Thursday, 29 April 2010
Father Ignatius came out of the Sacristy after Mass and found Sharon still in church with her little three years old daughter Petra. They were standing by the Statue of Our Lady trying to light a candle.
“Are you still here Sharon?” he asked, “how are you these days?”
He must have touched a raw nerve because tears started building up in Sharon’s eyes as she said, “We’re well Father … doing as best we can …”
Father Ignatius sat on the first pew and little Petra left her mother and came running to him, handing him her toy bear.
“That’s a lovely bear” said the priest taking it from her hands, “what is his name?”
“John …” said Petra enthusiastically as she climbed on the pew and sat next to the priest. “John, you and me can now pray together …” she added, as her mother a few feet away knelt down by the statue for private prayers.
Sharon was a single mother. Her husband left her for another woman just after Petra’s birth and has not been seen since. Eventually, having no news whatsoever of her run-away husband, she divorced him in the civil court and brought up her little child as best as she could on Social Security Benefits.
After a few moments of silent prayers she joined the priest and picked up her daughter on her lap.
“I’ve been trying to get a part-time job …” she said, “nothing much, just a few hours a week to supplement my benefits and to become a little independent …”
“That’s good …” replied Father Ignatius gently.
“There’s just no work available …” she said, “I can’t go full-time because I have no one to look after Petra … and part-time work is either not available or is too far from home requiring two bus rides to get there …”
Father Ignatius said nothing as he prayed silently and handed the toy back to the child.
“I feel such a failure …” continued Sharon, “my life seems to be in a rut and stuck in failure … I’ve been rejected by my husband … rejected by my family who live too far away to care … and rejected by every employer in town and society in general …”
At this moment, almost by coincidence, the little girl on her lap said, “I love you Mama …”
“Well … you’ve certainly not been rejected by Petra …” said Father Ignatius quietly as Sharon kissed the child on the head.
“And I know you haven’t been rejected by Jesus either …” he continued.
Sharon smiled weakly.
“Rejection is very hard …” said the priest, “and we do sometimes feel as if we’re of no value or worth to others. But that is not always the case Sharon.
“We’re all valuable in the eyes of God, and we all have a contribution to make … you are very valuable to your little daughter who relies on you for everything.
“It’s good that you’re trying to find a job; and I feel deeply for you at what you see as rejection from employers.
“Rejection does not mean failure.
“Sometimes rejection provides you with clarity on where to go next. You say you’ve tried the local factories, and the electric company and the gas works for some clerical work …
“Perhaps your future does not lie there … I can’t say where just now … but maybe God is leading you somewhere else.
“For now it could be that you’re exactly in the right place where you’re supposed to be … and God wants you to spend your time looking after Petra.
“Sometimes He answers us by saying ‘Wait … not now … stay where you are and trust Me’; … do you see what I mean?”
“I understand …” Sharon replied smiling weakly again.
“I shall pray for you Sharon …” continued Father Ignatius.
“And now … would you mind doing me a favor please?”
“Yes Father …” she said.
“I’m having some trouble with the new speakers and microphone they installed in church recently. I wish to test the acoustics in here.
“Would you mind going to the lectern and read something from the Bible over there. Take Petra with you.”
Sharon walked to the lectern child in hand.
“Just read anything … I’ll stand over here” said the priest.
Sharon opened the Bible and read the first passage at the top of the page.
“That’s good …” said the priest, “wait a bit until I walk over there a little further back … now read again …”
She followed his instructions.
“The speakers here sound OK … I’ll go right back by the statue of St Peter … when I get there could you read again please.”
Sharon waited until Father Ignatius walked slowly to the end of the church by the exit door and then started reading the Bible.
He raised his hand in the air to stop her then walked slowly to the front once again.
“As clear as a bell …” he said, “I can hear your every word very clearly despite my old age … and if I can hear you, I’m sure everyone else can.”
“Sharon … we do need readers for Mass on Sunday. It’s really not fair to rely on just the same readers every week. You should really consider adding your name to the readers’ rota to help us out a bit.”
“But … I can’t read …” she exclaimed as she picked up her daughter tugging at her dress.
“You seem to have done OK just now … just think about it,” replied Father Ignatius, “you don’t have to decide right now …”
Sharon did think about it; and eventually she did join the readers list and did read on Sundays at Mass.
A few months later she also managed to get a junior clerical job working part-time at the local Catholic school leaving her child at the pre-school playgroup while she worked.
Wednesday, 21 April 2010
It was just after ten o’clock at night when the phone rang. Father Donald got up to answer the call and then said: “It’s for you Ignatius … It’s Carla Perkins …”
“Dear Lord … not again …” mumbled Father Ignatius as he picked up the phone.
When he’d finished the conversation he said to his fellow priest: “Carla’s husband has come home drunk again and became violent in a heated argument. He has hit her hard this time and she said she is bleeding from her mouth … I’d better go over I suppose …”
“You’re not going alone?” asked Father Donald.
After a few seconds of waiting for a reply he went on, “Tom is a big man you know … if he turns on you …”
“Don’t worry Donald,” replied Father Ignatius “he wouldn’t hit a priest, would he … but just in case, I’d better wear my white collar just to remind him …” he added with a chuckle.
Half an hour later Father Ignatius was at the Perkins’ home. Tom was lying asleep on the settee whilst his wife was nursing a cut lip and crying softly whilst cuddling her two years old daughter.
Her husband’s behavior had got worse over the past few months ever since he lost his job in the latest factory closure. To his credit, he had tried finding a job everywhere in town, even further away out of town involving daily travel by train, but he had been unsuccessful. He considered himself a failure unable to provide for his family and as a result spent a lot of time in the pub wasting whatever little the family received from Social Benefits.
He often came home in a bad way and somehow got into an argument with his wife. This, however, was the first time he’d ever hit her. It was totally out of character as normally Tom was a mild-mannered individual who wouldn’t hurt a fly, as they say. But it shows the extent of his despair since losing his job.
The priest asked Carla whether she wished to spend the night with her daughter at the Convent. He could easily ring Mother Superior to arrange it. But she preferred to stay at home, not wishing to further upset her young child.
“He’ll wake up in the morning and be all apologetic …” she sobbed, “he always does that and can’t even remember we’ve had an argument … although this time my fat lip will serve as a reminder …” she smiled weakly.
Father Ignatius stayed for a while and having ensured that she and her daughter were safe returned to his home.
On his journey back he prayed that God may intervene and help this family torn apart by a financial crisis not of their making.
The following day at about midday there was a loud knock at the door of the Parish House.
Father Ignatius opened the door and Tom Perkins barged into the house and stood in the entrance hall, almost pushing the priest out of the way.
“Don’t interfere where you’re not wanted …” he shouted at the priest.
Father Ignatius said nothing and maintained his calm composure in the face of the angry giant.
“You were round our house last night …” continued Tom loudly, “are you interested in my wife? Is that it?”
“Don’t be absurd …” replied Father Ignatius somewhat shocked at the accusation.
“If you come anywhere near her again I’ll knock your lights out …” shouted Tom threatening the priest.
At this point Father Donald came out of his office having heard the commotion outside. He was a big man with a pronounced Scottish accent from his native Glasgow.
“And would you care to pick up a fight with me too?” he asked Tom in a quiet yet firm tone of voice.
Tom said nothing. Father Donald continued.
“I’m the same size as you Tom, and I reckon if I take off my white collar which can be a bit of a disadvantage I can take you on man to man as it were …”
Tom remained silent.
“Or would you prefer to hit someone smaller than you?” asked Father Donald, “like your wife for instance …”
At this Tom stormed out slamming the door behind him.
“Thanks Donald …” said Father Ignatius after Tom had left, “the poor man is desperate …”
“That’s no reason to behave like that …” growled Father Donald proudly pronouncing every syllable to emphasize his accent.
“You wouldn’t have hit him would you?” asked Father Ignatius.
“No way … these stiff white collars are too difficult to take off in a hurry” joked Father Donald as he returned to his office.
Father Ignatius did not let it rest at that. Having prayed about the situation he set out to contact his many acquaintances in town and eventually, after weeks of searching, he managed to find Tom a job with a local builder.
It did not pay as much as Tom earned at the factory but it was a start to help him back on his way to regaining his self-esteem and confidence.
Tom was extremely grateful and very apologetic at his disgraceful behavior when he threatened his priest. His character changed overnight and he has not had one argument with his wife ever since.
And now he always looks down sheepishly whenever he meets either priest as he accompanies his wife and child to Mass on Sundays.
Monday, 19 April 2010
Jack was a lovely man. Well loved by his wife, three children and four grand-children, as well as his wider family and friends.
When they all went to church together they filled the two front rows on the left of the Altar. But that wasn’t often, because they usually attended different Masses at St Vincent.
One day, out of the blue, Jack was taken severely ill and admitted to hospital. The whole family was devastated and it is fair to say that their Faith took quite a beating.
But not Jack. He remained calm and somehow, accepted the will of God. Of course, he was a little scared, but accepted what was happening to him willingly, trusting God that all would be well.
Father Ignatius visited him in the hospital often, and was greatly humbled by the man’s Faith and cheerfulness, despite the obvious pain he was in at times.
Jack remained in hospital for a while, receiving family visitors as well as his priest every now and then.
One day, whilst Father Ignatius was the only visitor Jack said to him:
“See that man over there Father, in the bed just opposite me?”
The priest nodded silently.
“He doesn’t believe in God Father …” continued Jack, “and he’s scared to death. He has the same symptoms and the same problems as me … and to be honest the doctors don’t hold much hope for either of us …”
Father Ignatius held Jack’s hand.
“Hey … I know what’s what Father. Both of us will have an operation soon and the chances are … well, I wouldn’t bet my shirt on it …”
Jack laughed weakly.
“You know what I did Father …”
The priest shook his head.
“Yesterday, I went over to that man. His name is Larry. And I said to Larry that Jesus will look after him. I told him that everything will be OK and he is not to worry about the operation.
“I don’t think he believed me, or in Jesus … but I think it calmed him down a bit.
“At least I’ve noticed that he’s stopped crying. He used to sit there and wipe his eyes and feel sorry for himself. He’s stopped that now. Maybe Jesus has started working on him … hein?”
Father Ignatius nodded weakly. He prayed silently for Jack and thanked the Lord for this man’s Faith in such adversity. Not only to believe in Christ’s healing power but to announce it boldly to someone who didn’t believe at all.
“Hey Father … you’d better give me Communion now; before the family turns up … you know how emotional they get … especially my wife ...” said Jack with a weak smile.
The priest prayed with Jack for a while after giving him Communion and waited until his family arrived before leaving the hospital.
A few days later Jack and Larry were operated on. Both operations were successful and after a period of recuperation in hospital and at home both fully recovered.
Jack and Larry became friends. Larry and his wife and daughter became Christian and attend church at St Vincent.
Jack’s severe illness and his stay in hospital were the channel for a family of un-believers to get to know and love Christ.
(Based on a true story).
Saturday, 17 April 2010
Confessions were normally heard on Saturday morning at St Vincent Church by either Father Ignatius or Father Donald; or sometimes both priests when it was near a Feast Day such as Easter or Christmas.
One Wednesday evening, as Father Ignatius was all alone in the Parish House, the door bell rang and there stood Ben Moon.
“Father … may I ask you to hear my confession please?” he asked politely.
“Would you like to go to church?” asked the priest hesitantly.
“No …, this isn’t a quick ‘Bless me Father for I have sinned’ type of confession.”
The priest did not react to the attempted joke.
“You’d better come to my office,” he replied, “but first let’s go to the kitchen and prepare some coffee.”
Minutes later the priest walked up the stairs with a tray of coffee and biscuits followed by Ben Moon.
Ben was a local businessman. He wasn’t too involved in church, apart from attending Mass every now and then. But he was a very generous donor. Many a time he left Father Ignatius a very handsome check in support of some event or project which the church was supporting. His wife though was always in church, attending various meetings and organizing several events and activities.
“What’s on your mind Ben?” asked Father Ignatius as he sat at his desk.
“Father … I no longer love my wife!” came the direct reply.
The priest did not readily react, but almost instinctively he said a silent prayer. He asked the Holy Spirit to guide him in what to say, and he prayed for this couple whom he knew for some years.
The short silence was interrupted by Ben, who continued, “for some time now we have been drifting apart. We argue constantly. I let things pass to avoid further arguments and I’ve reached the point where I can take it no longer …
“Any advice you care to throw my way?” he concluded with a weak smile.
“It depends whether you want me to speak as a priest or as a man …” replied Father Ignatius.
“Hey … what the heck … either would do … I’m at the end of the road anyway …” laughed Ben.
“The end of the road?”
“Yes … I can take it no longer … I want out of here, as they say.”
“In that case, it seems to me you’ve reached a decision already,” replied the priest, “and perhaps all you need is my re-assurance …”
Ben didn’t reply. Father Ignatius continued.
“Many people believe that just because we are priests we don’t understand the pressures and difficulties in a marriage. We don’t understand that sometimes people do drift apart. And the love and caring that was there at the beginning is now a little faded and tattered round the edges.
“I know that marriage is a hard-working lifetime commitment which involves both people working together everyday, despite all the difficulties, despite all the pitfalls, and despite all the problems that life might bring. I realize that sometimes this proves too much for some couples, just like in your case. But that’s no reason to stop trying Ben.
“I don’t need to know the details that led to this, but I urge both of you to try harder to reach out to each other and, with God’s help, renew that commitment …
“Have you considered speaking with a counselor; or if you think I can help in any way …”
“Father …” interrupted Ben, “I’m afraid it’s gone beyond the help of a counselor … I’ve been seeing someone else … and I spoke to my solicitor about divorce …”
“I see …” said Father Ignatius. He stopped for a few seconds to underline the severity of what he had just heard. Then he continued calmly.
“So what do you want to confess exactly? The fact that you don’t love your wife, or that you have been unfaithful, or that you want a divorce?”
Ben shook his head pensively as he put down his cup.
“I’m sorry to have troubled you Father,” he said standing up.
“Don’t go just yet … sit down,” asked the priest gently, “you see Ben, you put me, and Jesus too, in a difficult situation.
“When we come to confession it is with the intention that we will not commit that particular sin again, or at least try not to.
“You seem to have decided that you wish to leave your wife, forget your marital vows, and move on to a new life.
“It’s a confession all right … but it doesn’t show remorse, nor does it seek forgiveness.”
“As I said …” replied Ben abruptly, “I am sorry to have troubled you. Perhaps I shouldn’t have come here at all. I haven’t told Josie yet … but I will tonight, after a stiff drink or two …”
“I shall pray for both of you …” said Father Ignatius standing up, “please Ben, give it some time … don’t act too rashly … you don’t have to tell her straightaway … think about this some more.
“If there’s anything I can do please let me know … ask Josie to come to see me if she wishes …”
Father Ignatius was struggling in an already decided situation. Ben was determined and he knew what he wanted to do.
The priest stood in the car park as he watched Ben drive away. He prayed silently for a few moments as he imagined how Josie would take the news. She was a lively, jovial person always willing to help in church. He could hardly imagine that such a couple who’d been married for some years looked now destined for a break-up.
He did what he always did in seemingly helpless situations; he placed it in the hands of God and repeated “Thy will be done oh Lord.”
That evening Ben arrived home and found his wife crying.
“Oh God …” he thought, “she’s found out … perhaps that priest has been talking on the phone …”
He poured himself a large whiskey and asked grumpily what’s been going on.
Eventually, amongst the tears Josie confessed that she’d been seeing the doctor for some tests and they had diagnosed cancer.
That night life stood still.
Ben did not tell her his intentions. He arranged for other tests to be carried out privately at a hospital where he had business connections. When the diagnosis was confirmed he stood by his wife throughout the prolonged treatment which lasted several months.
He stopped seeing his other friend.
Eventually, as he nursed his wife to full health, slowly but surely he learnt to love her once again.
And now … two years later, he is still with her, never having told her of that fateful evening when he visited Father Ignatius; and when the kindly priest knew that he was out of his depth and handed the whole matter to Higher Authority.
Thursday, 15 April 2010
It had been a horrible gray day, with dark skies and continuous light drizzly rain as you often get in England. A very soft freezing wind blew gently from the North; the kind of gentle wind which would hardly make a leaf tremble yet it could go right through you chilling your every bone.
Father Ignatius was in church. He stood by the doorway and looked at the rain and thought of his childhood. His mother used to say when it drizzled like today that it was the angels crying because of the many sins in this world. He said a silent prayer for his parents now long gone.
Every now and then, the cold wind carried with it a sweet sugary smell from the brewery nearby. The aroma of caramel or syrup, or was it malt, thought the priest, enveloped the whole church and Parish House.
Eventually, Father Ignatius locked the church door and crossed the car park in the gentle rain as he made his way towards the Parish House.
As he entered the house, closing the door behind him, the phone rang and he was asked to go to the hospital.
Half-an-hour later he was at the bedside of Isabelle Bennett.
Isabelle was a lively 28 years old, always cheerful and laughing enthusiastically as she spread happiness to everyone she knew. Father Ignatius had known her for some years now as well as her young husband Martin. They were both members of the Parish Council and took part in many church activities and events.
Then suddenly, about a month ago, Isabelle was taken seriously ill and admitted to hospital where she remained ever since. She was not getting any better and the doctors had given up hope.
She smiled feebly as Father Ignatius entered the hospital room where she was lying in bed. Her face ashen in color and her beautiful blue eyes very tired from the many injections and pain-killers she’d received. Her husband sat by her side Rosary beads in hand holding her hand gently.
The nurse brought in another chair which she placed on the other side of the bed; and Father Ignatius sat down.
“Are you in pain?” he asked her gently.
She shook her head. Her husband raised the hand he was holding to his lips and kissed her.
Father Ignatius started praying quietly as the nurse left the room. He gave Isabelle Holy Communion and then sat down beside her.
“Can we recite the Rosary Father?” she asked softly.
And for the next few minutes the priest and her husband recited the Rosary together whilst her lips moved gently as they prayed.
When they had finished praying she asked him how he was, and made small conversation. Her voice was soft and somewhat labored as she drifted in and out of consciousness. One moment she was talking about church matters and the next she was asleep, then awake once again.
At these moments of silence Father Ignatius sat quietly and prayed silently.
She moved her other hand towards him and held his hand. Holding her husband and her priest in each hand.
Suddenly, she squeezed the priest’s hand tightly and said: “Don’t look so miserable Father. I’ll be seeing Jesus before you.”
Father Ignatius moved a little forward and kissed her on the forehead.
About twenty minutes later she passed away peacefully.
The funeral was very emotional. The church was full to capacity with friends and relatives coming to mourn the loss of such a young and vivacious life.
Her husband Martin was totally devastated to have lost his young wife within seven months of marriage.
Father Ignatius prayed for him and the whole family who found it very difficult to come to terms with such an early death.
A few weeks later, the priest witnessed the first signs of renewal when young Martin phoned him one morning.
“Father,” he said, “I will inscribe what she said on her tombstone.
“It will read: Don’t look so miserable. I’ll be seeing Jesus before you.”
Three years later … and Martin is studying for the priesthood.
Tuesday, 13 April 2010
Father Ignatius was watching a comedian on TV. He was mildly amusing at first, and then suddenly, his jokes turned to religion.
Now Father Ignatius usually turns off the TV, or switches to another channel, when people ridicule Christianity. This time, however, that inner voice within asked him to hang on a minute.
The comedian was talking about prayer. He said that some people ignore “that nice bearded man in the sky” most of their lives and turn to Him screaming for help when things go wrong.
The audience laughed.
Father Ignatius wondered whether they were laughing at the description of God, or the fact that some people ignore Him until disaster strikes in their lives.
The comedian went on with another limp joke about how people pray.
“Some get down on bended knees and repeat the same prayers over and again like parrots; praying the Rosary for instance.”
The comedian imagined God sitting on His throne dividing people into categories. All those who prayed repeated prayers He put on one side. Those praying the Rosary He gathered all together, and then, through His omnipotent ability to control time, He would synchronize them all so that they recited the Rosary in unison.
The audience reacted by laughing inanely in harmony.
Father Ignatius got up to switch off the TV.
At that point the comedian had changed the subject to the Eucharist and what Christians believed.
With the TV safely off Father Ignatius sat down again and pondered.
“What a sad state of affairs we’ve come to,” he thought, “when a comedian has to mock Christianity for a living; and he finds a ready audience reacting to his every joke.
“If a member of that audience was a Christian, it would prove very difficult indeed, if not impossible, to stand up and protest.
“That person would himself become the object of ridicule and provide ample material for the comedian to continue his act.
“And why should the TV Company even wish to broadcast such material knowing full well that it would offend someone watching at home.”
Father Ignatius reflected on what the comedian had said about prayer; which as it happened was the subject of the priest’s sermon that coming Sunday.
“Of course God does not need our prayers,” he thought.
“He does not need them in the sense that He is not in any way diminished or left wanting if we did not pray.
“But like any loving parent He is happy when we keep in contact. He likes to hear from us from time to time. When we ask Him for our needs.
“He likes us to tell Him how we feel from day to day. To share our worries and concerns, or our troubles when the road ahead is somewhat difficult.
“He also likes to hear about our joys and moments of happiness when things are right.
“The odd ‘Thank you’ every now and then would not go amiss either!”
Father Ignatius jotted a few notes down in his little book.
“And of course,” thought the priest to himself, “praying to God means listening to Him as well as speaking to Him. It is after all a two-way conversation.”
As for repetitive prayers … that comedian may well poke fun at them, but Father Ignatius saw nothing wrong.
He did after all pray the Rosary daily, sometimes more than once a day.
“It helps me concentrate and focus on God,” he said to himself, “… and as everyone knows, men are not good at multi-tasking. So reciting the Rosary helps focus my mind!” he chuckled.
Yes, all in all, that comedian gave him a lot of material for his sermon on Sunday.
As for mocking God and Jesus, “there’s nothing new there” thought the priest.
“Jesus was mocked and laughed at many times throughout His Mission on earth and during His arrest, trial and Crucifixion.
“He took all the hatred and ridicule with Him on the Cross.
“A few jokes from a TV comedian would not harm The Almighty at all; and could perhaps lead someone to experience the love of Christ by just prompting him to learn more.
“The certainty, however, is that the comedian would be reminded of these jokes when he’s face to face with his Creator.”
Father Ignatius smiled.
Friday, 9 April 2010
“Father, I really have difficulty in understanding the Holy Trinity,” said a parishioner to Father Ignatius.
“I really can’t understand why we sometimes have difficulties in just accepting the mysteries of our Faith,” replied the priest, “after all, God is not really that complicated is He?”
“It’s the three in one that I don’t understand. When we get to Heaven will we meet all three of them God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Or will we see just one?”
“When I get to Heaven and find out, I’ll phone you to let you know,” replied the priest with a chuckle.
There was silence for a moment or two as James continued to fix the priest’s car. Fr Ignatius stood there as an assistant handing different tools when asked.
“You obviously know how St Patrick used a shamrock to explain the Trinity,” asked Father Ignatius eventually.
“Yes … but it doesn’t really answer my question does it?”
“Everywhere around us we see in nature things made of many parts,” said the priest, “look at that tree over there. It is made up of a trunk, roots which you cannot see, branches and leaves, and sometimes it has fruits too. You don’t have difficulty accepting that all these parts make up one tree do you?”
“No Father,” said James, “I understand that they can be together as one tree, or separate … the tree, the leaves and the fruit. Is that how the Trinity works?”
“I don’t know. I just accept it and believe it,” said Father Ignatius.
“But let’s continue along this path for a moment.
“We believe in God. Whoever we perceive Him to be. Some imagine Him as a bearded old man living in Heaven somewhere; others see Him as a Spirit or a Supernatural Being perhaps … we each have a mental description of God.
“I prefer to see Him as Jesus told us about Him; a loving caring Father, Creator of everything.
“Are you OK this far?”
James nodded and put down the wrench he was using to fix the car. He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand and listened.
“In times of old God spoke to His people on earth through the prophets," continued Father Ignatius, “He guided them and gave them Commandments on how to live … I’m sure you read all about it in the Old Testament … But people did not always listen to the prophets as you well know James. They killed some of them and ignored quite a few.
“God could of course have sent punishments from above … floods, famines, pestilence and so on. And indeed He did for a while.
“He could of course have come down as a Superman type character … now that may have worked don’t you think?
“He could have frightened everyone of them into total and perfect submission. But that is hardly the behavior we’d expect from a loving caring Father is it? What is the point of enforcing His will on all of us and make us love Him under duress?”
“So God decided to come to earth as a human being. As one of us. A human we could see, talk to, listen to and witness His power of love through His miracles,” said Father Ignatius gently.
“He came as a vulnerable little baby. And for a while He was vulnerable indeed when Herod tried to destroy Him. He grew up amongst us and throughout His life it was love and only love which motivated His every action.
“Jesus was, and is, God made incarnate.
“Whatever image we may have in our mind about God being a Spirit or whatever … in Jesus we see God Himself made human just like us.
“Are you OK with my explanation so far?”
James agreed as he kept working on the car engine.
“And this is where some people get a little confused …” continued the priest.
“When Jesus was set to return to Heaven after the Resurrection, you can imagine the disciples were totally distraught.
“They'd lost all confidence, even though they witnessed the Resurrection and saw the victory.
“Their leader, their God was leaving now. What are they to do without Him? How can they carry on without His guidance? How can they build His church and preach about Him? What a responsibility without His loving, guiding hand!
“So God, Jesus, promised to return.
“And He did return, as the Holy Spirit. He returned in Spirit form, not in physical form. You remember the story of the Pentecost don’t you?
“He lived within them and they were enlightened. They spoke in different languages and taught throughout all lands.
“He lived there, just within their soul, not in human form, but as a Spirit. A Holy Ghost if you prefer.
“And the Good News is that God, Jesus, this very Holy Spirit never left. He is still here right now. He lives within some people as He did within the disciples. It doesn't mean that every Christian has the Holy Spirit within him. But some do. I have seen it.”
The priest paused for a while.
“What saddens me,” he continued, “is that these days it is so much easier for people to believe that the devil can possess people and live within them, as you see in the movies, but they cannot believe or even understand that God can, and does, live within us.”
“That’s true,” said James, “many people believe in ghosts and evil spirits.”
“Unlike the devil, God does not possess people. He dwells within us but only if we ask Him and invite Him,” Father Ignatius continued.
“That’s because God is love. He would not do anything against our will. He invites us to love Him back without any coercion whatsoever. We choose freely whether to love Him back or not. Whether to invite Him in our hearts or not.
“So when we say people have the Holy Spirit within them, we mean they have God, and Jesus Christ, guiding their very soul in every aspect of their lives; in what they do, in what they say, and when to do or say it. They serve as an example to the rest of us; and they help and lead us towards our Heavenly home.”
At this point, James, who was listening intently whilst working, dropped something accidentally on the floor.
Father Ignatius got down on his hands and knees to search under the car and picked up a bolt and nut with a washer ring on it.
The priest looked at his hand for a few seconds and then said:
“Hey … look at this James. A bolt and nut with a disc attached in the middle.”
James stopped working and looked at what the priest was holding.
“The three together are one item,” said Father Ignatius, “they work together to serve their purpose … a Trinity you might say.
“Let’s separate them.
“This bolt here represents God, Our Almighty Father.
“The nut represents Jesus, made human and come to visit us on earth.
“And this disc or washer is the Holy Spirit. You can see when we put them together again that the disc is held securely on the bolt by the nut.
“It’s the same with the Holy Trinity I suppose.
“We cannot get to see or be with the Holy Spirit, until we have accepted Jesus first. Take this nut off the bolt, and now you have the disc. Accept Jesus in your life, and the Holy Spirit will descend upon you.”
James smiled broadly.
“I’ll keep this as a souvenir to remind me of this valuable lesson,” he said.
“I suggest you use it to fix the car, and get yourself another set …” replied the priest jokingly.
Monday, 5 April 2010
It was Good Friday, about nine in the evening, as Father Ignatius settled down in his armchair by the fire. It was still cold for this time of year and snowing yet again. He put a couple of logs on the open fire and picked up a book to read.
Moments later Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, entered the large living room and announced that Geoff Henderson had just called in and was waiting in the reception room.
“Oh let him in …” said Father Ignatius standing up to greet his visitor.
Geoff Henderson was an architect and he had brought with him some plans to discuss some alterations to the Parish Hall and the area behind the garage. After their discussions were over the priest said:
“How are you these days Geoff? I haven’t seen you in church for a while now!”
Geoff hesitated as he gathered his papers together and sipped a little coffee.
“To be honest Father …” he said finally, “I’ve been rather busy lately …”
“Too busy to go to church?” asked Father Ignatius.
“Well … actually, I feel that God is distant these days …” confessed the architect standing up to leave.
At that point Canis the dog, who was lying by the fire, yawned heavily as he made himself more comfortable.
“That’s not a comment on what you’ve just said,” joked the priest, “sit down Geoff if you have a minute to spare.”
The architect sat down again.
“This dog and I have a special relationship,” said Father Ignatius, “when I take him for a walk in the park I sometimes let him off the lead. He runs away like mad here there and everywhere in no particular direction. He is free and he’ll go where he wants. Sometimes he is quite far away. It is he who has distanced himself from me Geoff; and not the other way round.
“Do you see what I mean?”
“Yes … I do … I suppose it is me who’s distanced myself from God,” replied the architect, “but I suppose it is because I no longer see Him as relevant in my life.”
“I wonder whether Canis sees me as relevant in his life?” asked the priest, “the other day I was cleaning the back garden and he looked at me as if to say ‘I like this … I poo wherever I want and you get to pick it up … that’s a special relationship all right!’ ”
“And what’s more …” continued the priest, “he seems to be absolutely useless. He is certainly no guard dog. If we were to have a burglar in the house he would probably show him where I’ve hidden my stash of chocolates.
“The other day he came face to face with a cat in the back garden. He stood still like a statue. Then turned his head towards me expecting me to run and bark after the cat.
“I did not move. The cat started to panic and run but then stopped in total confusion and looked at the dog.
“Canis looked at me and then at the cat once or twice, and then he whined and ran inside the house to hide in his bed.”
Geoff chuckled quietly.
“But I like him Geoff,” said the priest, “and I wouldn’t part with him. And he seems to like me.
“Do you know … I think God likes you. In fact I know He loves you for sure, because He said so, many times in the Bible.
“I suspect you’re off the lead now and you’re running successfully all over the place. You don’t need God really … you have a great business, a lovely car which I must admit I envy, and a good life. No wonder He seems distant.
“But God is there all the same Geoff. Protecting you from more ills than you can imagine without you knowing it. All because He loves you.
“When you get the time, come and visit Him in church just to say Hello!”
Geoff said nothing.
“I don’t mean to be critical,” continued Father Ignatius gently, “we all get distanced from God at some stage or other in our lives Geoff.
“It would be wrong of me to see this happen to you and say nothing.
“Take one step at a time. Come to church on Sunday, and when you feel ready come to Confession. Or come again and see me for a quiet talk.
“You’ll find God will welcome you back in His loving arms like a father welcoming his prodigal son.
“You’re a good man Geoff deep down. I wouldn’t be doing business with you otherwise. I’ll be praying for you.”
“Thank you …” said Geoff quietly.
“I’ll be praying also that you won’t charge me too much for the building extension!” said Father Ignatius.
Thursday, 1 April 2010
This week, many churches re-enact the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet before the Last Supper. The priest washes the feet of 12 people representing the disciples. You can bet that the chosen 12 have ensured that their feet, (or foot, because usually one foot is washed to speed the whole procedure), are/is as clean as could be, to avoid embarrassment during the re-enactment.
At the time of Jesus, however, things were different. Streets were not as modern and clean as they are now in our towns and cities. They were dusty, muddy if it rained, and no doubt full of deposits from horses, camels and cattle. People wore sandals or even walked in bare feet.
So when they entered a house as guests washing their feet must have been an essential task rather than the symbolism it is in today’s churches. A task left to the servants to undertake.
When Jesus offered, insisted even, in washing His disciples’ feet He was teaching them, and us, a very important lesson.
Here is God Himself, born in poverty, raised in poverty, living in poverty, submitting Himself to perform a task reserved for servants.
Perhaps the disciples didn’t understand the significance of what Jesus had just done. Maybe we don’t understand it ourselves right now.
Yet, He was preparing for an even greater submission and humiliation for us.
Dying a most horrible and painful death on the Cross.
Just for us.