Sunday 24 October 2010

Just a carpenter.

On the left side of St Vincent church, right in front by the Altar, just by the Sacristy door, there’s a large statue of Our Lady. On the right side of the altar, hanging on the wall, there’s a picture of St Vincent, the Patron Saint of the church.

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

The Return.

A few days after Father Ignatius encountered the thugs in the park he had a visit at Parish House.

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

Park Encounter.

It was a crisp autumn evening when Father Ignatius took his dog Canis for a walk in the park. As he passed the pond a few ducks followed him quacking in the hope that he’d feed them a few pieces of bread. The dog stopped for a few seconds, looked at them as if to say “Go away … we’re busy” then pulled at the lead once again beckoning the priest to move on.

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


Father Ignatius was at the pulpit reading from the Bible:

“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

The Clock.

It was Monsignor Thomas’ 30th Anniversary as a priest and the Bishop had arranged a Celebratory Reunion at Bishop’s House.

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

No dentures.

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

Yellow Helmet.

Father Ignatius was out driving in his car when he stopped at a red traffic light at the road crossing. He waited there for a minute or two until the lights changed to green when suddenly there was this almighty bang at the back of his car.

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.

“Ignatius …”

“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


Sebastian was eight years old. He had been ill most of his young life having been in hospital several times for tests and operations and even more tests.

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.