UBI CARITAS ET AMOR. DEUS IBI EST.
UBI CARITAS ET AMOR. DEUS IBI EST.
Thursday 2 December 2010
Tuesday 30 November 2010
Monday 29 November 2010
It the same in most churches I suppose. People volunteer to do certain jobs and they become entrenched in these positions.
Mr Petroni and Mr Richards always stand at the back of the church and welcome people in. They hand out the hymn books and take the collection aided by Mr Harrison and Mr Gregory. They’ve been doing this for years and will probably continue to do so for ever more.
Mrs Florenti has played the organ for years too and does not see herself ever stopping Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Weddings and funerals too.
Miss Jemeson leads the church choir, Mr Duke trains and organizes the altar servers, Mr Malek cuts the grass and does the gardening, Miss Henderson and Mrs Polanski clean the church and undertake the flower arrangements … and so on and so forth. I need not name them all.
Father Ignatius … well, he’s busy every Sunday of course, and he’s grateful for all the help he gets from his faithful parishioners.
One Sunday he faced the congregation and started his sermon thus:
"I’ve been your Parish priest for almost twelve years now. I’ve seen many people join this church, many couples married, many new babies baptized and taking first Communion and Confirmation, and sadly many people dying and departing to be with our Lord.
"I’m very grateful for all the people volunteering to do all the various tasks there are to do in a church like this one. I couldn’t cope alone without your help.
"And in my time with you here, I have seen something else too. Sunday after Sunday as I face you here to preach my humble sermons, and do my best to keep you awake. I want to show you what I see from here.
"Could you all please turn round and look at the stained glass window high up behind you."
"Do you see what I see?
"You must have observed it time and again as you leave the church after Mass.
"There’s a huge cobweb up there that’s been growing year after year. I first noticed it about eighteen months ago when it became more visible and dirty.
"At first I thought of asking one of the more athletic people amongst you to get a ladder and clean it out; because I doubt that I can raise my sixty-three years old bones all the way up there and do it myself.
"But then I thought 'No … I’ll leave it a while and see if anyone else notices it'.
"And I’ve seen it grow week after week after week.
"The reason I mention it today is two-fold:
"First, I’d be glad if someone could help with cleaning it out. But that’s not important.
"The important thing is that the cobweb up there reminds me of sin.
"We all get busy in our lives doing this and that; and in church we volunteer at doing the various tasks which are needed to keep a church like this one going strong. That’s our outer visible self, as we see ourselves, and as we wish others to see us.
"Yet, deep within our souls, in our private lives, we may well hide a sin or two. Small ones at first … hardly visible like the first spider’s threads as they are stretched from one point to another.
"Then to this are added other threads, and others too until we have a whole spider’s web. Mostly invisible at first, unless the bright sunlight shines through that stained glass window to reveal the whole outline.
"In time, dust settles on the web until we have the large cobweb you see up there.
"The small sins are hidden by bigger ones which go un-confessed and hidden from view. Until they are made visible by the bright light of Christ as He enters our lives.
"So let’s all use that cobweb as a reminder to look deeply into our souls and undertake some spring cleaning by seeking the Lord’s forgiveness for our sins."
Friday 26 November 2010
Thursday 25 November 2010
Tuesday 23 November 2010
In the dream, St Peter asked Father Ignatius directly, ‘Have you done a good job of looking after Our Lord’s lambs and sheep?’
“What a challenge!” thought Father Ignatius, “St Peter himself asking me if I was a good priest!”
Jack lived a few yards down the road from St Vincent Church, just the other side of the Convent.
One Friday evening he was waiting outside the Fish and Chips Shop just opposite the church when Father Ignatius joined the queue.
“How are you keeping Jack?” he asked, “you look really miserable right now … just like a mile of bad road, I should say!”
“Hello Father …” mumbled Jack under his breath, “it’s a long story!”
“You’d better tell me about it … let’s move away from this queue …”
The two men left the queue and walked a few paces away from the shop.
“It’s this friend of mine …” Jack said hesitantly, “he’s over seventy years old, lives in Brintown, and he’s not too well. I think he’s dying. I spoke to the lady friend he lives with and she said the doctor is not holding much hope. I’ll go and see him tomorrow as I’m not working this weekend … I hope I get there in time …”
“I’ll pray for him Jack. I notice you said lady friend … is he not married then?”
“Oh … that’s another long story Father.” said Jack, “Many years ago, when he was thirty or so, he met this lady and fell in love with her. She was divorced and his priest would not marry them. In fact he argued the matter with the priest and the priest excommunicated him.
“I think he probably excommunicated her as well … I don’t know.
“Anyway, they’ve lived together ever since … that’s about forty years. I don’t know if they ever got married in the Civil Court.
“But the man kept faithful to the ban imposed on him. He didn’t move to another church and take Communion there, even though they moved town several times. In fact I believe he never set foot in another church ever since that day!”
“We’d better go and see them then …” said the priest.
“What now … it’s five o’clock. It will take us two hours to get to Brintown!”
“The sooner we start the better,” replied Father Ignatius, “you go to my office and phone them from there. I’ll get the car ready!”
Moments later Father Ignatius was driving up the highway as fast as the speed limit allowed.
They arrived just after 7:30 that evening. Father Ignatius went to see the old man in his bedroom whilst Jack stayed with the old lady in the front room.
They could hear talk, and sometimes laughter from the bedroom. The priest stayed there for a while. He heard the old man’s Confession and gave him Holy Communion. Then they chatted away about the past … the old man had spent some time in Italy, not far from where Father Ignatius studied for the priesthood, so they talked about Italy and all the places they visited whilst there.
Eventually the priest came out and asked Jack to go and stay with the old man.
He heard the old lady’s Confession and gave her Holy Communion.
Father Ignatius and Jack set off back home at about 10:45 that evening. In the car, on the way to St Vincent, Jack said, “Thank you Father … being with you is like being with Jesus!”
“Don’t ever say that,” replied the priest, “no one can possibly be like Jesus!”
The old man died three days later.
The old lady also died a few months after that.
(Based on a true story).
Sunday 21 November 2010
“St Peter?” asked Father Donald.
“Yes … St Peter,” repeated Father Ignatius, “what do you think he drank. Surely not coffee. It hadn’t been discovered then! When he was alive on earth.”
“Oh … boiled fish water, I shouldn’t wonder” laughed Father Donald, “must have tasted really horrible I should think!”
“And then …” continued Father Ignatius after a short pause, “and then, as if by magic, we were here in my office. I was sitting at my desk, like now, and he sat in the very armchair where you’re sitting in!”
Father Donald looked around him in the armchair and said nothing. Father Ignatius continued.
“St Peter sat just where you’re sitting Donald. He looked just like we’ve seen him portrayed in the movies. Tall guy and well set. With a beard and wearing a brown tunic … and sandals. I remember distinctly the sandals … Big man, he was … I wouldn’t wish to be on the wrong side of an argument with him. He was here in this office.
“He asked what I thought of him.
“I mumbled the usual things we’ve been taught in seminary … Loyal follower of Christ, leader of the Disciples, Head of the Church … That sort of thing!
“He smiled and picked up a biscuit … he preferred the chocolate covered ones and commented that they tasted different to the ones he was used to in them days … That’s exactly what he said … in them days!”
Father Donald raised an eyebrow and smiled, whilst Father Ignatius went on.
“Then he asked me to be honest. Not repeat what I’d been taught. What did I really think of him?”
Father Donald smiled once more and said nothing.
“Well …” Father Ignatius went on, “I hesitated of course … it’s quite a shock seeing St Peter face to face and being asked such a direct question …
“I said that some theologians consider him to be a bit irresolute of character … Tends to speak first, sometimes acts quickly, yet … a bit hesitant when the chips are down!”
“Wow …” said Father Donald, “did he hit you for saying that? He has a bit of a temper our St Peter you know.”
“No … he remained calm,” replied Father Ignatius, “He said ‘I don’t care about what theologians think … what do they know? I’m asking for your opinion Ignatius!’ He called me Ignatius … so he knew full well who I was. Then he asked me if I had any more of those brown covered biscuits …
“I gave him the whole packet of chocolate biscuits which somehow I had here in my desk; and then I said that I sympathized with his predicament and how he’d been portrayed by some theologians. He was and I’m sure he still is very loyal to Christ. He spoke first because of his confidence and beliefs in our Lord.
“He hesitated a little when he jumped into the lake and tried to walk on water. But anyone would have done that … Jesus had asked to him to come to Him … so at least he did show real Faith by jumping into the water … but his Faith faltered … understandable really!
“And that’s when St Peter sat a little forward in the armchair and calmly said to me … ‘Quite the diplomat aren’t you Ignatius?’ I remember distinctly those words … and they were not said in a complimentary way either … He asked me to go on … what did I really and honestly think of him …
“So I swallowed hard Donald … I knew what he wanted me to say but I was too scared to say it. He nodded gently to encourage me …
“And very quietly I mumbled that he had denied Christ three times …
“He looked me straight in the eye and all gentleness seemed to have gone from his face. He waved his hand gently at me, still holding a half-eaten chocolate biscuit, as if to reprimand me … you know, as we do with our finger when we point at a little child, and then he said ‘After over two thousand years you people still hold that against me! And you call yourselves forgiving Christians … The Lord Himself forgave me with His knowledgeable look full of love and pity for me. But you Christians still bring this matter up …
“And it’s the same with Thomas … Whenever I meet him he says that the only thing that people remember about him is his doubting, and they can’t relate anything else he did after that.
“Well let me tell you something clever Ignatius that you are’ … That’s what St Peter called me, Donald. ‘Clever Ignatius that you are …
“Let me tell you something … Have you ever considered what would have happened if I did not deny our Lord? I would have most probably been taken by the crowd and hung from the nearest tree …
“They were horrible they were … and angry and wild. Those same people who pretended to love Him, whom He had healed and taught over the years suddenly became very wild. They became angry, almost feral … And of course I was scared. They were probably scared too, you know. They had to act this way because acting any differently would have resulted in them being hanged too!
“And by denying Christ, the Son of our God, I unwittingly set in course the chain of events which followed. Jesus knew exactly why I had to deny Him at the time of His capture.
“After His Resurrection, when He appeared to us on the shore of the lake as we were fishing; it was the third time Jesus appeared to us after He was raised from death … We had just eaten together, and Jesus asked me three times if I loved Him. And every time I said yes He asked me to take care of His lambs and His sheep!’ ”
After a short silence Father Donald asked “What happened then Ignatius? When St Peter told you that?”
Father Ignatius replied.
“Well, he finished eating his biscuit and then he asked me whether I thought I had done a good job of looking after Our Lord’s lambs and sheep …
“Before I could answer … I just woke up!”
“That’s quite a dream …” said Father Donald, “and quite a message from St Peter.
“Christ knew precisely why Peter had to be spared at the time of His capture … in order to lead the Disciples and the Church!”
Wednesday 17 November 2010
Tuesday 16 November 2010
There at the door was a pretty young lady of about 23 years of age with two toddlers, a girl aged about five and a little boy aged four.
“Hia … Father … Ignatius isn’t it?” she said with a smile, “I have a surprise for you!”
“Good afternoon …” he replied gently.
“May we come in?” she asked, “the little ones want to go to the toilet … and I have something to tell you …”
Father Ignatius led them into the downstairs waiting room and showed them where the toilets were. He then asked Mrs Davenport to prepare some tea and biscuits and orange juice for the children.
Moments later they were all in the waiting room as Mrs Davenport came in with the refreshments. As she left, closing the door behind her, Father Ignatius asked, “How can I help you?”
“You don’t remember me?” she asked.
“Well …” he mumbled embarrassingly, “I get to meet so many people over the years …”
“I’ll give you a clue …” she interrupted, “about five years ago … the age of this little girl; now that should jog your memory.
He looked at her blankly.
“I was the Cocktail Queen working at the Bitten Apple Night Club … I offered to let you in without paying … and you were too embarrassed to be seen there I think!
“I told you I was pregnant, having a baby … do you remember?”
Father Ignatius lifted his eyebrows as faded memories came rushing back from the deep recesses of his mind.
“Ah …” she said in exasperation, “you still don’t seem to remember me … that’s not very flattering to a pretty girl you know … and I thought I had made quite an impression on you!
“Well I do remember that you were none too happy when I told you I were pregnant … it made you quite mad I think …
“As I recall I came to see you and tell you all about it … you took me in your office upstairs.
“And that’s when I told you I were pregnant and I wanted to have an abortion and get rid of it.
“You got very upset with me and you advised me against it. I thought what right have you to tell me what to do? You said it was a living human being and it was wrong to kill it … and that I would always regret it.
“As I said at the time, I was working at the Night Club … the Cocktail Queen I was … very popular with the clientele I were!
“I couldn’t keep the baby could I? It would have interfered with my job. Who has ever heard of the Pregnant Cocktail Queen? You can’t wear those skimpy outfits with a big bump upfront can you?
“Anyhow … I left you and I was proper upset with you I was … telling me to keep the baby!
“Months later we met again at the supermarket and I told you that I had the baby after all …
“It’s this little girl here; you never met her. I called her Ignatia after you. Well it’s her middle name really … Ignatia is rather an odd name don’t you think? But I had to name her after you. Her first name is Hilary.”
The priest smiled feebly.
“So when I had Hilary I gave up working at the Night Club and took on a job at the supermarket where we met.
“I was living with Hilary’s father at the time … When I told him what you’d said to me he agreed that I should not have the abortion … even though he was keen on it at first …
“His name is Alec. We later married you know … not in a church like, but at the Registry Office. A year later we had Mark here … he’s about four years old!”
“Yes … I remember,” said Father Ignatius, “I’m so glad you and your husband decided not to proceed with the abortion … she’s such a pretty girl. I’m sure you love both your children.”
“Oh yes … we do love them very much, my husband and I. We’re ever so happy. If it were not for you I would not have my precious Hilary!
“I still work at the supermarket … part-time like … I have to look after the kids and all! You don’t go to that supermarket anymore … ‘cos I haven’t seen you for ages!” she said, “My husband Alec works at the bus depot you know … he asked me to come and see you … since you helped us the last time when I were pregnant with Hilary … Alec said perhaps you can help us again!”
“I’ll do my best …” he said gently.
“Well, it’s about Hilary here … I took her to the Catholic school down the road and they wouldn’t let her in … the Head Mistress there was a proper snooty fancy pants she was … She said she couldn’t accept Hilary because she didn’t have a Baptismal Certificate. So Alec, my husband, suggested I come to you for a Baptismal Certificate. And could we have one for Mark as well while we’re at it … I hope they don’t cost much! ”
“It’s not that simple …” said Father Ignatius, “I take it the children have not been baptized!”
“No … I don’t think so. I was brought up a Catholic on my mother’s side … she taught me the Hail Mary and showed me a little chain with beads … but I don’t think I got baptized … it was too expensive in them days … is it expensive now?”
“No … you don’t have to pay” he replied gently, “what the Head Mistress at the school meant is that before your children are accepted at the school she has to give priority to Catholic families and their children. I’m sure you understand that.”
“Yes I do … I’d like to come to church with my husband and the kids and learn about God and all that … only I was put off by a woman I work with.
“She said the Catholics are expensive … they have two money collections and sometimes more on Sunday and even on weekdays if you go to church to pray. She said you have to pay to get a Baptismal Certificate … which is what the Head Mistress asked for.
“This friend … Diane is her name … well she said you also talk in a foreign language in church … Italian was it? No … no … Latin. That was it. Only we don’t know Latin Alec and me … I left school at fifteen and can just speak proper English … never mind Latin.
“She also said Catholics have to eat fish every Friday … well we can’t do with that … It’s expensive for a start and Alec is allergic to shell-fish … brings him out in spots it does!”
“There appears to have been a lot of misconceptions about the Catholic Faith …” said Father Ignatius, “what I mean is that you’ve misunderstood about the Catholic Church … never mind. Many people make the same mistakes.
“Can I suggest perhaps that you and Alec come to a few meetings when we can talk about God and Jesus and the Catholic Faith? You said you were willing to learn.
“It’ll be just you and Alec and me, or Father Donald if I’m not here. You can bring the children too and I’ll ask Mrs Davenport, whom you’ve just met, to look after them.
“It’s just once a week, in the evening or at weekends … and in time, if you wish, you can have the children baptized and you and Alec too … if you wish.
“And it will be in English … not one word of Latin will be spoken, I promise.”
She smiled broadly and asked “How much will it cost?”
“There’s no charge at all …” he replied smiling back, “the Love of Christ is priceless but you don’t have to pay … He already has!”
“And what about the fish?”
He held back the urge to laugh and said “Don’t worry about that … you don’t have to eat fish or anything else you don’t want to eat … on Fridays or any other days!”
And that’s how it was that the Cocktail Queen and her husband Alec attended Catholic teachings at St Vincent and in time, the two of them and their children were baptized at a private ceremony attended by both priests and Mrs Davenport.
Hilary now attends the Catholic school and Mark has been registered to attend the following year.
The family is now part of Father Ignatius’ flock!
Sunday 14 November 2010
Quite a few hands went up.
“Keep your hands up,” he said, “now hands up those who went to Fatima, Knock or any other Holy Shrine!”
A few more hands went up.
“OK …” continued the priest, “hands down. Now hands up again anyone who has had a miracle happen to them at any of these places!”
No hands went up.
The priest waited a few seconds and then continued.
“Just as I thought! No one considers that a miracle has happened to them. Which of course begs the question; Do miracles happen these days?
“The truth is that miracles do happen these days; but people are not willing to believe in them.
“Perhaps they expect spectacular miracles to happen … Raising of the dead. Walking on water, changing water into wine … now that was a good one!
“Anything less than that and our Faith has not been stimulated enough to even consider it as a miracle, let alone believe it has happened.”
He stopped once again, as he usually did in his sermons, to allow the challenge to sink into the parishioners’ minds.
“I’d like us to consider for a while what is a miracle and who actually performs it when it happens.
“Spectacular miracles, as you would wish them to be, like healings from incurable illnesses and diseases do happen at Lourdes and elsewhere even today. There is plenty of documented evidence if you wish to research it.
“Many people have been healed suddenly with no explanation from medical or scientific sources. They remain unexplained and are accepted as miracles performed at the many Shrines visited by the sick person.
“Miracles happen elsewhere too … not just at these Shrines. Miracles can happen in churches, hospitals or even at your homes … if it is the will of God that they should happen.
“This then leads to the second question. Who performs these miracles?
“Is it Our Lady, the Mother of God at Lourdes or her other Shrines? Is it the particular Saint you happen to be praying to for help? Or is it God?
“And when we pray to individuals before they become Saints for a particular favor, or miracle even … like Padre Pio, Pere Charbel, and so on before they were made Saints by the Vatican … who performed the miracles do you think? Was it the particular person prayed to or was it God?
“Isn’t it after all the performance of miracles, or the answers to prayers, one of the tests which our Church considers as a requirement to Sainthood?”
He paused yet again.
“There are those who say that only God or Jesus can perform miracles; and to pray to Saints, or even people who have not even yet been considered as Saints, is wrong.
“Let me read you something from Acts of the Apostles … you can look it up yourselves at Acts 3.
“You’ll remember that as Peter and John went into the Temple to pray they met a man at The Beautiful Gate, as it was called, who had been lame all his life.
“The beggar expected money from the two apostles. Peter turned to him and said, ‘I don’t have silver or gold. But what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth get up and walk!’ And of course the man was healed.
“Later on in Acts 5 Verse 12 we read that many miracles were performed by the apostles. Sick people lay in the streets so that Peter’s shadow would fall upon them and heal them. And indeed many were healed.
“The important thing to note here is that Peter said ‘in the name of Jesus Christ get up and walk.’
“So yes … the apostles whilst they walked this earth, and now they are in Heaven, can and do perform miracles; they have not lost their ability to perform miracles, in the name of Jesus, just because they’re in Heaven.
“And so does Our Lady perform miracles in the name of her Son Jesus. As do Padre Pio, Pere Charbel and many other Saints. But they do so in the name of Jesus. It is very important to remember that.”
Father Ignatius stopped once again having pressed his point home.
“And now we move on to our last question,” he said, “for today at least!
“What role does our Faith has to play in the performance of miracles?
“Jesus said time and again to the sick, ‘Your Faith has healed you. Your Faith has saved you.’
“He did not say, ‘Wait … let me click my fingers and hey presto you’ll be healed … Because I’m great at miracles!’ ”
The congregation laughed. The priest continued.
“He made a point of saying that the people’s Faith played a great part in their healing and in their salvation.
“The sick did not stay at home and think ‘Oh well … if Jesus wants to heal me, He’ll do so in good time … I don’t need to go and see Him!’
“They went out to seek Him. They believed in this man who was different. A holy man, a teacher, a healer, the Son of God.
“They had heard about Him, and now He’s in their town or village they went out to find Him … in hope, in desperation perhaps, and even in Faith … as small as a mustard seed! But that little Faith, however tiny it was, is what saved and healed them.
“The blind man shouted at the top of his voice to attract Christ’s attention and to be healed.
“The old lady pushed her way through the crowds in order to get close enough to just touch His cloak and be healed.
“The Roman soldier believed in Jesus so much that he thought just one word from Him would bring healing.
“That’s what I mean by true Faith … it plays a great part in the performance of miracles.
“It need not be our Faith that saves us … the Faith of others, on our behalf can and does bring miracles and healing to us.
“The Roman soldier was asking for healing for his servant, not for himself. His Faith helped heal his servant.
“The men who broke the roof off a house and lowered the man in his sick bed down to Jesus showed Faith on behalf of their friend … and their Faith was rewarded.
“All the people who lay in the streets hoping that Peter’s shadow may fall upon them showed great Faith too.
“As indeed do all those who visit Lourdes, Fatima, Knock and all the Holy Shrines.
“Let me conclude by saying that miracles do indeed happen today. Both great and small. They are performed by Saints and those yet to be Saints through the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ
“Faith plays a great part in the performance of miracles.
“And before you ask … we do not have to go to the Holy Shrines for our prayers to be heard, or for our miracles to happen. All we need is to trust in God and be willing to accept His will in His time and in His way.
“We need a little Faith … not much, just a mustard seed’s worth!”
Thursday 11 November 2010
Monday 8 November 2010
Tuesday 2 November 2010
Of course, now there’s only Father Ignatius and Father Donald living there; and their housekeeper who works there by daytime but lives in her cottage on the church grounds.
Many years ago a pre-school mother and toddlers group used to meet regularly in the large rooms downstairs. It was like a daily school really and at times it had as many as thirty children and enough adults to care for them.
The priest at the time, Father Ferdinand, of French origin, had three electric push-bell buttons installed by the front door, each ringing in a different tone. He labeled each button “Priests”, “School” and “Kitchen” so that he is no longer disturbed having to open the door for someone who really did not want to see him.
Very efficient Father Ferdinand was … albeit somewhat aloof from his parishioners at times. Unlike Father Ignatius of course!
As soon as Father Ignatius took over at St Vincent he removed the three labels but kept the bells which are still in working order.
On Friday, our friendly priest was at the local Catholic school as a visiting speaker at the Catechism class for the 15 year-olds.
After he gave his short talk, Father Ignatius invited questions from his young audience.
One of the pupils asked, “Why have you got three buttons to press the bell on the front door at Parish House?”
The priest was astonished at this somewhat unrelated question. In order to gain more thinking time, he turned the question back onto his audience. “Good question,” he said with a smile, “does anybody know why we have three bell buttons on our door at Parish House?”
“Variety is the spice of life!” said a young boy as the whole class erupted into laughter.
This encouraged another boy to say, “One bell is for tall people, one for normal people, and the other one is for the short ones who can’t reach the other two bells!”
Father Ignatius said nothing as the pupils continued to laugh.
This went on for a few minutes and eventually the children exhausted their reservoir of wit as one said, “It depends how in a hurry the visitor is. One bell is for urgent, another is for normal and the other is for people who can wait a bit!”
Father Ignatius replied, “If only it were so … I find that most people want to see me in a hurry.
“Those three bell buttons were there when I first came to St Vincent. All three still work. I’ve kept them as a reminder of the three bell buttons on the gates of Heaven.
“There are three buttons there just by the Pearly Gates … and depending on which one you press you go to Heaven, hell or Purgatory!”
“Wow …” said a young girl, “does one know which bell sends you to which place?”
“No!” replied Father Ignatius emphatically.
“That’s hardly fair …” cried out a boy, “what if you press the wrong button and go to hell by mistake?”
“No one goes to hell by mistake!” said the priest as he stopped for a few moments. Then he repeated again gently in a softer voice …
“No one goes to hell by mistake!
“The Good Lord knows precisely who believes in Him. Who has loved and obeyed Him in this life, and who has come to Him through His only Son Jesus Christ.
“He also knows too well who has continuously defied Him. Who has continuously snubbed Him, and who has continuously ignored Him in this world. Not through ignorance, carelessness or stupidity even, but through willful insolence and outright unwillingness to believe.
“The choice between Heaven and hell does not depend on which bell button you push. It depends on your state of sinfulness at the time you die.
“That is what really determines your eventual destination.
“And I repeat … no one goes to hell by mistake. People willingly choose to go there.”
Sunday 24 October 2010
Mother Superior found in the Convent, in an old storeroom, a large statue of St Joseph and the baby Jesus. It was exactly the same size as the statue of Our Lady.
She suggested to Father Ignatius that the statue be restored and put on the right of the Altar, and for the picture of St Vincent to be moved elsewhere in the Church.
On the appointed day the beautifully restored statue of St Joseph was put in its rightful place on the right side of the church and Father Ignatius led a short prayer meeting for all involved. A few nuns from the convent were there, as well as the restorer and a few helpers, and Mrs Davenport the priests’ housekeeper.
After leading the prayers Father Ignatius said a few words.
“I’m so glad that Mother Superior suggested we put this statue here to honor St Joseph; and I thank her for her kindness and generosity in donating the statue which was found in the convent.
“I’d like us to think for a while about St Joseph as an individual.
“Here we have a man, often depicted in pictures and statues as being a little advanced in age, we don’t know really how old he was when he met Mary … but she always looks much younger doesn’t she?
“Anyway … here we have a man intending to marry the young lady he loves and no doubt start a family which he will look after by way of his job as a humble carpenter.
“When one day he finds out she is pregnant. I don’t know about you … but I’d feel really hurt and cheated if it happened to me. How could she? And I trusted her so?
“Aren’t these the thoughts that would cross your minds … Peter, Ken and Mark?”
He looked at the three young men in the little prayer group and they smiled coyly.
“And I’d bet if it happened to you you’d run a mile in the opposite direction … wouldn’t you?” he asked them.
They did not reply.
“Oh … but there’s more …” said the priest, “not only did Joseph’s girlfriend promise him that she did not cheat on him … no, wait for it. She tells him that she is carrying the Son of God. Yes … she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit and she’s carrying the Son of God.
“Now in those days it would have been a great scandal to have a baby if you’re not married. You would have been ostracized by your family for a start for bringing shame upon them.
“Chances are you would have been stoned to death too …
“But to say that you’re carrying the Son of God from a Virgin pregnancy would have been blasphemy of the highest order. Either that, or people would have thought you’d lost your mind … simply gone mad and left to suffer the consequences.
“Yet, despite all these risks to her good name and indeed to her safety Mary had the courage and the Faith to trust in God and say ‘Yes’ when the Angel visited her. We should always be grateful for her saying ‘Yes’.
“Can you imagine? An Angel appeared to her … if it was me I’d probably fall off my chair with fright at the sight of such a visitation.”
They all laughed.
“And can you imagine poor old Joseph? His head must have been really spinning in a daze … and without the benefit of a Guinness or two!
“First she tells him she’s pregnant, then she says it’s a Virgin birth and the baby is the Son of God.
“Over to you three young men … what would you do in such circumstances?”
He paused for a second or two and did not give them time to reply.
“But the Angel appeared to Joseph in a dream … we don’t know if it was the same Angel Gabriel, but never mind. And like Mary, Joseph too has great Faith and he believes what he is told. He stays with Mary and raises the young infant as any good father would. And for this too we should be always grateful.
“I am very pleased to have the statue of St Joseph and the baby Jesus here and that of Our Lady on the other side of the Altar over there. The Holy Family on either side of the Altar reminding us of Faith in God and parental responsibility.
“I would like now to read you a short prayer to St Joseph. This prayer 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 18 October 2010
It was the young man lying on the ground who had been punched and kicked by the other three hooligans. He still had the scars on his face where he’d been injured and his left eye had turned a lovely shade of blue.
“May I have a word Sir?” he asked as he stood nervously at the door.
The priest led him to the downstairs waiting room and offered him a cup of tea.
“I see you’re still healing slowly,” he said soothingly, “have those people bothered you again?”
The young man shook his head.
“You come and tell me if they do …” continued the priest, “I know one of them well and I’ll soon put a stop to it. Who are the other two?”
The young man gave Father Ignatius the names of the other men who beat him up.
“What can I do to help you?” asked the priest gently.
“I have come to explain myself,” said the young man, “the other night at the park I had to run away quickly for a reason as I shall explain why …”
The priest nodded gently to encourage the man to continue.
“The four of us are friends … Gabbi and the others,” said the man, “at least I thought we were …
“We don’t have jobs … it’s difficult to find work these days … well, I’m OK now, as I’ll explain …
“You see Sir … why did Gabbi call you Father the other day, by the way?”
“It’s because I’m a priest” said Father Ignatius, “it’s customary to call a priest Father!”
“I see …” said the man, “well … the four of us a few days ago … last week it was. Well we mugged a man in town by the cinema.
“It was Tuesday night and we stopped this man and we asked him for his wallet. He gave it to Gabbi and the three of them ran away. As I was leaving I noticed he was wearing a gold watch … so I asked him for it. He gave it to me and I ran away also.
“Afterwards the three of them divided the money between them and gave me nothing.
“They said I didn’t deserve anything because I had not agreed to the mugging. I said it was wrong to rob people.
“They then saw me with the watch and realized I’d taken it from the man. They wanted that too but I ran away.
“A few days later they met me in the park and beat me up … that’s when you found me with your dog.
"I had to run away when you helped me because I was worried they'd go and beat my sister!”
“I see …” said the priest frowning, “and what happened to the watch?”
“I still have it here … I was going to sell it because I need the money for my sister. She has no husband you see … and she has a small baby girl which she has to feed. I was going to give her the money.”
The priest looked at the gold watch in his hand and realized that it was quite valuable.
“How much were you intending to sell it for?” he asked.
“About £20 …” said the man.
“I’ll buy it from you for this sum on one condition,” said Father Ignatius, “I want you to promise that you will never ever mug or steal from anyone again. Is that understood?”
The young man nodded.
“If you ever get in trouble again you’re no longer under my protection. The police will no doubt find you and you’ll end up in prison.”
“Yes Sir … Father. You see … I now have a job cleaning cars at the garage in town. I can give some money to my sister …”
The priest gave the young man £20 and let him go. He then picked up the phone and called the police.
An hour later Detective Inspector Lorne called on the priest.
“On Tuesday of last week there was a mugging in town by the cinema and a wallet and watch were taken,” said Father Ignatius.
“Good Heavens, Father …” said the Inspector, “that’s very accurate. Don’t tell me it was you who did it! I know funds are short in your church but I never expected the likes of you to turn to robbing people!”
He then laughed heartily as he watched the priest’s face.
“Seriously though, Father …” he continued, “it’s one of the cases I’m investigating. Do you have some information for me?”
“Better than that …” said the priest, “I have the watch in question … here it is.”
The detective looked at the watch and whistled quietly under his breath. “That’s a very expensive time-piece,” he said, “Care to tell me how it came in your possession?”
“I’m afraid I can’t, Vince.” replied Father Ignatius.
“I thought not Father … But you can’t blame me for trying. I’d better give you a receipt for this then we’ll return it to its owner. You don’t happen to have the wallet too?”
“No, sorry! Was much taken?”
“Only £10. The victim was more interested in the watch. He said it had sentimental value … For such a solid gold time-piece I’d have sentimental value too I tell you, Father. Some people have more money than they’ll ever need whilst others around here are starving under our very noses.”
The policeman thanked the priest and went away happily.
Father Ignatius never saw the young man who’d been beaten up ever again.
Sunday 17 October 2010
The kind priest moved on slowly through the empty park, his thoughts and prayers in mind. He felt particularly sad at the poverty and desolation around him. He remembered the Biblical story of seven years of plenty and seven years of drought and wondered whether there was a Joseph amongst the nation’s leaders and politicians to guide the country through the economic crisis it was in.
Almost every one of his parishioners had a story to tell about job losses, business closures, bankruptcies and house repossessions. He recalled the Parish Council treasurer’s voice as he said in his Welsh accent, “Sorry to tell you Father … but the Sunday collection is down yet again … for the seventh week running …”
Church funds were low and there was little prospect of financial help from the Bishop. Yet work needed to be done. Some of the brick work in the bell tower was getting loose and needed repair, the electric wiring in the Parish house required up-grading, his car was beginning to show its age … but more important, the number of parishioners who needed urgent financial help was increasing. He knew of families where the children went to bed hungry because of lack of food … and that’s more vital than any work the church needed.
It was getting rather dark when he was awakened from his reveries by the sound of a scuffle in the bushes. The dog growled once or twice but the priest managed to keep him quiet.
He approached the bushes cautiously and discovered three men with their backs to him standing over a fourth man lying on the ground. Obviously the result of an unfair fight
“What’s going on here?” he asked in a quiet yet firm voice.
This startled the three men who turned round suddenly to face him. They were young, early twenties at the most, and looked thuggish and menacing. Not the sort of people you’d like to meet alone in the dark in the middle of a park. Which was precisely the situation Father Ignatius found himself in!
One of the thugs said “What’s it to do with you old man? Walk away and keep your mutt under control or else …”
Father Ignatius pulled back on the dog’s lead as Canis stood there baring his teeth. He looked at the man standing in the middle straight in the eye and said, “You’re Gabbi aren’t you? Named after the Angel Gabriel as I recall; pity you didn’t inherit some of the Angel’s good character!”
The young man who’d spoken previously jumped in again, “Do you know this geezer Gabbi? That’s all we need, someone to identify us!” He moved a few steps forward but Gabbi, who seemed to be the leader of the group, pulled him back.
“Hello Father …” said Gabbi sheepishly.
“Father?” said the third young man, “is this fellow your old dad?”
“Shut it!” commanded Gabbi.
A second or so later the priest spoke again, still in his quiet yet assured voice.
“Tell your friends, Gabbi,” he said, “never to engage someone they do not know. For all they know I might be a martial arts expert and despite my age I may well take the three of you on. Ask them if they want to try!”
None of the youngsters spoke.
“Now then …” continued the priest, “I want you to walk away quietly and go to your homes.
“Oh … and one more thing! Don’t you ever touch one hair from this man’s head. He is under my protection now … as you people might say. If any harm ever comes to him I’ll come after you and make you regret it for the rest of your lives. Understood?”
“Yes Father …” said Gabbi and the three men walked away hurriedly.
The priest bent down to check on the fourth man who had been kicked a few times in the ribs. He was somewhat shaken but not badly hurt. He did not wish to give his name, thanked the priest and then ran away.
Father Ignatius got up and made his way back home with his dog.
The Angel Gabriel may not have been in the park that evening, but Father Ignatius’ Angel was sure there ready to protect him if needs be!
Friday 15 October 2010
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen me, you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from Heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what He gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.’ "
The priest waited until the congregation sat down and then said:
“There’s an important message here from John’s Gospel at Chapter 6 verses 37 onwards.
“Jesus says that the will of God is that He, Jesus, should not lose anything, or anyone, that was given to Him. What does this mean? Are we all destined for Heaven and none of us should be lost?
“Let me tell you something which happened to me lately.
“Monsignor Thomas at Bishop’s House celebrated his 30th Anniversary as a priest recently. The Bishop held a party which I attended and I bought the Monsignor a lovely antique clock as a gift.
“Unfortunately, by the time I got home the clock stopped working. I took it to a shop and they agreed to fix it for £20.
“A few days later when I got back for the clock I was told it was lost. It was not anywhere to be found. The shop attendant explained that the clock had indeed been fixed yet somehow it got lost during refurbishment of the premises. He offered me compensation which I reluctantly accepted; but it was a small recompense for the lost valuable antique.”
The priest stopped for a while as he usually did during his sermons; then he continued.
“A few days later I received a letter saying the clock was ready for collection. You can imagine my delight at finding this precious antique once again.
“I of course offered to return the money the shop gave me as compensation but the attendant refused to accept it. He said it was Company policy never to lose an item. The clock was never lost; he told me emphatically, it was just temporarily misplaced.
“Not lost; but temporarily misplaced.
“And since the clock was never lost the shop attendant could not take back any money paid in compensation. It was mine to keep and use as a donation from the shop.”
The priest stopped again for a while.
“This set me thinking dear friends …” he continued.
“God created us body and soul. We know that the body eventually turns to dust yet the soul lives on.
“It is given to each one of us for safe-keeping so that we may return it to God as He intended and as Jesus said.
“But through our sins we manage to lose it time and again. A lost soul destined for another destination than the one intended … all because of our sin.
“God, in all His love and mercy sent Jesus to pay the price of restoring our soul. He has made us whole again. And the price was not a mere £20 which I paid to repair the clock. Jesus paid the price with His own life when He was so cruelly and horribly nailed to the Cross.
“That is a high price indeed my friends …
“The Son of God paid the price for our soul to be restored once again; just like that clock of mine.
“And it is our job … our duty and our great responsibility not to lose or misplace our soul ever again.
“Whether it is temporarily misplaced in Purgatory or forever misplaced in hell … this is something which each one of us will have to account for to God when it is our turn to meet Him face to face.
“What have you done with the soul I gave you for safe-keeping? He will ask us.
“I hope we’ll be ready to say ‘Here I am Lord, it is I returning to you. Not lost, nor misplaced.’ ”
Wednesday 13 October 2010
Father Ignatius had been invited and he was very eager to attend since he had not seen Monsignor Thomas for quite sometime. They knew each other well and had trained together as young priests all those many years ago.
A few weeks before the Reunion Father Ignatius was in the big city for business. He passed by an antiques shop and saw a lovely old wooden mantelpiece clock. It was made of very dark ebony wood with a clock face made of pale yellowish ivory encrusted with large gold numerals and hands. It wasn’t too big, or too small. Just the right size to put on a mantelpiece, a bookshelf or on a desk! In fact it was the perfect present for Monsignor Thomas. He would be so pleased to have that in his office, thought Father Ignatius.
He entered the shop and to his surprise, despite the antique's age and quality it was priced just right. So he bought it and was very pleased with himself.
When he arrived back at his Parish that evening Father Ignatius discovered to his great chagrin that the clock did not work. It was OK in the shop, so something must have happened during transit from the city.
The next day he took the clock to the local horologist … at least that’s what it said on the shop window. “James Merry-Time Horologist”
The young attendant at the shop, dressed very smartly in a three-piece suit, welcomed the priest and announced proudly in an impeccable upper-class English accent that the Company had been in business for 150 years and now had 27 branches nationwide.
“We are proud to serve time after time! That’s our Company motto Sir!” he concluded with a smile.
He then looked at the clock carefully and advised Father Ignatius that it was a unique and very valuable time-piece. The mechanism had been slightly damaged during the journey from the city but it could easily be fixed for £20.
The priest readily agreed to this and left the clock in the shop intending to collect it when it was fixed.
A week later he returned and was greeted by the same shop attendant.
Ashen faced the attendant announced that the clock was nowhere to be found. They looked everywhere for it but could not find it. It wasn’t in the storeroom, nor the workshop, and not in the safe either, where valuable pieces are always kept for safe-keeping.
The young attendant lamented the disappearance of the clock … “Tempus Fugit” he said with a wry smile which the priest did not appreciate.
“It was such a lovely time-piece too,” he said soothingly, “perfect movement and spring action … reminiscent of the Georgian period I would say, probably earlier … solid gold numerals and hands set against an ivory clock face all encased in an ebony framework …Very unusual combination of materials, if I may say so Sir!”
And so he went on describing the missing clock as if he was at an auction enticing as many buyers as possible to bid highly for it.
All this did not help the priest one bit.
“What do you propose doing about it?” he asked in desperation.
“Well Sir …” said the attendant, “we could offer you a refund if you have proof of purchase or a valuation certificate or something that would ascertain its true value!”
As it happened, the priest still had the receipt from the city shop where he bought the clock. It cost exactly £100.
“That is indeed a valuable clock Sir.” said the attendant looking at the receipt, “I would have valued it at that sum if not a little higher … but then it should be … it is unique after all. They don’t make such lovely clocks like this anymore you know. Beautiful wooden craftsmanship is very difficult to find these days! And solid gold numerals and hands as I recall.”
The priest felt really low at having lost such a valuable item; especially when he heard it described so eloquently by someone who knew his trade very well.
The man continued in the same polite and considered voice.
“Our establishment deeply apologizes for the loss you have suffered Sir, and we offer you the sum of £80 in full recompense for our temporary drop in our high standard of service.”
Father Ignatius was totally perplexed at the amount offered in compensation.
“Why are you offering just £80?” he asked, “you can see from the receipt I paid £100 for the clock only a few days ago.”
“That is indeed correct Sir,” said the shop attendant, “but we have to deduct £20 for fixing the clock as you requested.”
Father Ignatius was astounded at what he’d just heard.
“But …” he paused for a while, “you lost the clock. A clock costing me £100 to purchase! You can’t deduct £20 because you fixed it since I do not have the clock to take with me.”
“Oh indeed we can …” continued the attendant politely, “the work was done at our workshop Sir. I inspected the clock myself after it was fixed and it passed our high standards of quality control. It was working perfectly. Surely you can’t expect us not to be paid for work carried out? That would hardly be fair, would you not say?”
There was no point in arguing further. The attendant was adamant that only £80 would be offered in compensation because the clock which was not working properly beforehand had indeed now been fixed. Father Ignatius took the amount offered and went away more puzzled than deflated.
It seems that there must be in Heaven a Patron Saint of Horology and all things relating to clocks.
Because a few days later Father Ignatius received a letter from the shop stating that the clock was ready for collection.
He rushed to the shop with a heart overflowing with joy and met the very same young attendant … and there, ready for collection, was the valuable clock working perfectly.
“Oh you found it … thank you so much!” said the priest smiling broadly.
“Indeed Sir,” said the attendant, “it was not so much lost than just temporarily misplaced due to refurbishment of our premises. We pride ourselves in this establishment never to lose our patrons property Sir.”
“That’s nice … now I’d better give you your £80 back.”
“What for Sir?” enquired the young man rather puzzled.
“You know … the £80 compensation you gave me when the clock was lost!”
“That will not be necessary Sir. As I’ve explained, the clock was never lost. It was temporarily misplaced. It was here all the time.”
“I’m glad about that … but you must see that you’re down on the deal, as they say. You fixed the clock for me, it is now found, and you gave me £80.”
“I do understand Sir,” said the man in his impeccable English, “I have checked with our Head Office and they explained that as the clock was never lost we were wrong to give you £80 compensation. That transaction never took place as far as we’re concerned.”
“That’s very generous,” replied Father Ignatius with a smile, “but tell me … what would have happened if the clock had not been found?”
“That is an impossibility as far as we’re concerned Sir. In our 150 years’ history no item has ever been lost. Very rarely, as indeed it did occur on this occasion, an item is misplaced and eventually found. Misplaced Sir, never lost!”
Father Ignatius was very pleased at what he’d heard and grateful for the generosity of this organization. He left the shop with his treasured time-piece restored to good working order and £80 in his pocket put to good use in helping his poor parishioners.
And it made a good story to relate at Monsignor Thomas’ Celebratory Reunion as well as the subject of the sermon on Sunday.
“A soul is never lost,” he thought to himself, “just temporarily misplaced!”
Sunday 10 October 2010
In a poor and desolate town such as where Father Ignatius was stationed it was evident that he would meet a lot of hardship amongst his parishioners, especially in difficult economic conditions where jobs were scarce and business closures rife.
One day a young man came to him complaining that he couldn’t get a good job and he felt a bit down because of lack of prospects at the factory where he did menial tasks.
Of course, the priest sympathized with him. It is good to see someone with ambitions wishing to better himself and get on in life. Yet, put in its true perspective, there were many others with no jobs at all and living literally in poverty.
Father Ignatius wished to convey this message to the young man, but he had to do it gently and without being critical of someone hoping to improve a bad circumstance.
He sat down on his chair behind his desk and looked at the young man in the face for a second or two and then asked:
“Have you got all your own teeth?”
The young man was taken aback at this unexpected and somewhat irrelevant question.
“Ehm … yes …” he mumbled.
“All your teeth hein?” repeated the priest, “no false teeth or dentures?”
“Yes …” said the man.
“That’s good … Just like me” said Father Ignatius pensively, “I have all my own teeth. No false ones. I’ve been lucky that way!”
After a few moments of silence the young man asked, “What has that to do with what we were talking about Father?”
“Oh … I was just thinking …” remarked Father Ignatius, “there’s plenty of talk about grinding and gnashing of teeth in the Bible.
“I wondered what would happen to those people with no teeth. Would they get given dentures do you think?”
The young man was now more puzzled than ever and thought the priest was perhaps getting a little senile.
Father Ignatius smiled and asked “Are you in good health?”
“Yes I am …” said the man emphatically.
“In good health … and doing a menial job at the factory! It’s good to want to improve yourself. You live in a rented apartment do you not?”
“Yes I do … not far from the church!” said the man.
“Oh yes … I forgot,” said the priest, “and you go regularly to church too. That’s good. And you help with the Youth Club we run here. That’s very commendable you know.”
The young man smiled.
“Let’s try to recap,” said Father Ignatius gently, “you’re young, fit and healthy too, you live in an apartment nearby, work at the factory on the East side of town, doing menial jobs as you say … You go to church … A good Catholic lad I suppose … I also know you have a red bicycle. I’ve seen you cycle to church. And you help with our youth work … And to top it all you have all your own teeth … mustn’t forget the teeth!”
The young man smiled again as he understood what the priest was saying.
“You see …” continued Father Ignatius, “life is very hard for many people these days. And I don’t decry your wish to do better for yourself. That’s very laudable.
“But when we pray to God, let us thank Him for what we have rather than bemoan what we haven’t!
“He knows our situation and He’ll certainly take care of us.”
The young man went away much wiser than he came and very grateful for his lot.
Monday 4 October 2010
Another motorist had come at speed from behind and failed to brake hitting the priest’s car so hard that it pushed him forward into the path of oncoming traffic at the street intersection. The priest felt himself thrown violently forward when his car was hit from behind; and then he was hit again just as violently when a bus hit him on the side as his vehicle moved forward onto the traffic. The sideways hit was so hard that the priest’s car swung round almost back the way it was coming.
Father Ignatius must have lost consciousness for a few moments because the next thing he heard was the sound of sirens and blue and red lights flashing everywhere.
He opened his eyes slowly and felt the warm trickle of blood down his face. He tried to move but he felt trapped in what now was a crushed metal box around him. He was somewhat dazed and in pain all over. His thoughts turned to panic when he considered the possibility of the car exploding into fire.
He looked to his side and saw a huge man in a bright yellow helmet. The man managed to open the car door window slightly and said:
“Please sir, don’t move … we’ll have you out in no time. I am Fireman Derek Larcing … my colleagues will help you straightaway …”
Father Ignatius must have mumbled something incoherent because the fireman continued,
“I didn’t quite understand that Sir … eh … I notice you’re wearing a white collar Sir … are you a priest?”
“Yes …” said Father Ignatius.
“What is your name Sir?” asked the fireman.
“That’s good Ignatius … now don’t talk and tire yourself. I’d like you please to try to move your feet and your toes … can you do that for me?”
The priest moved his feet and toes and then nodded.
“That’s a good sign Ignatius. Can you move your arms and hands?” The priest nodded again.
“OK … I’ll hand you this piece of cloth through the window, please just hold it on your head wound. It is sterilized and will soak the blood. Just hold it still … don’t wipe … just keep it there for a moment or two …” said the fireman soothingly.
“You’re obviously in great discomfort Sir, in such a confined space. The vehicle’s bodywork has collapsed around you, but all signs are that you don’t have any broken bones …”
“I know how sardines feel like …” said the priest forcing a smile.
“That’s good Sir, a sense of humor helps in moments like these … my colleagues have all the cutting equipment ready and we’ll soon have you out. It will be noisy for a while whilst they cut through the bodywork … but we’ll soon have you out.”
Fireman Larcing moved to the other side of the car whilst his colleagues started cutting open the bodywork. Moments later the priest was out of the wreckage and able to stand on his own feet. A couple of ambulance men moved forward and asked him to lie on a stretcher. Before he could protest that he was OK to go home the priest had been carried into a waiting ambulance and driven at speed to hospital.
On arrival at the hospital Father Ignatius was surrounded by doctors and nurses. They cleaned his head wound which had bled profusely and took various X Rays to ensure there were no broken bones or internal injuries.
As he lay in his hospital bed half-dazed by the experience he noticed Father Donald and Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, sitting beside him. Someone had contacted them soon after the accident.
Before Father Ignatius could say anything a doctor came in.
“Well Father …” said the doctor, “I’m not a believer personally … but it seems to me that your God must have been with you in that accident.
“Apart from the deep cut above your eye … which missed your eye by millimeters … you seem to be perfectly OK. There are no broken bones or fractures or internal injuries whatsoever … A few bruises which will soon heal … and maybe a scar will remain on your forehead.
“To be honest Father … my colleagues and I are surprised you’re alive. The police and fire brigade cannot understand how you got out of that wreckage in one piece.
“It’s as if someone was there with you in the car holding you tightly in His arms and shielding you with His body.”
Father Ignatius said nothing, whilst Father Donald made the Sign of the Cross.
“Was anyone else hurt?” asked Father Ignatius eventually.
“No … no one. The car which hit you from behind was damaged as was the bus which hit you from the side. But no one was hurt. Police say witnesses saw your car spin right round like a top when it was hit on the side.
“We’ll keep you here for a day or so for observations,” continued the doctor, “just a precaution you understand … we doctors like to make sure …”
A week later Father Ignatius had a visitor in church. It was a tall handsome man in jeans and T shirt.
“I am Fireman Derek Larcing … Father.” he said quietly.
“Oh do come in …” the priest invited him in the Parish House, “I didn’t recognize you without your bright yellow helmet!”
Moments later, as they were enjoying a nice cup of tea and biscuits the fireman said, “Sir … I have something to tell you.
“I am not a religious man … somehow, I don’t believe in anything. Religion was never mentioned in our house or at school …
“The thing is Sir … a few days before your accident I had a dream … nothing specific, I can’t even remember it … but I remember seeing a man in my dreams with a white collar … just as you’re wearing.
“It happened twice … a few days later I saw the same man in my dream … I can’t even make out his face … but I remember the white collar well.
“I mentioned it to my wife and we thought nothing of it. We just laughed it off. But since your accident my wife asked me to come and see you and tell you about it.”
“Thank you for doing so.” said Father Ignatius gently, “I cannot explain it nor interpret it … dreams do feature often in Christian teachings and there are several instances recorded in the Bible. Whether your dreams are of any significance I cannot tell … but I sure welcome you being there and helping me when I was in that wreckage.”
The fireman smiled and said.
“The thing is Sir … my wife and I discussed this incident … especially you coming out of the car alive and in one piece … I’ve seen many accidents in my time but none so bad with such an outcome …
“My wife and I think we should come to your church … is that allowed? We’re not Christian or anything you see …”
“Everyone is allowed in God’s Church” said the priest, “it is His and not mine.
“You’re welcome on Sunday … take it one step at a time and perhaps you’d wish to join our Adult Catechism Classes too when you’re ready … just come along and see how it goes!”
… And that’s what happened as a result of Father Ignatius’ accident.
Friday 1 October 2010
He spent most of his time in a wheelchair and needed constant attention from his parents and his two older sisters.
Father Ignatius knew the family well and visited them about once a week. They were rather poor, not unusual in this miserable desolate town with high unemployment and business closures.
The kindly priest often gave them some money to help supplement the family budget; although he pretended it was to pay his share of the evening meals he sometimes shared with them.
They usually prayed the Rosary as a family before their meals with the priest; and Sebastian’s mother would always dream that one day she’d be able to save enough money to take Sebastian to Lourdes so that Our Lady would heal him.
Her husband, John was more skeptical and felt somehow that his son was destined do be ill. Besides, there was no chance that they’d ever have any money anyway … so what’s the use of dreaming.
One summer the St Vincent de Paul Group in church organized a coach tour to Lourdes. They would travel South to the coast and take the ferry across to France.
Father Ignatius managed to find enough funds to take with them Sebastian, his parents and his sisters.
The coach was full to capacity and Father Ignatius had led prayers that Our Lady would listen to all intentions and bring them to Jesus our Healer of body and soul.
The tour was very successful. Sebastian had seemed more vibrant and lively than at any time before. He certainly enjoyed the many visits to Lourdes and the surrounding places to visit; and the whole family were greatly enriched by the kindness, friendship and fellowship of everyone on that coach.
Some may think that there was no miracle on that coach or for Sebastian and his family at Lourdes.
But they would be wrong.
That trip to visit the Holy Shrine strengthened Sebastian’s father’s Faith. He learnt that there is hope in dreaming. The family did go to Lourdes and it did benefit Sebastian and his sisters no end.
Sebastian’s mother was greatly enriched by the journey and the time spent praying to Our Lady. As did her two daughters who felt that much closer to their younger brother in a wheelchair.
Sebastian’s Father made a new acquaintance on the coach trip with the manager at a local factory. He managed to get a job at the factory and now no longer relies on donations from Father Ignatius to feed his family.
Sebastian’s mother also found a job working part-time three days a week at the local bakery. All because she happened to sit next to the church organist on the coach and discovered in conversation that she works at the bakery Personnel Department.
Somehow, purely by accident, they met a specialist doctor staying at the same hostel in France as the coach travelers. Father Ignatius had a few gentle words with him and Sebastian is scheduled to travel to a London hospital for further tests, and hopefully further treatment to help him live a better more comfortable life.
No … there was no miracle at Lourdes for those travelers from St Vincent Church. There were several.
Wednesday 29 September 2010
“Let us remind ourselves of what Mary read in the second reading today,” he said, “To have Faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.
“There are times in life when events hit us from nowhere and our Faith takes a real knock. Bad health maybe, or loss of a job or something else and we say … why is this happening to me? I’m a good person. I go to church regularly and love God. Why does He do that to me?
“But St Paul, who is said to have written this letter to the Hebrews, is quite clear in what he says … to have Faith is to be sure and certain of what we hope for and what we cannot see.
“And he had good reason to lose Faith … he was not in good health, he’d been arrested, beaten and imprisoned many times for preaching about Jesus, he was shipwrecked and bitten by a snake. He could have said at any time … enough of this … I might as well give up and go back to making tents … which was of course his trade.
“But he didn’t give up. His Faith remained strong. He continued preaching despite all adversities.”
Father Ignatius stopped for a while then continued.
“Jesus said that if we have Faith as small as a mustard seed we can say to a mountain move and it will move … or to a mulberry tree uproot yourself and plant yourself in the sea and it will do it.
“Can you imagine that? We don’t have any mountains near us … but there’s Ben Nevis in Scotland and Mount Snowden in Wales. Can you imagine standing there at the foot of Ben Nevis and saying … hey you Ben … I command you to move over there!
“And to have so much Faith in what you have said that you know for certain it will happen? You wouldn’t be frightened of making a fool of yourself in front of everyone else! You’d shout your command out loud to the mountain knowing full well that it will obey you.”
He paused again for a while and took something out of his pocket.
“I have here a mustard seed …” he said raising his hand, “can you see it?
“Of course not … it’s so small that I can hardly see it myself …
“Suddenly, this tiny mustard seed has never seemed so big … when it comes to asking a mountain to move.”
He stopped again and put the seed back in his pocket.
“But Jesus was not exaggerating when He taught us to have Faith.
“On His way to Capernaum Christ met a Roman Centurion whose servant was very ill. He asked Our Lord to help the servant, and when Jesus made His way towards the house the Centurion said ‘Lord, I do not deserve that you come under my roof. But just say the word and my servant will be healed’
“Can you imagine the Faith of that Centurion? A Roman officer who was no doubt tasked to keep the peace and had probably persecuted Christ’s followers in his time and kept them under control … Yet, this very man had so much Faith in Jesus that he knew that one word from Him and the servant would be healed.
“Can you do that I wonder? Can you have so much Faith in God that you know for certain that He will see you through whatever crisis you are facing? Or does your Faith crumble when adversity strikes?”
He stopped yet again to punctuate his sermon and to gauge the discomfort of the congregation.
“My dear friends …” he continued, “I am no Saint …
“There are times when my Faith falters too … I am as weak as any of you and at times that mustard seed I carry is as large as Ben Nevis itself.
“God knows that … He knows the amount of Faith we have in Him and how it varies in the good and the bad times …
“And yet He loves us all the same.
“A man came to Jesus once and asked Him to heal his son ‘if you possibly can …’
“Note the hesitancy in the man’s request. He was not as certain as the Centurion … he said ‘help us if you possibly can …’
“Jesus replied, ‘If you can? Everything is possible for he who has Faith.’
“To which the man replied, ‘I do have Faith, but not enough. Help me to have more!’
“Jesus took pity on him yet admired his honesty and healed his son.
“We too dear friends … should never be afraid or ashamed when our Faith is weak to say to God in all honesty.
“I believe Lord; help my unbelief”.
Sunday 26 September 2010
Some person or other had been nominated for a Peace Prize because of his work around the world.
“What a great honour,” said Sister Martha, “to be nominated for having tried to establish a little peace in this troubled world.”
“Yes indeed,” replied the priest picking up another ginger biscuit.
“Reminds me of the Prayer of St Francis of Assisi … Make me a channel of your peace,” continued the nun, “it must be wonderful to have spent one’s life furthering the cause of peace. It should bring a smile to God’s face” she concluded chortling silently.
“There isn’t much to make God smile nowadays,” said Father Ignatius, “so someone like this person doing his bit for peace should bring a great smile in Heaven!”
“This makes me wonder …” she said, “does someone have to be a Christian to be a channel of God’s peace? What if someone has no faith at all, a total un-believer? And he works hard for peace … is he God’s channel or not? What do you think Ignatius?”
The priest put his cup of tea down and pondered for a minute or so whilst she switched off the TV.
“I believe our God wishes Peace on this earth,” said Father Ignatius softly, “Christ used to welcome people with the words ‘Peace be with you’,
“But I don’t think that it is a condition for God to use us as a channel of His peace that we should have Faith.
“God can and will use anyone in the right circumstances to do His will on earth and to further His Kingdom. If someone with no Faith at all is in the right place and at the right time then I believe God will use him. That person with no Faith may not even know that he is guided by God, yet he will be a channel of God’s peace all the same.
“Remember Moses was hesitant at first, when approached by God, citing his stammer as an impediment to the task ahead. But God chose him anyway.
“Paul had no Faith whatsoever. He was a declared enemy of God; in fact he fought God by killing the followers of Jesus. If ever there was a man chosen to further God’s Kingdom on earth Paul was such a man. But look where he started from … an un-believer with no Faith.
“No Martha, I don’t think one needs to be a Christian to be a channel of God’s peace.
“To be a channel for God’s use we need to be willing to listen to Him, to obey Him and to trust Him in every respect.”
Friday 24 September 2010
No … Father Ignatius was a shepherd of human sheep. And that is not meant as a description of his congregation or their collective mental ability.
It was a responsibility which the kindly priest took upon himself from that day the Good Lord tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to take on his vocation. Father Ignatius saw his role in life to guide and lead as many that are put in his care as possible into the Kingdom of Heaven.
And in doing so he had to teach with kindness but with firmness too for it was not up to him to change the Word of God or to re-interpret it in such a way as to make it more palatable to his parishioners.
Father Ignatius knew his sheep by name and he also had the gift, or ability, to associate with each one of them a story or some fact or other about their lives. For example when greeting the parishioners after Mass on Sunday he would say “Hello Guy … how are the children settling in at school …” or “Good morning Mrs Perkins … are you feeling a little better after the operation?” And so on. This made them feel special which of course they were to him … just as a shepherd knows his sheep whether they are young lambs or long in the tooth mutton on legs.
The priest noted one Sunday that a young man looked a little morose and somehow out of sorts and this led him to recall that he hadn’t seen him take Communion for a while. He stopped him on the way out of church and asked him to wait a while to have a word.
When everyone had gone Father Ignatius and Roger went to the Sacristy.
“How are you keeping Roger?” asked the priest, “you don’t look too happy to me … is anything wrong?”
Roger did not need much prompting. Whatever had been eating him had been there for far too long to remain hidden and under control.
“There’s nothing to be happy about …” he replied, “I have lost my job and there’s little prospect of employment … as a result Sue and I have had to postpone our wedding … she hardly earns enough at the bakery … and all our plans to marry in the summer have gone out of kilter as it were …” and then he laughed bitterly and added “I’ve prayed of course Father … but I think God is too busy with someone else to bother about us …”
Father Ignatius said nothing for a moment and then asked, “Would you say a short prayer with me please Roger?”
The young man nodded and the priest started praying as Roger repeated …
“Our Father, who art in Heaven. Hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done …
“OK … let’s hold it there,” said the priest, “what’s the last thing we said?”
Roger hesitated and then mumbled “Thy will be done …”
“Precisely …” said the priest quietly and gently, “do you know Roger … I’ve often struggled with these four words … and me being a priest too …
“Thy will be done …
“We say these words time and again when we recite the Lord’s Prayer or the Rosary but do we really mean them?
“How far are we to accept our Lord’s will without question and without protest I wonder?
“Would we just accept the odd discomfort and setback if it is God’s will and somehow, without our knowledge or understanding, it serves His purpose? Maybe our problem and the way we deal with it serves as an example to others and brings someone closer to God. Would we accept His will in those circumstances?
“What if it is more than just a slight discomfort? What if His will leads us to pain or hardship? What then … do we accept it like Job did? Do we go on accepting it all the way onto death and torture like St Peter did and the Christian martyrs over the years?
“At what point do we say to God … Hey I said Thy will be done … but this is taking it too far!”
Roger smiled. The priest continued.
“We ought to be very careful when we make that particular promise in the Lord’s Prayer.”
Father Ignatius stopped for a while, as he often does in conversation to punctuate what he had just said, and to let the point sink in. He then smiled at Roger and said.
“The Lord knows what happens to us every moment of our lives Roger … not a hair should fall from our heads without His knowledge … and of course without His will and agreement …
“So when something happens to us … like losing a job … we should remember that He is still in control and somehow it serves His purpose.
“I am not saying it is easy … far from it. Our first human instinct is to rebel, get angry and complain or whine about our situation … It’s human nature to do so … But let’s try some non-human nature for a change … let’s with the aid of the Holy Spirit try superhuman nature to deal with the situation.
“I’m not criticizing you Roger … for I’ve had these difficulties myself you see …
“When the words ‘Thy will be done’ get to mean ‘as long as it is what I want’ then we’re adding a condition which was not there nor meant by Our Lord when He taught us to pray.”
Father Ignatius stopped for a while and then went on.
“It is sometimes difficult to accept or even understand the Lord’s will …
“We wonder why certain things happen to us … we being good and prayerful and attending Mass regularly and so on … why does He let it happen to us …
“The thing is Roger, the Lord knows what is happening to us and He will not let us be tested or be pushed beyond our capabilities …
“I have known people who have undergone great hardship in their lives Roger and they never lost their Faith. They accepted His will without question and were an example to the rest of us.
“Years ago I knew a young lady in this Parish, about your age and newly married. She became very ill with no prospects of getting better.
“I remember praying with her by her bedside in hospital and she said to me, ‘Cheer up Father … I’ll be seeing Jesus before you.’
“She died about an hour afterwards and yes … she did see Jesus before me Roger. She remained faithful to Him despite all that had happened to her.”
A few moments of silence followed as both men reflected on what had just been said.
“Go in peace Roger …” said Father Ignatius, “Trust Him to know better and to lead you where you are meant to be …”