearby. But let’s not feed suspicious minds when my own is doing backward somersaults trying to figure out what to do next.

Almost instinctively, I placed my arm round the young lady’s shoulders and ushered her away from the graveside. As I did so, I accidentally bumped into the frail old lady on my left and almost knocked her into the grave with Jeremy. Luckily, she fell backwards away from the hole and was caught by some mourners before she slid down with Jeremy.

The young lady and I walked away from the crowd and stood a distance away by some trees. She continued laughing out of control but mercifully not loud enough to raise any suspicions.

What could I do in this situation? I could hardly let Jeremy borrow my car when I knew sure well that he had no intention of returning it?

If I did nothing, how could I possibly get home, and what would I say to the frail old lady expecting a lift back in my car?

I noticed the grave-diggers sitting some distance away ready to complete their work once everyone had gone.

I left the young lady still laughing away by the trees and walked towards the grave-diggers to explain the situation.

When all the solemnities were over and done, I arranged for someone else to give the two ladies a lift home; and explained that I had some urgent business to deal with at work.

The grave-diggers brought Jeremy back up and retrieved my key; and for once, Jeremy did not get to borrow anything of mine!


One should always have dignity in death.

I attended a clown’s funeral once and he was lying there peacefully in his open coffin with a red nose and a big smile painted on his face. They couldn’t put the lid on because of his big feet! 

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Mother's Love

 It had been a long day and Father Ignatius had traveled to the city and driven back all on the same day; something which he hated to do, especially when he had to navigate his way through heavy city traffic.

He was a little tired so he settled down in his armchair next to the fireplace and put on his favorite classical record.

A few minutes later Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, came in and interrupted the orchestra in mid-flow. She was carrying a large tray with tea and biscuits.

“I’ve made you a lovely pot of tea Father,” she said, “and you favorite ginger biscuits.”

“Ginger biscuits?” he replied turning the volume down on the record player, “but it’s not Friday …”

“I know Father … but I thought you deserved a treat today. What with your long journey and what’s been happening at the Convent?”

The priest raised his eyebrows, “I don’t understand …” he said.

“Oh … no one has told you … have they?” she continued as she poured two cups of tea and sat down, “Sister Martha rang me earlier on and gave me the news …

“Well earlier this afternoon … at about four o’clock it was … I’m sure that’s what she said … anyway, earlier this afternoon they found a baby on the doorstep of the Convent.”

“A baby …” said Father Ignatius helping himself to another biscuit.

“Yes … a wee little mite … about a week old they say … a little boy. Mother Superior found him just by the statue of St Joseph and the Baby Jesus … you know the one … the statue outdoors by the main entrance to the Convent …”

“Yes … yes … I know …” said Father Ignatius, “what happened then?”

“Well the wee baby was crying so Mother Superior took him in … he needed changing … and probably hungry too I shouldn’t wonder … Sister Martha called the police and they took him away to the hospital to check he’s all right …”

“Dear Lord …” mumbled Father Ignatius as he said a quick silent prayer under his breath.

“What kind of person would do such a thing?” said Mrs Davenport angrily as she poured two more cups of tea, “to abandon one’s own flesh and blood like that …”

“A desperate person …” replied the priest gently, “we can only wonder what led her to such an extreme act …”

“But she’s his mother …” interrupted Mrs Davenport, “how could she … she's supposed to love him ...”

“Giving birth in itself does not make a person a loving mother,” replied Father Ignatius, “normally there is a strong unbreakable bond between the mother and child from the moment the baby is born; if not well before.

“That bond of love I believe has been created by God for our own protection from the moment we enter this world. God knows we are born totally defenseless and vulnerable so He created that special protection which is a mother’s love.

“Now I’m not saying this bond of love did not exist in this baby’s case … most probably it does … so can you imagine the terrible circumstances which led this poor desperate woman to abandon her child … as you put it.

“In fact … she did not abandon him … she could have left him anywhere and walked off … that’s abandonment … but she carefully selected the most appropriate place where he would have been found and cared for …

“No doubt she hid behind some bushes in the Convent gardens and waited for the baby to be found.”

“What … like Moses?” said Mrs Davenport, “I thought he was left floating in a basket in the river … not at a Convent!”

Father Ignatius smiled.

“Did they have Convents in Moses time?” she continued innocently.

“I don’t think so …” answered the priest as he got up to remove the record from the turntable.

“Do you think she’s Catholic … the mother that is … is that why she left him at the Convent?” went on Mrs Davenport.

“I really wouldn’t know … no doubt all will come to light sooner or later …” replied Father Ignatius patiently, “in the meantime I suggest we say a little prayer for the little child and his mother …”

At this point Father Donald entered the room.

“Did you hear the terrible news …” he asked gravely.

“Yes … I was telling Father Ignatius about it …” piped up Mrs Davenport, “they found a baby abandoned at the Convent …”

“Well … there have been further developments …” said Father Donald, “I met Sister Martha just now and she told me … they found the body of a teenage girl at the far end of the park behind some bushes … an overdose … all indications are that she’s the mother of the child … she was clutching a letter to her parents in her hand …”

“Dear Mom and Dad,

I’m so sorry I left home. I couldn’t take any more arguments and shouting. I went to stay with a school friend.

Sometime later I met a man at a party and we became friends. I went to live with him and I got pregnant. He wanted me to get rid of it. I said no and he asked me to leave his apartment. I went back to my school friend. She helped me all this time I was pregnant and I had a baby boy in secret. She took me to a house of a friend where I had the baby three days ago.

I left him at the Convent and saw a nun take him in. Then I saw a police car at the Convent. I think they are looking for me. I am frightened and don’t know what to do.


Father Ignatius stopped reading the newspaper. It seems the police had no choice but to publish the letter in order to try to identify who the dead teenager found in the park was.

The priest left the room and went to his church to offer Mass for the repose of her soul.


Friday, 23 June 2017

Believing with eyes closed

Sister Georgina came to see Father Ignatius in his office. She was a nun living in the Convent nearby and whilst it was not unusual for the nuns to visit the Parish House from time to time this visit was somewhat formal. The nun had phoned the priest that morning and asked him for an appointment.

“Hello Sister … come in … come in …” said the kindly priest, “would you like some coffee … or some tea perhaps!”

“No thank you Father …” she said somewhat shyly as she sat down.

“You know you don’t need to phone to make an appointment …” he said as he closed the door and sat at his desk, “just pop in anytime …”

“Well Father … I wanted to make sure you were available … and we would not be disturbed.” She said. “The thing is … I’m finding it very hard believing …”

“Are you having doubts about your Faith Sister?” Father Ignatius asked gently and soothingly.

“No … no … it’s not that. I believe in God and Jesus and the Trinity …” she hesitated, “Can someone be selective in their beliefs?”

“Well Georgina …” he smiled, “it depends on what one is selective about … I do have my doubts about some of the changes we’re making as a Church … What is troubling you exactly?”

“Well Father …”

“Let’s dispense with the formalities for now …” he interrupted.

“Well …” she hesitated again, “for some time now I’ve had great difficulty in believing in the true presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist.

“I can’t quite explain it. Did Christ in the Last Supper ask us to celebrate Communion in His memory … or is it really His flesh and blood? And why would He want us to eat and drink His very Being?”

“It is one of our fundamental beliefs as a Church,” said the priest calmly, “one that has been tested and debated for centuries. You’ve no doubt heard of the Eucharistic Miracle at Lanciano?”

“Yes Father … but how can I make myself believe?” she replied, “I could shut my eyes tightly and convince myself to believe … but at the end of the day my mind says differently.

“I have no difficulty in believing the existence of God … I accept that as fact. I believe in Christ’s Virgin birth, His resurrection, the Holy Spirit and so on … Somehow these beliefs cause me no difficulties and they are part of my being … they are me and have been me for sometime.

“And I suppose that at some stage I must have believed in the Eucharist too. How could I not have?

“I became a nun … studied for years and took on my vocation … and all was well … Yet now, it’s this one aspect of my Faith that I find difficulty with.”

The priest paused for a while and said a silent prayer before going on.

“We’ve all had our moments of doubts and our little stumbles every now and then …” he said.

“It’s our human nature coming to the fore. We’re programmed to think, to analyze … to ask questions and yes … to doubt too.

“It’s what some people call Free Will … and I’m sure you’ve heard the many debates about that and God’s pre-destination of our lives!”

She smiled as he continued.

“God does not want us to work hard at our beliefs. He does not want us to shut our eyes tightly and convince ourselves to believe in this or in that.

“He understands our struggles between total acceptance and the natural desire to examine and evaluate what we’re told to believe.

“He did make us after all … so He knows what makes us tick and how the cogs in our heads constantly turn.

“What God asks of us is to believe like a child. A child never questions the veracity of what he’s told … he just accepts it.

“There’s no need to believe with eyes tightly shut.

“Just accept … like a child. Trust him … like a child. Love Him … like a child.

“And when your mind questions … as it certainly will … just say … Get behind me Satan.

“Look up at God and pray … I believe, Lord; help my unbelief.”

She left with a much lighter heart and a heavy weight off her shoulders.


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Instant Love

There's a TV program in the UK entitled "First Dates." I understand they have made similar programs in the USA, Australia and Ireland; and no doubt in other countries too.

The idea of the program is that single people who wish to find a partner in life are invited to a restaurant where they meet someone they have never met before and share a meal together; under the watchful eye of the camera, and indeed you eaves-dropping on their conversation at home.

At the end of the meal they are asked if they wish to meet their dinner guest again.

A bit like a dating agency but in full view of the TV. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose!

What I find interesting, however, is that when asked, all contestants say that they would like to meet someone handsome/beautiful, witty, with a sense of adventure and fun, and so on and on. Surprisingly, not one person says they'd like to meet a miserable ugly-looking Quasimodo with psychopathic tendencies.

Seriously though ... ... ... it seems that without exception everyone wants to meet a good looking fun type person as their life partner. Not one person, has ever said that they'd like to meet someone who shares their values, ethics, beliefs, hopes and aspirations in life. They all mention the physical characteristics which they find vital in a life-partner and not the importance of common goals or standards in an ever changing world. If this is the attitude they have in real life, then no wonder it is  difficult finding a mate and they have to resort to attending a TV program such as this one. Unless of course it is lure of celebrity status that is the real motive here.

At the end of the meal, which I guess lasts an hour or so but is obviously edited for TV, the couple, sitting side by side are asked whether they would like to see each other again.

Once more ... not surprisingly, often one or both of the individuals say they would not like to meet again because there was not that "spark" between them. In this impatient world of today, they seem to want an instant connection in the hour or so they have been together, and if this does not happen then they are not interested and move on in their search for instant happiness with a knight in shining armour, or a princess waiting to be awakened with a kiss. 

A friend told me once that when he first met his wife-to-be, he knew within ten minutes that she was the one for him. But she did not feel the same. Somehow, she did not see that instant "spark" in him. But she persevered patiently, and after many turn-downs, she eventually agreed to say "yes".

Let this be a reminder to many of today's potential couples that sometimes you need to strike more than one match before you light a candle. Very rarely is "instant" the road to happiness.

Notwithstanding the above, we have another show on UK TV entitled "Naked Attractions." And it means exactly what it says.

In this program one contestant has to choose a partner from six potential mates standing in a line, full frontal, totally naked. His (or her) decision should be based entirely on the physical attributes of the naked people lined up in front. The six naked people are not allowed to talk and should turn round when asked so that the contestant and TV audience can compare between them. Accompanied by the show presenter, the contestant moves from one naked individual to another and discusses and compares the shape and size of the private parts of the bodies on display; whilst the camera zooms closer to focus for the benefit of the viewer at home.

What makes a person want to stand up naked in front of a TV camera for their friends, family and work colleagues to see them at home; I wonder. Would you do that? 

Weekly programs, lasting one hour, have either six male or six female nude potential dates. The naked candidates are selected by a member of the opposite sex each week hoping to find their ideal sexual partner based on their physical attraction alone.

When the contestant has eliminated five people and chosen one out of six to go to a date with, then the contestant too has to disrobe nude and be discussed by the chosen individual. They then go to a date where no doubt they put their intention into practice.

So there you have it. Instant Love - without the traditional time-wasting getting-to-know-you old fashioned way of dating.

As they say in French - Vive La Difference!

Monday, 19 June 2017

Why bother going to church?

Do you go to church regularly? Every Sunday? More often or much fewer times?

Why? Why exactly do you go to church?

As far back as I can remember I have attended church most Sundays and sometimes at other feasts too. Over the years I have attended many churches big and small and heard many sermons, some good and memorable and some which put me to sleep as soon as the sound from the pulpit reached my ears - which I understand it travels at the speed of sound.

But, why do I go to church? I suppose it is to be with God. And, being Catholic, to receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist. But that's another subject for another time.

The point of this discussion is why people go to church; or to be more precise, why do they not go to church?

In the UK regular church attendance is in decline, and according to various statistics, it is about 5% of the population.

Why? I ask myself and don't seem to hear myself answering.

Is it because people are too busy with their lives, having to work all hours they have to make ends meet, and they have no time to attend church?

Is it because they are too busy enjoying the material things the modern world has to offer to be bothered with spiritual, non-provable, wishy-washy beliefs from a time gone by?

Is it because the message they receive from Christianity is so confused that it has become so unclear almost to be irrelevant to today's modern society?

Speaking for the Catholic church only, their message and teachings on many issues such as marriage and divorce, re-marriage, annulments, homosexuality, contraception, Confession and sin, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, celibacy of priests as opposed to married priests from other denominations joining the Catholic Church; all these issues are so unclear that they not only confuse the congregations but leave many adrift to make up their own rules anyway.

Often you see and hear priests teaching totally contradictory views on the same subject. For example, and this is based on fact, I know of some Catholic priests who openly believe that Christ is not present in the Eucharist, and this is not His body or His blood received at Communion. Yet, these priests, teaching something that is contrary to the Catholic faith, are still in their churches teaching their congregations. No wonder the people in the pews are confused.

No doubt other denominations have their anomalies too. But are these the reasons that church attendances are low and falling; and new vocations are also in continuous decline?

Or is perhaps something more serious and staring us in the face. The elephant in the room we fail to see.

Is it that more and more people simply do not believe in God. They do not believe in a supreme living spiritual Being ruling the universe and what is in it?

A recent survey in the UK discovered that only 28% said they believe in God or a higher spiritual being.  

And as more and more people do not believe in God, for whatever personal reasons, and they exclude Him from their lives; He just gives them that freedom of choice and withdraws, leaving them to their own devises.

No wonder the world is in such a state.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

God Calling

Father Ignatius’ policy with the people he met was to be as open and honest as possible when discussing matters or when giving advice or guidance. This included the youngsters he met at both Catholic schools, who, more often than not, asked direct personal questions and expected a straight answer. They were astute enough to know when someone was avoiding the question or giving them flannel.

The discussion during Catechism class was about vocations and the celibacy of priests and nuns.

Father Ignatius had been asked by a young pupil why priests and nuns are celibate.

“Let me see if I can answer this honestly and in personal terms,” said Father Ignatius. “There is, as you know a physical life which we all live right now, and a spiritual life which some people choose to follow at the same time.

“God wants us to enjoy our physical life and for us to live it in service of others so that He may be glorified by what we do. This can be done by being married and raising families and also indeed by remaining single in life.

“People who choose to follow a spiritual life, like Catholic priests and nuns, promise to remain chaste and not get married.”

“Like Jesus …” interrupted one of the 15 year-old students, “why did Jesus never marry?”

“That’s a good question.” Replied Father Ignatius, “in my opinion, I believe that Christ’s mission on earth was so important that He could not allow anything else to detract Him from His main objective.

“As you know, Jesus came to teach us about His Father’s Word; but more important than that; He came to offer Himself in sacrifice by dying on the Cross so that we may be reconciled with God.

“If, as you suggest, He would have married, and perhaps have children, this would have in many ways sidetracked His main mission on earth. But that’s only my opinion.”

“Do you think He ever wanted to get married?” asked another student innocently.

“Being human, I suspect He was not immune to the many feelings and emotions we experience. Yet, being God at the same time, His job on earth was to obey His Father and take on the ultimate sacrifice for us on the Cross.

“He always knew what His mission on earth was and how He would die on the Cross. And although He was tempted before His arrest, and He prayed to God that His ordeal may pass Him by, He knew and accepted that ultimately He had to obey His Father’s will; and that nothing should deflect Him from it.”

“Is it the same with priests,” asked Rose, “is their mission to teach about God and not get married. And to obey the Pope?”

“Father John got married,” corrected Paul, “he left the church and got married. Should he have done that Father?”

“It is not for me to judge what Father John did. Jesus told us never to judge each other,” replied Father Ignatius.

“Father John decided to leave the priesthood and to get married. I’m certain that he did not make this decision lightly. He must have agonized and soul-searched for a long time before deciding to leave his vocation as a priest. Which, I must add, he undertook in an exemplary manner in his time as a priest. Yet, eventually he decided to do what he felt was right for him at the time.”

“Have you ever wanted to get married and have children?” asked directly a pupil sitting up front.

The rest of the class gasped at what they felt was an impertinent question. Father Ignatius smiled and responded calmly.

“It would be a lie to deny it. Many people would like to have a family and raise children, especially if they are as well turned out as you.”

They smiled almost in unison.

“But when I decided to become a priest, I knew full well what I was giving up. Sharing my life with and loving another person, and raising a family, is a great privilege.

“Matrimony is a Sacrament which Christ taught about several times. It is a mission and a full commitment which married couples undertake throughout their lives together.

“However, by becoming a priest I promised and accepted that I would not get married.

“Having made that decision, God has rewarded me by making me a member of all your families here in this Parish.

“You and your parents have welcomed me in your homes as one of your family. I have been privileged to have been invited for meals with many of you at home. I have shared with your families moments of happiness and moments of sorrows too. I have seen many of you grow from little babies whom I have baptized many years ago, to who you are now.

“I am grateful to God and to you for welcoming me in your families.”

“Should everybody get married then,” asked Mark, “except for priests and nuns?”

“Married life is a Sacrament which we should take seriously and it is the best foundation in which to raise a family. But no, not everyone has to get married.

“Remember that God’s wish for you in this life is for you to be happy.

“Some people find happiness in marriage, others prefer to remain single. Celibacy can be a vocation too. Just like marriage.

“I have found that being single allows many people the time to do more for their communities and for the church. Things they would not have been able to do if married; when their main commitments should be to their families first.

“I have just returned from America as you know. I met there a young priest from Houston in Texas. He was brought up in a loving Catholic family and something he said to me still sticks in my mind,

“He said, ‘the way my parents brought me up, it was inevitable I’d become a priest!’

“His sister is a nun, whilst his other sisters are married and raising their families.

“So you see … his lovely parents created the conditions whilst raising their family that two of their children chose a vocation in the Church whilst the others are raising their children in the same Christian tradition their parents taught them.

“Whether you are married or not, a priest or a nun or not; the important thing that really matters is to live your life in the service of others and to glorify God at every opportunity.”


Friday, 16 June 2017


Harvey was 19 years old, so he definitely knew everything there is to know in the world.

He lived with his parents in a small terraced house and went to work at the same factory as his father.

One day, in his spare time, he was helping Father Ignatius paint the wooden fence at the very end of the back gardens; the one separating the Church grounds from the fields beyond.

In conversation, Harvey explained to the wise priest how his parents really knew very little of the modern world. How they lived in ancient times. How their expectations and ambitions were out of sequence with reality. Harvey felt that his parents held him back somewhat. They insisted on his being at home at a certain time … “Can you imagine that? I am 19, and they still want to know who I go out with and where! Archaic or what … I tell you!”

Father Ignatius put down the pot of paint he was holding and sat down on the small step ladder they had brought with them to reach the top of the wooden fence.

“When you look at your parents, Harvey,” he asked, “what do you see?”

Harvey looked at him in puzzlement and replied “I see Mom and Dad … of course!”

“Silly question, I suppose,” continued the priest, “but I’ll ask it again … what do you really see?”

“I don’t know what you’re on about … you’re a bit like them at times Father … you don’t speak straight!”

Father Ignatius laughed.

“It is natural, and a good thing of course, for children to see Mom and Dad when they look at their parents.

“Mom and Dad brought them into this world. Mom and Dad took care of them when they were young. Mom and Dad were involved in their up-bringing and their education. They took time off to attend all the school events such as sports day, music evening and whatever else.

“Your parents did that for you; am I right?”

Harvey nodded. The priest continued.

“Your father often drove you in his old battered car wherever you needed to go to … like the Saturday football games.

“Your mother made sure you had a packed lunch every day at school, and you had clean clothes every day …”

"Yeh … I understand …” Harvey interrupted.

“I am not criticizing you Harvey,” said the priest gently, “what I’m saying is that our parents care for us. I know mine did … even after I left home and went to Italy to study for the priesthood. My mother used to send me packets of a special cake she used to bake in case Italian food was not nourishing enough!”

Harvey smiled.

“And your parents care for you too … they always will. It’s in the genes as they say.”

Harvey laughed.

“But that’s not what I meant when I said what do you see when you look at your parents.” continued Father Ignatius.

“Most people would say, just as you said … I see Mom and Dad.

“Not many people see an individual human being. A woman and a man. People, no different to you and I.

“People who at one time were children themselves. And they grew up with their own hopes, their own worries and their own fears. People, like every one else, struggling in this world to make the best of their lives, and that of their children.

“We do tend to see our parents differently than anyone else. We see Mom and Dad … we don’t see the people beyond Mom and Dad … the people who are Mom and Dad.

“Our parents are people with their own personal abilities, limitations and foibles. People with their own personal emotions and characteristics and personalities; developed and honed through years of circumstances and experiences which life threw at them.

“Our parents may well curtail our freedoms somewhat … they may well appear ancient and from a different age … but I’m sure they mean well. They behave the way they do because they are human and they have their own human characteristics.

“I know my parents meant well when they tried to teach me right from wrong. Do you think yours do?”

“I suppose …” mumbled Harvey.

“Of course they do,” confirmed the wise old priest, “the thing is … parents too tend to see their children as children … they seldom see beyond the child, and see a growing young man or woman with their own characters, weaknesses, needs and so on. A child your age is eager to explore the world around him … nothing wrong with that. But sometimes parents can’t see that … they forget how they were at that age.

“For a parent, a child is always a child … it’s often very difficult to let go. But they do it out of love.

“Do you think your parents love you?” the priest asked directly.

“Yes … of course.” said the young man emphatically.

“Good …” replied the priest, “you’re right of course.

“… And I’m sure you’ll remember that when in turn one day in the future, you too will become a parent and you’ll love your own children just as your parents love you. You too will not be able to let go … And I suspect your children will think you’re an old relic from times gone by worthy of an exhibit in a museum!”

Harvey laughed.

“Now let’s get on with the painting …” continued Father Ignatius.

Harvey smiled as he dipped the paint brush in the pot of paint.


Wednesday, 14 June 2017

A delicate problem

I have a delicate problem to share with you, and to ask your advice about.

As you know, we have new neighbours. They are from "up North" and as such they tend to speak their mind all too often regardless as to whether they offend anyone or not.

We have received a letter from them. It was posted through our letter box this morning. It goes on a bit so I will only quote the pertinent part of it.

" ... even though we live in separate houses, both detached and a few yards from each other, we can still hear you yawning loudly of an evening just about bedtime. At first we thought it was thunder making its way towards us, then we thought it was blockage in the drains which were about to overflow everywhere, then we thought it was an earth tremor and we were about to meet our Maker or perhaps be downtrodden by the Four Horses of the Apocalypse. Then we realised it was you yawning. Can you do it more quietly? With your head submerged in a bucket of water perhaps!"

Now many people would be a little upset at receiving such a letter. Be honest; how would you feel if someone wrote this to you? Come on, share your feelings.

Not me ... I was not upset at all. Livid more like. Especially since I do not yawn at all. Admittedly, sometimes in the evenings whilst watching TV downstairs in the lounge, when some politicians are on TV debating something or other, I do get rather irritated and perhaps stifle a sharp intake of breath. But I do so quietly, especially when I am biting hard at the table leg to stop me shouting profanities at them. But yawning loudly ... never ... not me.

Truth be known ... it is my wife who yawns loudly upstairs in the bedroom. Especially when I am being nice to her. Her yawn is so loud it is like a hyena giving birth to an elephant.

But I can hardly tell the neighbours that. Can I?

So ... just between you and me ... please don't share this with anyone else. What do you suggest I do about this dilemma I am faced with?

Monday, 12 June 2017

The New Neighbours from up North

We have new neighbours. They moved in yesterday.

This morning the doorbell rang. I opened the door and there they were. Husband, wife and two children.

"Hello," they said, "we're your new neighbours. I am Alan, my wife is Helen and these are Jack and Jill. We moved in yesterday. We came from up North, near the border with Scotland."

I was slightly taken aback by the direct approach. I don't usually like people I do not know. They say a stranger is a friend you have yet to meet. I say a stranger is a person who should keep away from me!

"Hello," I mumbled, "I saw the moving-in van yesterday!"

"We've come for a cup of tea and biscuits. So we can get to know one another!"

I was further taken aback into my own house. What a cheek, I thought. Complete strangers wanting to get to know me. How do you say "Go away!" politely. I did not know how to respond.

Our dog was barking furiously behind me having been disturbed by the doorbell. At least he was making his true feelings known. That's what I like about dogs. If they don't like you they bite you.

"Oh, you have a dog!" said Helen. "We don't like dogs. We're cat people. We have two cats, a hamster, a goldfish, two rabbits and a macaw. You'll hear the macaw singing every now and then. He never stops actually!"

"Oh really?" I said unenthusiastically. My mind had already made up a list of insults but I chose to keep quiet.

"Aren't you going to invite us in?" asked Alan.

"Well, it's not convenient really ..." I mumbled almost apologetically; wondering why I should be feeling guilty at all. It was them who disturbed me in the first place. Coming all the way from "up North" ringing my doorbell.

And then, I don't know why I said that really, I added, "I am washing the crocodile right now. He gets a bit dirty when lying on the wet grass and mud!"

"I told you people down South are different," said Helen to her husband, "they are not as friendly as up North!"

Alan nodded and said, "Up where we come from people are always calling on their neighbours for a chat and a cup of tea. Or borrowing things from each other, like a cup of sugar, or some eggs, or the lawnmower or such like. Do you have a lawn mower? Is it electric or petrol driven? I prefer electric myself, much neater!"

"Actually I have a goat," I replied, "I let it eat the grass. Much neater than an electric lawnmower because it eats right up to the edge of the fence, which you can't do with a lawn mower."

"Oh ... you don't have to be sarcastic!" said Helen, "is it because we're from up North? Is that why you're being unfriendly?"

At this point the two children started cutting the roses from my prized bush. I kept my cool and said nothing about it.

"No ..." I replied getting a little irritated, "it is not because you're from up North. Let me tell you that I am devoid of all forms of prejudice. I dislike all people equally! And for your information, my wife is from Scotland; that's as far North as you can get without falling into the sea!"

"Well, she made a mistake marrying you then," retorted Helen.

Before I could say anything, albeit my mind was blank, her husband said, "Calm down dear. It's not worth it. He can't help the way he is. You know how some people are when they get to a certain age!"

"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked angrily. "I'm younger than you by all accounts!"

"Well ... thank you for the flowers," added Alan soothingly, "we'd better go and put them in some water. They don't look as if they'd last long anyway!"

Once again I was at a loss for words. If I had a dictionary at hand I would have responded more appropriately ... perhaps by hitting him over the head with it.

As they were leaving he asked, "Does that mean we can't borrow the lawn mower?"

Sunday, 11 June 2017

The Holy Spirit

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, 10 June 2017

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

It's been a while since I wrote here and shared my deepest feelings and inner thoughts. In all truth, a lot has been happening lately and I feel rather melancholy. I have this heavy weight on my heart which makes me rather sad.

Perhaps I should not have had so much ravioli. I pride myself in always having a well-balanced meal. Ravioli for starters. Ravioli for the main meal. And ravioli for dessert. Perhaps it was the honey on that last plate of ravioli which did it for me!

Anyway, on Monday I did some gardening and fell off the ladder and hurt my foot. I didn't cry so much since that day I lost 20 pence!

But sad and painful as that day was, I mean Monday, as well as that day years ago when I lost 20 pence, Tuesday was much much worse.

On Tuesday morning I went to the doctor about my hurt foot. The receptionist would not let me in because I did not have an appointment. She said I should have phoned for an appointment first before turning up un-announced. I told her I did not know I was going to fall off the ladder; but she would not let me in.

I took out my cell-phone, and there and then, in front of her, I phoned for an appointment. She answered the phone and said that the doctor would see me in ten days' time. Apparently, like many people, he is avoiding me. I don't know why.

She explained that the earliest appointment for all patients, not just me, is in ten days' time.

I told her that in ten days' time some patients may well be dead. She replied that in that case they should ring her again and cancel the appointment.

Eventually, she let me see the doctor. Whilst he was examining my foot I also told him that I believe I have fluid on the knee. He said, "You're not aiming straight!" What did he mean?

On my way back from the doctor I called on the newsagent up the road from where I live. They had delivered the paper in the morning as usual but I noticed that on page six the corner of the page was torn a little. Not much of a tear, about an inch, but enough to make the paper damaged as opposed to new. So I went to the newsagent for another copy of the paper.

I then went next door to the baker's and asked him for a wasp. "We don't sell wasps!" he said. "You've got one in the shop window!" I replied.

As I made my way home I got mugged. A young man pointed a plastic knife at me and said "Your money or your life!" It took me a couple of minutes or so to decide my options. I thought he said your money or your wife. As she was not with me at the time, I did not know how I could agree his demands. The knife blade was at least two inches long so, eventually, I decided to give him my money. I gave him all I had on me - 60 pence.
When the man ran away I went to the police station and reported the mugging. They asked me for a description and I said the 50 pence coin was dated 2006 and the 10 pence coin was 2008.They still haven't found the money to return to me.

They said they wanted a description of the mugger. I told them that I wanted my money back not the mugger.

On Wednesday evening there were a lot of birds chirping and settling for the night in the trees in our back garden. It was wonderful to hear and see it all. I called the family to come and see the birds. My mother-in-law, who sadly was staying with us that evening, came out in the garden with her hair in curlers and her face all creamed up; you know, a white cream to make skin soft or something. She was quite a sight. The cat got frightened and rushed up the tree. The dog, for some reason, barked and then bit my leg.

The sight of the mother-in-law with all that cream on her face had quite an effect on the birds. The next day they returned all the seeds they had taken from our garden the previous years. She must have frightened them to death!

I'm glad Dear Diary that no one reads you except me. The things I write here ...

Actually, I’ll tell you a secret. I keep two diaries. You and a decoy one I leave lying around in case it is read. In it I say kind things like how nice the green dress my wife bought looks; even though it is hideous.

At lunchtime on Thursday I went to a Department Store with a colleague from work. She picked up a pink negligee from the display unit, put it across her and with a smile she said expectantly: "Do you like this?" I gulped and replied: "I don't look good in a negligee!" She frowned and said nothing. Pink isn't even my favourite colour, and I thought she was buying it for me!

On Thursday evening our goldfish in the tank in the living room died. I grilled him and had him on toast with tomato ketchup. Afterwards the family said they wanted to bury him in the garden. I quickly produced a small box filled with sand which we ceremoniously buried. I said the farewell prayers: "Wherever you are Toby. May you digest in peace." I was asked what digest means. I said it was like saying "Earth to earth and dust to dust".

By the way, I had stomach ache that evening.

On Thursday night Friday morning my neighbour knocked on my door at 2:30 in the morning. Can you believe that, 2:30am?! Luckily for him I was still up playing my bagpipes.

On Friday at work we had a new receptionist join us. Her name is Matilda. I welcomed her and congratulated her on her pregnancy. A few minutes later I saw her cry and some women were with her consoling her.

My manager told me that she is rotund by nature, and not pregnant. I asked: "Are you sure?"

After my Friday's faux-pas, I decided to go to Confession on Saturday. I arrived a little late and noticed the priest get out of the confessional quickly and hurry into the Sacristy. I'm sure he'd seen me, but he pretended not to.

I followed him into the Sacristy and asked to go to Confession. He said if it is the same sins as last week he'd give me absolution there and then.

I explained that this was a new sin; never sinned before, and that I needed to go to Confession. He said: "All right ... if you must!" and he sat down in the Sacristy and asked me what was on my mind. I told him about the receptionist’s pregnancy that never was. He asked me to stop wasting his time and suggested that in future I go to Confession elsewhere. I don’t think he likes me.

Today is Sunday and I've had three courses of ravioli. I suppose this is greedy. I'll confess it next week.

That's all for now Diary.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

I lost my banana

Something very odd has happened in our household. We have had a burglar in the house and he stole nothing else but a banana. I kid you not. Not one thing in our house was taken, not one bar of chocolates which I hide somewhere secret, not one of the many books I have authored, nothing taken except for one banana.

It was there in a bowl of fruit. The last item to be eaten before we purchase some more. One lonely banana in all its glory. And now it's gone.

Everyone in our family claims that they did not take it. And I believe them.

So it leaves two options. Either the dog jumped on the table whilst we were out and ate it. Or a burglar came in and took it.

It can't be the dog, I think. Because the fruit bowl has not been disturbed and there is no sign of banana skin anywhere, unless the dog ate that too.

So it must have been a burglar. And the dog let him in no doubt. He is not much of a guard dog.

I remember we had a similar burglary some years back. It was just after we got married. A burglar entered our house and stole absolutely nothing except for my pictures. I had twenty or so pictures around the house, hanging on the wall, on the mantelpiece, side board and so on, of me in various poses, all taken by professional photographers. All these photos of me were taken and nothing else.

I wanted to call the police but my wife discouraged me. She said they'd never believe a thief would just steal only my photos; unless he was a great fan of mine that is.

So I did nothing.

Many years later I found all these photos, still in their frames, up in the loft covered in dust.

What kind of burglar is it that steals photos and then hides the loot up in the loft?

So I went up there and looked for my banana. I did not find it. But I found a number of other items I had lost over the years. Like the collection of antique door handles which I had started as a hobby before I got married. And the book about gaining friends and influencing people. A lot of good that did me in my youth; everyone avoided me as soon as they saw me. And that T shirt with the sexy slogan I used to wear. These and many other things were up in the attic. But no banana.

I think something strange is happening around here. How could the dog manage to take all these things and hide them in the loft. You'd think his instincts would be to bury them in the garden.

Maybe that's where he buried the banana!

Any ideas?

Monday, 5 June 2017

The Lawnmower

Friday, 2 June 2017

No Confessions Here

It was Saturday morning and Father Ignatius had just got out of the confessional when Benjamin hurried into the church and asked the priest “Father, would you hear my confession please?”

“Do I have to?” asked the priest.

“Hein?” muttered Benjamin, “I am sorry I am late Father …”

“It’s got nothing to do with your lateness,” answered the priest, then, looking around to see that the church was empty he sat down on one of the pews and invited Benjamin to do the same.

“The thing is,” continued Father Ignatius, “I know exactly what you are going to confess. Week in week out you come here and it is the same old sins.

“Let me guess. You’ve lost your temper with your wife … again. You’ve been impatient with your children and scolded them unnecessarily ... again. And you gave the finger to drivers who cut you off on the road. Am I right?”

“Well …” Benjamin hesitated, “I gave the finger to only one driver. So it’s an improvement I think …”

“That is not the point,” continued the priest with a smile to show that he was not being over critical, “what I am trying to say Benjamin, is that when we come to confession we should be sorry for our sins and for hurting Our Lord, and we should resolve not to repeat our sins.

“If we come back every week with the same sins it means that we were not serious at the previous confession …”

“Or that we’re weak …” interrupted Benjamin.

“Yes …” agreed the priest, “and you’re not alone in this Benjamin. You’d be surprised how often people come confessing the same sins over and again … Sometimes I can guess the sins once I recognise the voice of the person kneeling at the confessional.

“Let me explain … do you remember when the people brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery and they wanted to stone her? When Jesus said let those with no sin throw the first stone, and when every one of them had left, He said to the woman ‘go and sin no more.’

“He did not mean do not sin any more sins ever throughout your entire life. Jesus knew that she, being human, being weak as you’ve just pointed out, will inevitably sin again. We are all susceptible to sin.

“What Jesus meant is, do not sin this particular sin any more because it will get you in deep trouble with the authorities and with God Himself.

“And that’s what I am saying to you. And to everyone who comes to the confessional for that matter. At the very least we should all make a serious effort not to repeat the sins we have just confessed and resolved not to sin again.”

“I understand,” mumbled Benjamin.

“And in saying so” smiled the priest, “I am not encouraging you to go out there and sin some novel new sins just to entertain me and to bring variety to the confessional!”

Benjamin laughed.

“Seriously though,” continued Father Ignatius, “we’re all sinners … even me as a priest would you believe. And in seeking God’s forgiveness we should at least try our hardest not to offend Him again.

“Now go in peace, you are absolved. That is unless you have some new serious sins which you want to confess!”

Benjamin went away feeling much lighter than when he came in and having learnt a real lesson at this most unusual confession.

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