Saturday, 26 November 2011
It was a warm sunny day and Father Ignatius was alone in the Parish House. He got out in the gardens at the back of the house and sat by the little shrine to Our Lady set amongst rose bushes some way from the main building.
He took his Rosary from his pocket and started praying. A few minutes later he heard a bird singing in a tree nearby. It wasn’t so much the usual singing one hears, nor the panic cries of a mother when a cat or other predator approaches the nest … this was more like a calling type of singing. It was as if the bird was beckoning someone to do something.
Father Ignatius got up from his chair and walked into the shadows to better see what caused this bird behavior.
There on a tree nearby was a nest. He could see it clearly now, even though it was well camouflaged amongst the branches and leaves. And in the nest there were three birds … quite well-grown by the looks of their size and the fact they were covered in feathers.
The mother bird kept flying towards the nest singing wildly and then moving away from branch to branch … then it got down to the ground … and up to the nest again … singing all the time.
The three little ones looked over the edge of the nest but stayed put.
The priest realized what was going on. The mother was teaching her little ones to leave the nest and fly.
There she was hopping from one branch to another singing away: no doubt encouraging her young to take flight. You could almost hear her speak: “Come on my dears … don’t be afraid … jump!”
They hesitated. Looked around, looked down at the ground which seems miles away, and then politely said to each other: “You first.” “No, no, after you …” “Ladies first, I always say.”
And none of them had the courage to take off, whilst the mother is cheering heartily: “Come on, you know you can do it!”
Eventually one of the little ones gingerly jumped out of the nest, his wings flapping madly, and somehow landed safely to the ground. In time he was followed by his siblings and yet another generation took flight and left the nest.
The priest smiled as he saw all four birds hop from bush to bush, and eventually up the tree branches again, and then fly away confidently.
He sat down again at the feet of the statue and reflected on what he had just witnessed.
“Our first steps with the Lord are no different to these birds I suppose” he thought to himself.
“We question, we analyze, we debate and then … perhaps … in time, we come to believe.
“Eventually, we make that first step in Faith. Believing, without having all the answers. Without knowing everything about the aero-dynamics of flight, or the effects of gravity as we leave the perceived safety of our nest.
“God does not ask us to know everything about Him, how He thinks, how He works, and how He manages the universe.
“All He asks is that we trust Him and believe, without question and without hesitation.
“His Holy Spirit will then lead us through our journey to the Father.”
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
A friend of mine is quite an inventor. He is always in his little hut at the bottom of the garden making different gadgets and things “to make life better”. Or so he claims. I must admit that some of his inventions are somewhat innovative although I can’t see them catching on and becoming best sellers. For example he has put a little red LED light at the back of his cap which lights up when he goes out walking at night so that vehicles can see him. Practical? Yes … Fashionable … I don’t think so!
The other day he asked me to test his latest invention.
He has somehow managed to weave a very thin wire backwards and forwards inside the lining of a jacket which he bought from a shop. He then connected the wires to a battery the size of a small book which he placed in the inside pocket of the jacket. By flicking a switch the wires warm up gently and keep you warm on cold winter days.
Now I’m sure that I read about similar devices somewhere or other; but my friend assures me that his system is different … I couldn’t understand a word of what he said in techno language, so I nodded politely and smiled.
He took my nodding as acquiescence to testing the “Warma-Coat”; as he calls it.
I put the jacket on one cold and breezy morning and walked to the local shops to buy my newspapers and some chocolates. I just can’t read the papers without chocolates. Somehow they make me concentrate better. But I digress.
On my way to the shops the electric system in my jacket must have short-circuited because I got a slight twinge in my right shoulder which made me wince a little.
I ignored it and carried on walking when it happened again, only a little stronger.
Fortunately, it stopped for a while whilst I was shopping, but when I came to the check-out to pay for my goods … it happened again but much stronger this time. I recoiled a little and grimaced somewhat at the electric shock.
“Are you winking at me?” asked the beautiful young female cashier.
“No … I’m not.” I replied embarrassingly as I winked at her once more.
“There … you did it again” she said, “what’s the matter with you?”
I was about to reply when a further electric shock made me smile involuntarily and wink at her twice.
“You’re being suggestive … you are!” she cried in a loud voice, “I’ll call the manager!”
Seconds later the manager appeared out of nowhere with a security man. She must have pressed some hidden panic button, I suppose.
“What’s the matter?” he asked her.
“Mr Thornicroft … this customer is making suggestive innuendos by winking at me!” she complained.
“Is this true sir?” he asked, “we take exception to improper behavior by our customers towards our employees!”
“I assure you that I did not do or imply anything improper” I replied as I winked at him twice.
“Sir … you are quite out of order” he said sternly as he saw me wink, “I’ll have to ask you to leave these premises or we will call the police!”
As I tried to explain my innocence he noticed a plume of smoke rising from my right shoulder.
“Sir … have you been smoking? It is a criminal offence to smoke in public places and I may have to detain you until the police arrives” interrupted Mr Thornicroft as he motioned to the security guard to do his business.
A crowd soon gathered by the check-out as other shoppers became interested in my dilemma. Why can’t people just mind their own business and continue shopping?
“I assure you I don’t smoke …” I protested as the security guard attempted to put his hand on my right shoulder then thought it better not to.
“I don’t smoke … but my shoulder clearly does!” I said trying to make light of the situation.
And that’s exactly what happened next. The right shoulder did light up in green flames and acrid black smoke.
The manager quickly picked up a two-liter bottle of beer and emptied it on my head whilst the security guard got hold of a foam emitting fire extinguisher and covered me in foam from head to toe.
I can announce that beer and foam don’t mix. Some got into my mouth with dire results.
As I was led out of the store coughing and spluttering I heard a customer explain to another “Instant combustion … it happens a lot you know. It’s more common than you think!”
I cleaned the foam as best I could and walked back home never to return to that shop again … and never to trust an inventive friend.
Sunday, 20 November 2011
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
Why is it that the phone always rings at home at the most inappropriate time when I’m doing something else more important?
And why is it that it always rings for someone else and I end up answering it and either taking messages or calling the person for whom the call is intended.
Yes … we do have an answering machine, but we only use it when we’re out. When we’re in I’m the alternative human answering machine!
That said; the worst calls of all are from a variety of sales people trying to sell you something or other. A new credit card, an insurance policy, new double glazing to keep the house warm, and every other imaginable service or product which I most definitely don’t want, has been offered to me on the phone by people I don’t know, nor wish to know. And they have the impertinence to address me by my first name too, as if we’re long standing pals.
“Hello Victor!” one said, “are you well today?”
“No, not really …” I replied, having guessed it was yet another sales person, “I’ve just swallowed a fly.”
Well, that certainly stopped her in her tracks. She sympathized and then proceeded to expound on the benefits of her Company’s products.
The most bizarre phone call however took place last week and it went something like this.
“Good morning Victor! (First name terms straight away). I am Gilbert D Funct and I represent Pets In Peace, a new service provider just established in your town, and our aim is to share and ease your pain when your beloved pet departs this vale of tears.”
“Hein?” said I.
“PIP … that’s our initials, will be there to provide you with a casket in which to place the remains of your dear departed pet. We have caskets in all sizes for goldfish, budgies, hamsters, rabbits, cats, dogs and any other animal or insect which may share your home as a member of your family. All caskets are made to the highest standard of professional workmanship in mahogany, oak, elm, cedar wood and pine. And they are lined in satin or silk in a variety of colors such as white, black, and velvet being the most popular.”
“I see …” I said, and before I could tell him I’m not interested Gilbert D Funct went on.
“Furthermore, Victor, as part of our service we would conduct a solemn ceremony of whatever religious belief you desire, and then we would bury the casket containing the remains of your family pet on your property so you can visit him whenever you wish …”
“I live in an apartment!” I interrupted. “Will you bury the pet under the carpet?”
That certainly stopped him.
“Oh …” he said, “do you not have access to a piece of ground?”
“We have a few herb pots in the kitchen … you know … fresh mint, parsley, thyme, rosemary and such like. But the pots are too small to bury a casket in …”
“Yes quite …” he hesitated. So I took the initiative and went on.
“We had planned to flush the goldfish down the toilet … you know … naval burial and all that. Are your caskets water soluble?”
“Er … no … I don’t believe so …” mumbled Gilbert, obviously unaware of my sarcasm.
“And then there’s the cat …” I continued, having gained the upper-hand in this sales pitch, “he’d be too big to flush down the toilet … I’ve often wondered how we’d dispose of him after he’s used up his nine lives …”
“Are you familiar with cremation?” asked Gilbert gaining an advantage point.
“My wife is expert at that … judging from her many Sunday roasts! Perhaps she could do the same to the cat!”
At this point, as luck would have it, she came in the house from one of her shopping trips.
“This is for you …” I said handing her the phone, “someone researching roast recipes for a cookery book he’s writing …” and I quickly rushed to the pub.
Sunday, 13 November 2011
I visited an old church in the countryside the other evening.
There was this historian giving a talk entitled “The influence of the Church in England from Chaucer to Henry the Eighth and Beyond”.
Given a choice between listening to that lecture and watching an important football match on TV I would choose the lecture every time. You know me, always willing to oblige and to please … Why is it that old fashioned marriage vows included the words “to love and obey”? Was there not a clause about football games in those vows? There should have been!
Anyway, the old historian did not disappoint. He lived up to my every expectation and went on and on giving us every minute detail about this most fascinating subject. He reminded me of one of the priests who visited our church recently; Father Ontoo Long!
He too went on ad infinitum reading his sermon from notes he must have typed on an old type-writer and stopping at every punctuation mark to add boredom to everlasting tedium.
I wondered as I sat there on those hard wooden pews which very soon numb the lower parts of your body … I wondered, if this historian stood side by side with Father Ontoo Long and they talked in unison would they put us to sleep in stereo?
My boredom was soon to be relieved by an unexpected distraction.
I noticed a few feet away just by the radiator standing against the wall a mouse crawling slowly towards me. He’d probably been disturbed by the historian’s monotonous voice, I thought.
The mouse stopped suddenly then ran back towards the wall. No one noticed him except me.
He then walked ever so slowly close to the wall towards the left of the radiator. Then he stopped again. Moments later he was joined by another mouse following a few feet behind. He too stopped and then the first mouse turned round facing the second mouse. They faced each other for a few seconds then the second mouse ran back towards the radiator followed by the first!
I bet those mice are married, I thought. Probably having an argument I shouldn’t wonder. Something like this:
Mr Mouse: Oh … why do we have to go to church every Sunday? That priest is so boring!
Mrs Mouse: We don’t go to church to see the priest. We go to meet God and to pray.
Mr Mouse: But God is everywhere. Why can’t we meet Him at home? I bet He’d love to watch the football match on TV!
At that point a sharp elbow dug deeply into my side and a harsh voice whispered “Stop snoring!”
Oh well … back to Chaucer and Henry the Eighth I suppose. Did they have church mice then?
Tuesday, 8 November 2011
I’ll admit I’m not the best man at do-it-yourself type work at home. Be it woodworking, painting, plumbing or electrical work. I always seem to get it wrong and more often than not I hurt myself.
For example when I hammered hard on my finger, missing the nail altogether, as I did this morning, my first instinct was not to say calmly and in a quiet voice “Jolly gosh, this was a tad uncomfortable for me!!!”
I threw the hammer in the air in pain followed by a string of un-repeatables unworthy of your tender ears, or eyes … dear readers.
The hammer struck the beautiful crystal vase of flowers which we’d treasured for years as a special present from the in-laws. The vase shattered into a million pieces pouring water everywhere which caused an electrical short circuit which blew the TV into a loud bang and sparks.
And my finger still hurt.
Instead of sympathy I got earache!!!
“That was a wedding present from …”
“I know … I know …” I thought silently, “… I never liked the thing anyway, but I’d better say nothing and pretend I’m more hurt than I really am”.
No use. The deceased vase got more sympathy than me.
Better get on with my work. After all, laying a carpet in a room is easy. Take out all the furniture. Well … most of the furniture anyway, why bother with the coffee table, the TV and the … Anyway … Let’s measure from here to there, and from there to over here. Match the measurements to the carpet. Lay the carpet. No … wait … fix that loose floorboard. Hammer the nail in … miss it altogether … hit your finger hard and we’re back to where we started.
An hour or so later I managed to lay the carpet in the room … well, kind of. There were areas where the carpet was somehow bigger than the room. Don’t know why. Maybe the carpet stretched as it was laid down and grew bigger and curled up a little up the wall. Never mind … it’ll be hidden when I put the furniture there and no one will notice.
And in some places the carpet did not quite reach the wall. It was a few inches short. Perhaps it shrunk a little over here whilst it stretched over there. What if I move more furniture over here to hide it?
Now wait a minute. What’s this bump here in the middle of the room? It looks like a small mound a few inches high. It doesn’t move much and it feels as if there’s something under the carpet.
I can’t take the whole carpet off and start again. Dash it all. Where’s that hammer? I’ll bash that mound hard and flatten what’s under there … ah … that should do it!!!
As I finished flattening the carpet with the hammer I heard a young voice from the kitchen ask “Mom … have you seen my hamster? He’s not in his cage!”
“Dear Lord …” What do I do now? Put those flowers from the broken vase where the mound was and say a prayer?
Better say nothing … perhaps they’ll think the hamster went out for a walk. It’s a nice day out there and Dodo will enjoy the sunshine.
Appropriate name … I thought. This particular hamster is now as extinct as his namesake. I hope he doesn’t stink under there as he decomposes away!!!
I shudder away the dark thoughts as I move the furniture back into the room nonchalantly as if nothing happened. If I confess I’ll open up a new can of worms and tears will flow for ever more and I’ll never be forgiven by anyone for eternity for what I have done.
It is sometimes kinder and much more loving to ease away the pain of others by not telling them what they don’t need to know. Better to believe that Dodo has gone for a walk and met a Miss Dodo and they’re living happily ever after in the fields behind our house.
Just as I finished putting the furniture back I heard that young voice say “Mom … I found Dodo. He was under the bed.”
Now then … has anyone seen my brand new cell-phone? I can’t find it anywhere!
Thursday, 3 November 2011
Solemn occasions are meant to be just that … solemn.
Well, at least that is the intention, although at times events conspire to turn things differently.
As happened at Neighbor Jeremy’s funeral.
Jeremy was generally a good neighbor. I liked him well. Always polite, wishing me “Good morning” when we met on our way to work or “Good evening” should we happen to see each other on our way home.
He kept himself to himself and never parked in front of my driveway blocking me from going in or out whenever I wished; unlike some other neighbors of mine! But the least said about them the better. After all, we’re meant to love all our neighbors; are we not?
Every so often Jeremy would borrow some of my garden tools, or other bits and pieces he required, but he always returned them cleaned and in pristine condition.
Anyway, like all funerals, Jeremy’s was certainly a solemn occasion.
Relatives and friends and neighbors gathered in church and then followed him to the graveside. There were tears aplenty as we all remembered him and in our own way knew that we would miss him.
Although I’m no relative of Jeremy, at the graveside I was one of those who stood near the gaping hole as he was lowered down; purely because I had taken with me in my car one of his relatives who had no transport of her own. This elderly lady stood next to me on my left; and on my right was another neighbor, a young lady, who also had no transport and had come with me.
I noticed whilst the priest was saying his final prayers that the young lady on my right was somewhat tearful and had nothing to wipe her eyes with. Being the gentleman whom I am, I put my hand in my right side pocket and pulled out, fortunately for me, a brand new handkerchief which I handed to her.
As I did so … dash it all … my car key had got into one of the folds of the handkerchief and fell to the ground, on the grass, without making a sound, and then … dash it all once again … it rolled into the open grave just as the coffin was being lowered.
No one noticed except the young lady on my right. She took my handkerchief and asked: “What was that?”
“My car key …” I mumbled quietly.
She burst out laughing and then stifled her laughter with the handkerchief, pretending to be emotionally distraught and unable to control herself. Her outer appearance to one and all was one of utter despair and total grief; yet I knew from the shaking of her shoulders that she had great difficulty controlling the hilarity engendered by my predicament.
One or two mourners raised their eyebrows and wondered why this young lady was portraying more grief at his demise than Jeremy’s own wife standing nearby. But let’s not feed suspicious minds when my own is doing backward somersaults trying to figure out what to do next.
Almost instinctively, I placed my arm round the young lady’s shoulders and ushered her away from the graveside. As I did so, I accidentally bumped into the frail old lady on my left and almost knocked her into the grave with Jeremy. Luckily, she fell backwards away from the hole.
The young lady and I walked away from the crowd and stood a distance away by some trees. She continued laughing out of control but mercifully not loud enough to raise any suspicions.
What could I do in this situation? I could hardly let Jeremy borrow my car when I knew sure well that he had no intention of returning it?
If I did nothing, how could I possibly get home, and what would I say to the frail old lady expecting a lift back in my car?
I noticed the grave-diggers sitting some distance away ready to complete their work once everyone had gone.
I left the young lady still laughing away by the trees and walked towards the grave-diggers to explain the situation.
When all the solemnities were over and done, I arranged for someone else to give the two ladies a lift home; and explained that I had some urgent business to deal with at work.
The grave-diggers brought Jeremy back up and retrieved my key; and for once, Jeremy did not get to borrow anything of mine!
One should always have dignity in death.
I attended a clown’s funeral once and he was lying there peacefully in his open coffin with a red nose and a big smile painted on his face. They couldn’t put the lid on because of his big feet!
Tuesday, 1 November 2011
When Jesus came to earth He came as a human to share humanity with us so that we can accept Him and learn from Him. He was born a human baby, vulnerable, and tiny as all babies are. He grew up a human and shared every emotion we share as human beings.
His very humanity is a very important factor in understanding Jesus; the Son of God.
Let's consider a different scenario of this Son of God coming to visit us here on earth.
Imagine for a minute if He had arrived as a God (which He was/is). Imagine if He suddenly appeared out of nowhere in a flash of lightning and thunder. Imagine if He came on earth like a superman or such other fictional hero. With obvious powers like flying, super strength, X ray vision and so on like we see in the movies.
How do you think we humans would have reacted?
The people of the time would have been in total awe of Him and would have obeyed and followed Him out of fear or wonderment.
Hardly free choice - is it?
So God decided that His Son would come to us as a human. He humbled Himself as a baby born in poverty in a stable. Grew up with the poor and the down and outs - not as a king.
As a human He felt every emotion that we feel. Sadness at the death of Lazarus, pity for the ill and poor ... etc.
As a human He also experienced temptations.
In the desert satan tempted Him: If you are God's Son jump from this temple, turn these stones into bread. Why don't you worship me?
How often does satan tempt us too?
Are there not times when, perhaps like a bright light in our head, we suddenly stop and ask ourselves: "Is this all real? Is there really a God out there? Jesus? Life after death? Can all this be true and do I really believe it?"
I hope these temptations don’t cross our minds too often. Because satan is always there; ready to put these and other thoughts in our minds to lead us astray.
The closer we come to God the harder the devil works to lead us away from Him. No point in tempting those who do not believe is there? Satan is too clever to waste his time on them. Instead he lurks in the shadowy corners of our minds ready to pounce at our moments of weakness. When we're ill perhaps, tired, overworked, confused, sorrowful, doubtful and lacking hope. That's when satan moves in and furtively plants the seeds of doubts and confusion in our minds.
And that’s why Christ had to be tried and tested by satan. In order to share our experiences, but, most important, to be an example to us all on how to fight back these temptations.
Every time He was tempted Jesus prayed to His Father.
He was tempted again before He was arrested. He asked: "Can all this pass me by?"
Then, in prayer, He obeyed His Father and said: "Not my will, but Yours."
What an example for us all to emulate.
Not my will, but Yours.