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.


  1. Victor,

    “I knew someone who was born under Taurus the bull … and boy did he smell bad!” What a great ending to a story that does tackle a serious subject. You have explained the problem with superstitions in your usual entertaining but informative way.

    By the way, I could have been born under Taurus the bull too but I'm not superstitious and therefore I don't smell bad at all!

    God bless!

  2. Hi Sue,

    It's amazing how many superstitions there are. I don't believe in any of them I don't think; keeping fingers crossed.

    There is some truth though about the one relating to breaking a mirror. I once broke an antique family heirloom mirror and I did not get a cooked meal that day; silent treatment too. So some superstitions seem to work.

    I'm sure you smell OK Sue. Actually I do know someone born under Taurus the bull. And the bull was very surprised saying "Hey ... what are you doing down there?"

    God bless.

  3. Too funny Victor. I actually never heard the ladder-Trinity story before so that was interesting.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to stepping on cracks to break the devil's back.

    God Bless.

  4. Ah Michael ... I did walk on the sidewalk cracks once. The tiles were uneven and I tripped right on my face carrying a tray of take-away food from my favorite burger bar. I was quite a mess afterwards. My velvet hat with a feather was completely ruined. And the devil laughed.

    God bless.

  5. Victor,

    I meant to ask you how you know so many interesting facts that most of us are not aware of. Did you research this story? I just read your gate post over at the Community of Catholic Bloggers. Again, I wasn't aware of the significance of the gate. It all makes a lot of sense once you explain it...

    God bless!

  6. Hi Sue,

    I do a bit of research for my stories - especially the Father Ignatius ones.

    The one about the gate was explained by our priest in his sermon on Sunday.

    God bless.

  7. Victor, I was taught growing up to have all medals I wore and all rosaries blessed. This is for devotional purposes. Wearing scapulars or medals in this way also puts the devil on notice that we belong to God and are under His protection. Demons don't have eyes but exorcists will tell us that they recognize and hate blessed objects.

    It would be wrong to think that these holy objects are talismans or that they bring luck. For me, they are a sign that I belong to Jesus.

  8. Yes Barb ... I remember we used to have rosaries and medals blessed too.

    I wonder if people still do this.

    God bless you.



God bless you.

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