Friday 27 April 2012

Bad Luck

It was another one of those “Questions and Answers” sessions which were held at the Parish Hall every now and then. The parishioners would gather of an evening and after enjoying hot drinks and cakes they would ask their priests any questions about the running of St Vincent Church or indeed about the Catholic Faith and the priests would answer as best they can.

“Is it a sin to be superstitious Father?” asked a parishioner sitting at the front.

“Well … I’ve never been known to walk under a black cat!” replied Father Ignatius as everyone laughed.

“You mean walk under a ladder surely?” continued the questioner.

“Yes … of course you’re right. Some people believe you shouldn’t walk under a ladder. Do you know where this belief comes from Harry?” asked the priest of his questioner.

“No Father … there are so many superstitions and I wondered if it is a sin to believe them.”

“It may surprise you to know that a lot of superstitions derive from the Christian Faith, believe it or not,” explained Father Ignatius.

“The Holy Trinity was often symbolized in ancient times by a triangle denoting God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

“A self-standing ladder is shaped like a triangle, and so is a ladder leaning against a wall. So to walk through it, or under it, if it is leaning against the wall, was considered walking through the Trinity; which is wrong. And therefore, bad luck.”

“That’s interesting … I never knew that!” said another young man sitting at the front.

“Personally … I would advise you never to walk under a ladder,” continued the priest, “especially if there’s someone standing on top with a pot of paint in his hand!”

They laughed again.

“You will have noticed that a number of people touch wood, or knock on wood, when they say something,” Father Ignatius went on.

“Yet again, this originates from Christianity when the Crusaders returned from the Holy Lands with wood which they claimed belonged to the Cross Jesus died on …

“Apparently, so much wood was brought back that you could have built your own Cathedral!”

“So is it a sin then …” asked Harry once more, “to believe in these superstitions? Or is it harmless fun?”

“Well … I suppose it could be considered a sin. Although I’ve never had anyone confess it to me,” joked the priest.

“Why Father?” asked someone else, “what’s wrong in saying knock on wood? Or wearing a good luck charm or something like that. God didn’t say it’s a sin did He?”

Father Ignatius paused for a while.

“I’m not so sure about that,” he said, “it says in the Commandments ‘worship no other god but me’ so it could be argued that if we put serious reliance on our superstitious belief then, strictly speaking, we are sinning against God.”

“Wow … so it’s a mortal sin then?” retorted Harry.

“It could be …” said the priest cautiously, “but let’s not run away with ourselves.

“We need to ask how much relevance, and how seriously does a person take these beliefs.

“Personally, I wouldn’t consider anyone saying ‘knock on wood’ as having committed a mortal sin, especially if said in jest. But if the individual honestly believed that by touching a piece of wood he has averted evil from happening, then this does become more serious, and yes … it could be a sin.

“Our Christian Faith teaches us to believe and trust in one living God, who loves us and cares for us.

“God protects us from many evils every day without our knowledge and beyond our imagination.

“So to seriously believe that touching a piece of wood has the same effect is surely an insult to Him!”

“I understand …” replied Harry.

“I would also like to say something about wearing good luck charms, as someone has just mentioned,” continued Father Ignatius gently.

“Many of us wear a Cross on a chain round our neck, or a medallion of Our Lady or St Patrick …

“I would like to ask you to consider why you do this.

“As a reminder of the sacrifice Our Lord did for us … or as a reminder to pray to Our Lady or the Saints …

“There’s nothing wrong with that of course. As there’s nothing wrong in having statues in church or at home and lighting candles to them.

“But there’s certainly a lot wrong if you believe that the medallion or Cross, or the statue has some mystical or magic power.

“Be careful, as this is verging on idolatry.”

The silence that followed underlined the seriousness of what Father Ignatius had just said. He hoped to say something to lighten the mood a little when another questioner asked,

“I suppose taking horoscopes seriously is also wrong Father?”

“You’re so right Debra …” replied Father Ignatius.

“There’s absolutely no relationship between the position of the stars and the planets when we’re born, or at any moment in time, and our character or our future …

“It’s all nonsense …

“Except for one thing …”

He paused for a short while to gain their full attention.

“I knew someone who was born under Taurus the bull … and boy did he smell bad!”

More Father Ignatius stories in my book "Golden Drops". Download yours FREE from the link on the right.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Reminiscing about false teeth

Years ago I was a member of a group of entertainers. I presented the variety acts on stage and did a bit of stand-up comedy and chat with the audience. The shows consisted of pop music and songs, a bit of classic music and opera, old tyme “Victorian” songs, a bit of dancing and comedy sketches mainly written by me.

We rehearsed for ages beforehand and did our shows in church halls, old peoples’ homes, Women’s Institute Meetings and so on; to raise money for charity and to entertain the old folks.

A particular sketch came to mind out of the blue the other day.

Imagine if you will, on stage a number of men dressed as nuns, led by a tone-deaf tenor with a strong pronounced accent, singing this beautiful song from the Sound of Music.

Monday 2 April 2012

The writing on the board

Once again Father Ignatius was teaching Catechism to the 5th Form at the local Catholic School. They were discussing the Commandment about respecting one’s parents and as one would expect the youngsters had plenty to say about that.

“It’s alright to have to respect our parents,” said a young girl, “but surely they should respect us too?”

“I suppose I understand,” replied the priest reassuringly, “can you elaborate on this?”

“Well …” she hesitated, “I am fifteen years old and I don’t think I should be told what time I have to be home by …”

“What does anyone else think?” asked Father Ignatius.

“I agree …” replied another young girl, “my parents are just the same. They insist I’m at home by 9.30; can you imagine that? 9.30!!!”

“It’s their way of exerting power” said one of the boys, “my parents always think they know better …”

“That’s right …” added another lad, “my father has banned me from visiting the disco in town. It’s not fair!”

The priest let the youngsters vent their frustrations for a few minutes, and then he got up from his desk and moved towards the blackboard.

This had the desired effect of shutting them up for a while. He then picked up a piece of chalk and wrote on the board in big letters:


And proceeded to sit down once again.

After a few seconds silence he said in a soft voice, “I’ve heard many of you say it’s not fair just now … do you agree?”

“Yeah !!!” said one or two of them.

“I can understand that …” continued Father Ignatius, “from your perspective it may seem not fair that your parents impose certain restrictions on you. Perhaps it’s because the reasons for the restrictions have not been explained to you … but no matter for now.

“I would like if I may to explore the statement ‘It’s not fair.’ Can we do that do you think?”

They nodded in agreement. They had a lot of respect for his kind approach and the way he sympathized with their situation.

“No one has ever said that life is fair” continued the priest, “or meant to be fair even.

“What we perceive as fairness in our eyes may not be so to someone else.

“I visited a few of our parishioners in hospital yesterday. There was a young boy of twelve with an incurable illness. That’s not fair … the chances are he will not make it to his next birthday and his parents were totally distraught.

“I also met the family of a man in a coma. He had been injured in a road accident and has been unconscious ever since. No one knows when or if he will recover. The family is now short of cash and they may well lose their home. That’s not fair.

“Every other day or so, I hear of someone in our Parish being made redundant, and losing their job because of the current economic situation. They’ve done nothing wrong and they’re now on the street. That’s not fair.”

He stopped as he noticed one of the girls upfront getting a little tearful.

“What I’m trying to say …” he said gently after a short pause, “is that I sympathize entirely with you. You see your parents actions as unfair, yet perhaps you miss the point that they do what they do out of love for you. It is because they care.

“I had similar problems with my parents when I was young. My father was a farmer and as you’d expect he brought vegetables fresh from the land home for dinner. And like many a young child, I hated vegetables. Especially spinach … it looked like boiled grass!”

They laughed in unison.

“But they made me eat my vegetables … it’s not fair!”

They laughed again.

“And talking of fairness …” went on Father Ignatius, “I read that an innocent man has been falsely arrested, beaten up and tortured, and nailed to a Cross to die.

“Now that’s really not fair.

“You can read all about it in the Bible.”

He paused again to gauge the situation before continuing.

“So whilst I understand how you feel about your parents and the way they restrict you sometimes, I urge you please to accept it in obedience for the sake of Jesus who did so much for you. And still does.

“Is that a deal?” he asked with a smile.

And as always, his gentle loving empathy gained him their respect and sincere appreciation.