Saturday 29 January 2011

Father Ignatius breaks a leg.

The letter had been on Father Ignatius’ desk for about a week now. A local firm of Solicitors had asked him to attend a meeting scheduled for this morning. He tried getting through to them on the phone, but was never able to contact the signatory to the letter. The person answering the phone could not help either. Reluctantly, he decided to attend the meeting.

There were about a dozen people or so at the reading of the will. Mr Simmons was not particularly wealthy but he left a few small sums of money mainly to local charities, which the people at the meeting represented. He had no relatives or friends to speak of.

Father Ignatius knew of him. He visited Mr Simmons at home a few times to see him when he wasn’t well, but usually Father Donald called on him since he never attended Mass. He lived alone on a farm on the outskirts of town.

The priest wondered why he had been named in the will instead of Father Donald. “Never mind,” he thought, “whatever money he has left us will come useful in meeting the church’s expenses.”

“ … and to Father Ignatius I bequeath the statue I valued so much. I request that he installs it in the front garden of the church for all to see and admire.”

“What?” thought Father Ignatius, “he left us a statue?”

He asked the solicitor after everyone had gone whether he knew anything about the statue, but he could shed no light on it either. He explained that there’s a life-size statue in a barn on the farm and that it will be sent to him in a week or so. He hadn’t seen it personally so he could not even say what it was a statue of.

Father Ignatius wondered about this strange bequest for a whole week. Father Donald teased him “Maybe he made a statue of you to honour your good works. It’ll look good in the middle of the car park. We can use it as a roundabout to control the traffic!”

At the breakfast table a few days later Father Ignatius was enjoying ginger marmalade on toast when Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, came in and announced: “There’s a removal van in the car park. They seem to be unloading something!”

The two priests went out to investigate, followed by Mrs Davenport.

“Is either of you two gentlemen Father Ignatius?” asked a fat man walking towards them.

“That’s me.”

“I have a delivery for you guv’nor. Would you sign here please … and here … and one more time here … that’s loverly! This box here is yours. And you can keep a copy of these papers too. Tara!” And he drove off accompanied by his mate.

“It’s a big enough crate!” said Father Donald.

“We can’t keep it here. Let’s get some tools and open it”.

Minutes later, supervised by Mrs Davenport, they managed to remove the front panel of the upright wooden crate. It was full of straw which they gently removed revealing a shape taller than Father Donald; and he is over six feet tall. The shape was covered by cloth which was well held in place by heavy duty string.

The two men gingerly moved the shape out of the crate by sliding it to and fro until it was standing upright by itself in the car park. They then cut the string and removed the cloth wrapping the statue.

“Oh … it’s a naked wee cherub!” declared Mrs Davenport, "just look at him ... isn't he cute?"

“Nothing wee about him,” said Father Donald, “he’s an overfed cherub who should have gone on a diet a long time ago.”

“Isn't he wonderful ... and he’s all naked too … the little angel!” continued Mrs Davenport with a smile.

“Yes … we have noticed,” replied Father Ignatius impatiently.

“Will you be putting him in the middle of the car park? He’ll look grand there,” suggested Mrs Davenport, “the parishioners will like him, I’m sure!”.

“We’ll do no such thing with this monstrosity,” was Father Ignatius’ abrupt reply.

“I don’t know,” teased Father Donald, “by installing him there we’d be the talk of the town. We could add a plaque saying he was bequeathed to the church in your honour Ignatius!”

Father Ignatius’ silence spoke volumes. He put the straw and cloth back in the crate and said: “We’ll have to remove him from here. Let’s put him in the garage for now. I’ll fetch a trolley to put him on.”

Minutes later the two priests tried to lift the statue onto the trolley. It was a little heavy but they managed it. As they pushed the trolley towards the garage one of its wheels must have caught something because it stopped abruptly and the statue slid forwards and fell to the ground before the two priests could do anything about it.

They moved away swiftly to avoid the statue crushing their feet; and after the initial shock of the sudden accident they realized that one of the cherub’s legs had been broken by the fall.

“Mercy me …” cried Mrs Davenport, “the wee angel broke its leg!”

“We’re both all right, thank you …” retorted Father Ignatius trying to keep calm.

“Hey … what’s this Ignatius?” said Father Donald pointing at the ground, “it looks like a small leather bag. It must have been inside the hollow statue.”

Father Ignatius pocketed the bag and the two priests eventually managed to store the statue, and its severed leg, inside the garage.

Moments later, in Father Ignatius’ office, the two priests opened the bag which contained seven little jewels. Five crystal in colour, and two red.

They didn’t know what to do about them, so Father Ignatius contacted the solicitors the next day who assured him that they belonged to him.

“They were in the statue and the statue is now yours, including its contents,” said the solicitor. “Mr Simmons had no family or friends to inherit his belongings. He left the statue to you, and had you not broken it we would never have known it contained anything. I suggest you keep or sell the so called jewels and use the proceeds as you wish.”

Well, the jewels were valued and sold for just over £8000 which helped with the church’s maintenance costs, and quite a bit besides to feed the poor of the Parish.

“The wee cherub may well have been naked,” remarked Mrs Davenport, “but he hid a treasure all right!”

Thursday 27 January 2011

Pragmatic Ignatius.

As a priest, Father Ignatius always tried to teach his parishioners according to the doctrines and rules of the Church. Yet, there were times when he had to be pragmatic and accept the realities of life and the fact that he could not change events. Priests just don’t have magic wands … and they can’t make things better all the time; not even Father Ignatius.

Such a case involves Derek and Geraldine. They were in their early thirties and they had a daughter aged about five.

As sometimes happens in life they grew apart and both of them became unfaithful to their wedding vows. Derek became friendly with his secretary at work and Geraldine met the brother of a friend from school and did the same.

In time Derek and Geraldine divorced and they moved in with their new partners. Derek is now the father of a young son from his new, un-married, partner.

At the time, the kind priest tried his best to help them save the marriage. They came to him for advice and he tried to persuade them to forgive each other, to consider their young daughter, and he even arranged for them to obtain marriage guidance advice. But somehow, he felt that they were only going through the motions. In their hearts they had both decided to end the marriage and start anew with their new found loves.

After the divorce … quite a while afterwards, Derek did come to confession. He deeply regretted his role in the breakdown of the marriage. He sought genuine forgiveness, having accepted that there was no way of turning the clock back. He was now with his secretary who was, at the time, expecting his baby.

The priest did of course give him absolution, but warned him of the Church’s view regarding his co-habitation with his partner. Derek understood the situation and never again came to church.

A few months later Geraldine approached the priest with a view to marrying her new partner. Father Ignatius explained the difficulties involved, and she later married in a Civil Ceremony at the Registry Office. She too stopped attending church.

A few days ago Father Ignatius was standing in the queue outside the Fish and Chips shop opposite the church looking forwards to a fish supper washed down with a bottle of ginger beer when he heard a young voice shouting “Daddy … Daddy …”

He turned round and saw Geraldine a few feet away with her daughter who’d now grown a little. The young girl had seen Derek on the other side of the road and called out to him.

Derek came across to greet his child when Geraldine said, loud enough to be heard by everyone, “You know you’re not allowed to see her outside pre-arranged visiting times. If you don’t go away I’ll tell my lawyer to start proceedings …”

Derek walked away without saying a word whilst Geraldine left in the opposite direction dragging a screaming child crying to her father “Daddy … don’t go Daddy … don’t leave me …”

Suddenly the priest lost his appetite and left the queue to go to his church.

He sat at the front by the statue of Our Lady and prayed for that little girl. He could still hear her screams in his head. He prayed and prayed as tears rolled down his cheeks.

“Why are people so cruel?” he asked himself, “and why do they use innocent young children in their games of emotional blackmail?”

Eventually he got up as he knew what he had to do.

He went to see Geraldine at her home. The child was asleep on an armchair having tired herself of crying.

The priest explained what he had witnessed and how it must have affected the young child. He tried using every reasonable argument that he could muster; yet he felt that he was being listened to politely but not taken seriously enough for Geraldine to change her ways. He detected some hurt still there in her heart which somehow translated into bitterness and retaliation towards her ex-husband.

He left feeling terrible as he handed the situation over to God.

Saturday 22 January 2011


There’s a place they call The Bottom, and friends, I’ve been there once or twice.
It’s dark down there and lonely, and something’s missin’ in your life.

Tonight I thought I’d had enough, when I heard a voice said: ” Don’t give up!”
That whisper had an old familiar ring; I didn’t see the angel, but I felt the comfort of her wings.

Daddy always called her angel, I never knew the reason why.
I was looking for a halo; he was looking in her eyes.

She was always there to guide me with all the love a gentle hand could bring.
I didn’t see the angel, but I felt the comfort of her wings.

Now I’m looking back in time to a young man stumbling through the kitchen door.
How Mama kept on praying when she couldn’t tell me nothing any more.

I woke up in my bed again, I guess she must have tucked me in;
I can’t remember much of any thing.

I didn’t see the angel, but I felt the comfort of her wings.

Daddy always called her angel, I never knew the reason why.
I was looking for a halo; he was looking in her eyes.

She was always there to guide me with all the love a gentle hand could bring.
I didn’t see the angel, but I felt the comfort of her wings.

Now that’s why the Lord made her an angel.
I feel the comfort of her wings ….

Wednesday 19 January 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Father Ignatius laughed.

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

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

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

Harvey nodded. The priest continued.

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

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

"Yeh … I understand …” Harvey interrupted.

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

Harvey smiled.

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

Harvey laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I suppose …” mumbled Harvey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harvey laughed.

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

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

Sunday 16 January 2011

Theodore’s Requiem Request.

Father Ignatius rang Theodore Luxton-Joyce, the well-known eccentric millionaire who lived in a large mansion in the countryside just outside town. He needed a small favor from this old friend who, although he lived in a world of his own, really had a heart of gold and would help at the drop of a hat.

“Hello Theodore …” said the priest tentatively, “how are you keeping these days?”

“Oh … jolly well Padre … considering old age is creeping in what?” responded the rich man jovially, “I haven’t seen you for a while … perhaps we should meet for a spot of lunch what?”

“That would be nice … and how is Rose?”

“Oh … she’s very well indeed and looking after me … best thing that happened to me marrying her … It’s nearly a year now since our wedding you know. Mustn’t forget to buy her a present … I’d better tell my secretary to remind me don’t you think old boy?”

“It’s about the wedding I’m phoning you …” said Father Ignatius, “you remember you had someone playing the bagpipes?”

“Yes … Gregor McBurnish … Haven’t seen him since the wedding. Must arrange a spot of lunch with him too …”

“I wonder if he could help me …” asked the priest, “an elderly parishioner has died recently and as it happens he asked for a piper to play by his grave side during the funeral. He was from Dundee …”

“Dash inconvenient that …” interrupted Theodore.

“Being from Dundee?” enquired the priest somewhat confused.

“No not that … just remembered. Must have my tartan kilt cleaned. I wore it at a function last week and forgot all about it!

“Wants a piper by the grave-side you say? No need to bother McBurnish, Padre. I’ll do it … in full costume too …”

“Oh, I couldn’t possibly impose …” said the priest sensing troubles ahead, “you’re such a busy man and …”

“Nonsense … It’s the least I could do for a fellow countryman. I’ll be at the funeral. McBurnish taught me to play the bagpipes you know … I could also play my own composition …”

“Your composition?” asked the priest in trepidation.

“Yes … Chopin Piano Concerto Number 1. Do you know it?”

“Yes … yes … I do know it. It’s a piano piece, not a bagpipes …”

“Oh … I’ve re-written it for the bagpipes Padre.” declared Theodore enthusiastically. “Don’t you worry about that ... It can be played whilst marching up and down or standing still by the graveside. Now you can’t do that with a piano, can you?”

The priest managed to convince Theodore that traditional bagpipes music would be more appropriate and agreed a time and place when he should be there.

He put the phone down nervously and picked up a local map to find the new cemetery which had just been commissioned a few miles out of town in beautiful woodland surroundings. The priest had never been there and his parishioner was one of the first people to be buried in this new location.

On the day in question Theodore dressed in full Scottish costume and drove to the countryside accompanied by his lovely wife Rose who read directions from a map.

Try as they might, they just could not find the new cemetery. They drove up and down country lanes, through beautiful meadows and woodlands, and they were beginning to panic a little as they realized they were lost. There was no one to ask directions from; so they kept searching until they saw an open field, beside a small wooded area, in a secluded piece of land. The digging equipment was still there as well as the crew having a rest; but there were no mourners, nor the hearse, anywhere to be seen.

“Dash it all …” said Theodore as he stopped the car abruptly, “we must be late! I can’t possibly let the poor fellow down like that. You stay here my dear … I’ll soon get things sorted …”

He got out of the vehicle, put on his beret, grabbed the bagpipes and marched towards the men and digging equipment.

He reached the grave and saw a metal box in there.

So he decided to do what he was asked to do. He got his bagpipes ready and played.

He played like he’d never played before; not missing a note and with real Scottish pride. He played all the religious songs he knew … Abide with me … The Lord is my Shepherd … How great Thou Art … and finished with everyone’s favorite … Amazing Grace.

As Theodore walked to his car one of the workers followed him and asked: “What was all that about? I have never seen such a thing before … and I’ve been installing septic tanks for years!”

Luckily, the worker knew where the new cemetery was and he gave them directions to arrive just in time.