Tuesday 31 July 2012

Victor On the Radio

Years ago I used to present Radio programs; one of which was on a Sunday afternoon entitled Time for Reflections. 

Here's a short clip from one of those programs which brings back fond memories to mind.

Monday 30 July 2012

Father Donald to the rescue

It was just after ten o’clock at night when the phone rang. Father Donald got up to answer the call and then said: “It’s for you Ignatius … It’s Carla Perkins …”

“Dear Lord … not again …” mumbled Father Ignatius as he picked up the phone.

When he’d finished the conversation he said to his fellow priest: “Carla’s husband has come home drunk again and became violent in a heated argument. He has hit her hard this time and she said she is bleeding from her mouth … I’d better go over I suppose …”

“You’re not going alone?” asked Father Donald.

After a few seconds of waiting for a reply he went on, “Tom is a big man you know … if he turns on you …”

“Don’t worry Donald,” replied Father Ignatius “he wouldn’t hit a priest, would he … but just in case, I’d better wear my white collar just to remind him …” he added with a chuckle.

Half an hour later Father Ignatius was at the Perkins’ home. Tom was lying asleep on the settee whilst his wife was nursing a cut lip and crying softly whilst cuddling her two years old daughter.

Her husband’s behavior had got worse over the past few months ever since he lost his job in the latest factory closure. To his credit, he had tried finding a job everywhere in town, even further away out of town involving daily travel by train, but he had been unsuccessful. He considered himself a failure unable to provide for his family and as a result spent a lot of time in the pub wasting whatever little the family received from Social Benefits.

He often came home in a bad way and somehow got into an argument with his wife. This, however, was the first time he’d ever hit her. It was totally out of character as normally Tom was a mild-mannered individual who wouldn’t hurt a fly, as they say. But it shows the extent of his despair since losing his job.

The priest asked Carla whether she wished to spend the night with her daughter at the Convent. He could easily ring Mother Superior to arrange it. But she preferred to stay at home, not wishing to further upset her young child.

“He’ll wake up in the morning and be all apologetic …” she sobbed, “he always does that and can’t even remember we’ve had an argument … although this time my fat lip will serve as a reminder …” she smiled weakly.

Father Ignatius stayed for a while and having ensured that she and her daughter were safe returned to his home.

On his journey back he prayed that God may intervene and help this family torn apart by a financial crisis not of their making.

The following day at about midday there was a loud knock at the door of the Parish House.

Father Ignatius opened the door and Tom Perkins barged into the house and stood in the entrance hall, almost pushing the priest out of the way.

“Don’t interfere where you’re not wanted …” he shouted at the priest.

Father Ignatius said nothing and maintained his calm composure in the face of the angry giant.

“You were round our house last night …” continued Tom loudly, “are you interested in my wife? Is that it?”

“Don’t be absurd …” replied Father Ignatius somewhat shocked at the accusation.

“If you come anywhere near her again I’ll knock your lights out …” shouted Tom threatening the priest.

At this point Father Donald came out of his office having heard the commotion outside. He was a big man with a pronounced Scottish accent from his native Glasgow.

“And would you care to pick up a fight with me too?” he asked Tom in a quiet yet firm tone of voice.

Tom said nothing. Father Donald continued.

“I’m the same size as you Tom, and I reckon if I take off my white collar which can be a bit of a disadvantage I can take you on man to man as it were …”

Tom remained silent.

“Or would you prefer to hit someone smaller than you?” asked Father Donald, “like your wife for instance …”

At this Tom stormed out slamming the door behind him.

“Thanks Donald …” said Father Ignatius after Tom had left, “the poor man is desperate …”

“That’s no reason to behave like that …” growled Father Donald proudly pronouncing every syllable to emphasize his accent.

“You wouldn’t have hit him would you?” asked Father Ignatius.

“No way … these stiff white collars are too difficult to take off in a hurry” joked Father Donald as he returned to his office.

Father Ignatius did not let it rest at that. Having prayed about the situation he set out to contact his many acquaintances in town and eventually, after weeks of searching, he managed to find Tom a job with a local builder.

It did not pay as much as Tom earned at the factory but it was a start to help him back on his way to regaining his self-esteem and confidence.

Tom was extremely grateful and very apologetic at his disgraceful behavior when he threatened his priest. His character changed overnight and he has not had one argument with his wife ever since.

And now he always looks down sheepishly whenever he meets either priest as he accompanies his wife and child to Mass on Sundays.

Friday 27 July 2012

What was THAT post all about?

Well ... what was the last post all about?

Was it about a woman with a flimsy skirt caught in her ample buttocks and revealing her rounded contours?

Was it Victor being rude and outrageous as ever?

Or was it about the innocent mind of an autistic youngster?

Some readers found the story funny and wrote in to say so. I agree with them ... it was funny. Humour has a way of happening in the most solemn and serious of occasions and places. I'd like to thank Remedia, T J Burdick, Rae, Michael and Mary for taking the trouble to write in. I much appreciate your comments and support which encourage me to go on.

But ...

Some readers chose to disassociate themselves from this author. I really regret that.

I will, however, continue to visit their Blogs because I have in the past learnt a lot from their posts. But I will not comment there to save them any further embarrassment.

My writings have always been straight and to the point. If any one is looking for a Saint here then they'd better look elsewhere; because they will not find him in this Blog.

God bless.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Going to church with Rain Man

I recently went to church with a young autistic lady aged about twenty and her mother.

The young girl behaves and acts very much like Rain Man (Raymond Babbitt) in the Dustin Hoffman film of that name.

We were not at Mass. This was an evening meeting where we had a visiting speaker going on for hours on end discussing missionary work in various countries around the world.

The young lady’s mother left her with me and went to the kitchen just by the Sacristy to help prepare the teas and coffees and other refreshments for after the talk is over.

The talk started and the young lady’s mother had not returned, so we sat down and listened to the visiting speaker relating stories from various far off lands.

It was a very hot summer’s evening; and after a few minutes of sitting there, the hardness of the wooden church pews combined with the humid stickiness of the atmosphere to create a very uncomfortable feeling in the Southern regions of the human anatomy.

To be fair, my companion stayed quiet throughout the long ordeal although it was obvious she was getting a little uncomfortable and tired with the monotony of it all.

Eventually the visiting speaker stopped and the priest asked us to stand up for final prayers.

As we stood up I noticed that the woman in the pew just in front of me must have been wearing a thong. The reason I say this, apart from its obviousness, is that as she stood up her delicate flowing skirt got caught or wedged within the crack of her voluptuous derriere revealing its ample contours and curvatures.

Now normally one would tend to ignore such a distraction and look the other way; and believe me I tried; even though she was standing only inches in front of me. But what was an unexpected distraction for me became something completely different to my young lady friend. For her this was not right at all.

To my horror, she lent forward and carefully pulled out the skirt from whence it was caught.

Surprisingly, the woman in front of me did not feel a thing and did not react whatsoever.

I shook my head violently and whispered to my friend to leave it as it is.

To my double horror and near heart-attack she proceeded to lean forward once again and replace the skirt in its previously wedged position.

This time the woman felt someone touching her particular sunset; she turned round suddenly to see me standing right behind her and my companion busily reading the hymn book she’d picked up.

She was about to slap my face when she suddenly remembered where she was.

She sat down promptly and said nothing.

We waited until prayers were over and everyone was leaving. I asked my young friend to go and help her mother in the kitchen, and then I tried to explain to the unfortunate woman what had happened and that it was not really me who tried to do what I did not do.

I doubt she believed me and she left without saying another word.

And that’s another confession I’ll have to explain to my priest. He said once he looks forward to my confessions as he’s never laughed so much in his life.

Don't upset anyone

Do not ever do or say anything that is likely to upset anyone.

Can you imagine how different the world would be if no one ever did or said anything that upset another human being?

If Jesus never said or did anything to upset anyone they would probably not have Crucified Him.

Monday 23 July 2012

My mortal sin

I left the hotel hurriedly in a taxi on my way to the airport. It was then that I realized that I had sinned deeply and severely the night before.

This was in no doubt a mortal sin. I had succumbed to temptation and been led astray by the devil. The horror of the situation filled me with dread and a cold sweat started trickling on my forehead. What if the worst were to happen and I was suddenly face to face with my Maker, my Creator, and my ultimate Judge?

The taxi drew past a church and I asked the driver to stop suddenly. I paid him off and rushed into the building. Suddenly, missing the plane didn’t seem to matter any more. It was Saturday and the chances are there would be Confessions in progress.

I was fortunate. A dozen or so people were waiting their turn to enter the old fashioned Confessional. 

I waited with them and could only think of one sin. My mortal sin of the night before! The dark blot on my soul leading me to eternal damnation unless it is wiped clean once again.
How could I succumb to such sin once more? The shame and humiliation of it all played over in my mind time and again. I could see myself sinning vividly at Satan’s feet. And now I had to tell the priest all about it.

Eventually my turn came and I knelt down by the thick curtain hiding my Confessor.

I confessed my hideous sin leaving no detail unsaid. I told him exactly what had happened and how I succumbed to temptation and how I needed absolution.

When I finished, somewhat relieved off the heavy weight on my soul, the voice behind the curtain said “Yo no hablo Ingles!”

In my hurry to confess my mortal sin I had forgotten that I was on a business trip to Spain.

This was a Spanish church with a Spanish priest, and he does not speak English, and he has not understood a word I said, how can he possibly forgive me my sin?

How could I mime my sin from behind the curtain? And would he understand me if he saw me re-enact it? Are some sins so international to be easily understood in any language?

I did what most English people do when abroad and not understood. I repeated every word again slowly and loudly.

Somehow, there’s the belief that by speaking loudly the English language is suddenly universally understood.

Eventually, the Spanish priest repeated in an equally loud voice “Yo te perdono! Yo te perdono!”

I said “Muchas Gracias” and left the church before waiting for absolution and penance.

When I arrived back home I thought I’d make doubly sure and I went straight to my English speaking priest, albeit he has a Scottish accent, by I forgive him that.

I told him about my Spanish mortal sin.

I explained that the night before I left Spain, whilst in my hotel room, I was so tempted that I succumbed to temptation itself. I took a chocolate from the little ice box they have in some hotels. I really enjoyed that chocolate.

The following morning, when asked by the receptionist whether I had used the ice box, I had forgotten about the chocolate bar and I said “No!”

It wasn’t until I was in the taxi heading for the airport that I realized I had technically stolen from the hotel and committed a mortal sin.

The Scottish priest laughed at my face and did not give me absolution. Luckily, I had a Spanish absolution instead. I think!

Sunday 22 July 2012

What God wants

The biggest mistake that most of us make about God, the one that most consistently undermines the peace of our soul, is the idea that God demands a lot of us, more than a fragile being like ourselves could ever give.

Such a God is frightening.

But God in reality is content with the little we can give, because God knows - and accepts - the little that we have. 

We need to do just three things:

Do the best we can to find and honor God in everything we do.

Do whatever - however little - we can to live this way.

Let God do the rest.

If we follow these simple rules, we will possess God. And possessing God we will not be disturbed, we will not be anxious, for we will have no need to fear a God who never asks of us more than we can give.

– St. Francis de Sales

Saturday 21 July 2012

My dog is on Twitter

My dog has joined Twitter.

He has just tweeted the following:

"Went for a walk. Did a poo. Victor picked it up. LOL!"

Scientific Facts

I was reading a science book the other day and I was fascinated by the number of facts which I did not know. In fact the more I read the more I realised how much I did not know and how ignorant I really am.

For example; did you know that the majority of men with beards (about 68%) sleep with their beards tucked under the bed covers rather than over the bed covers?

And that beards grow faster and longer than hair on men's heads?

Human ears grow bigger in proportion to the rest of our bodies as we grow older? I remember I knew a man with his ears sticking out quite a bit. He looked like a car with its doors open.

Did you know that if you had a meal in a restaurant that is totally dark you would not be able to tell the difference between steak and a beefburger?

Did you also know that if you're in a vacuum and you shout loud no one would hear you? And it would make no difference whether the vacuum bag is full of dirt and dust or whether it was empty?

Do you realise that if you had a small bird in a cage and as you happen to weigh the cage if the bird jumped up from its perch then its weight would not register on the scale?

Also, if you were to weigh the cage under water the small bird would drown?

And in order to peel and cut an onion without tears you have to do it under water; that is if you can hold your breath for that long?

Here's a video I found with more scientific facts.

Monday 16 July 2012

Waspy Situation

It was one of those annoying Springs you sometimes get in Britain.

Rain and a little sun, then rain, and sun again. Over and over for days.

This meant that the grass in the back garden grew taller and taller and it proved impossible to cut it. Whenever we had a little sunshine the grass was too tall and still wet and it would not cut with the lawn-mower. As it dried and we got ready to cut it, that’s assuming we had nothing better to do at the time, as soon as we got the lawn-mower out it started to drizzle again.

I went out to the shed to put the lawn-mower in again and I noticed just under the roof what appeared to be a large nest of wasps. They were buzzing around all over the place and saying to each other: “Here he is again … shall we have some fun like last year?”

The previous year I had inadvertently disturbed their nest and got stung several times, no doubt to their delight and amusement.

But not this year … revenge will be finally mine.

I quickly got into the house, searched my telephone directory, and rang a Pest Control Firm. I’d never used them before but their name sounded quite proficient: “Pest Control” – Direct and to the point.

About half-an-hour later a small white van with absolutely no signage whatsoever turned up.

“That’s good …” I thought, “very discreet. I wouldn’t want the neighbors to know I have pests … and have them speculate what they could be.”

 Mice … rats … cockroaches … fleas … or other vermin. Some neighbors can be quite nosey and would look at me with disdain if they knew I had pests. And let’s face it … some pests are more acceptable than others. Like wasps for instance, and bees, or bats … they are treated with respect and are environmentally more acceptable to society.

Anyway … out of the little white van comes a man in his forties dressed in a yellow T-shirt and blue jeans, and a young lady in her mid twenties dressed in a thin, almost transparent blouse, and the miniest of mini skirts.

Now I’m not a very clever man but I’m sure that a yellow T-shirt is not the ideal apparel. Bright yellow tends to attract flying insects. Even I know that.

But then, maybe this is part of their disguise to fool the neighbors. Perhaps they’ll dress up in overalls and face masks once they’re in my garden to avoid being stung.

They got to the back garden and I warned them that the grass is slippery and wet.

They ignored me and walked all the way to the shed. The man took out a little notebook from his pocket and said: “Let’s see what we have here … asp … adder … bee … bumblebee … cockroach … cricket …” 

“Great …” I thought, “he’ll go through the whole alphabets until he finds they are WASPS !!!”

Then, to my amazement, he took a little extendable metal stick from his pocket and opened it out like you do with old style car radio aerials until it was some five feet long. He moved a little closer to the nest, leaving the young lady a few feet behind him, and started poking the nest with the stick.

As I said, I’m not a very clever man, but I knew straightaway that this was not a wise thing to do. I withdrew a little.

The young lady remained a few feet behind him as he disturbed the wasps which started buzzing like a small dark cloud up ahead.

He kept poking, almost destroying the nest, with his stick.

“There are no wasps in this nest” he said to the young lady behind him, “it’s empty”.

She stood there and said nothing.

I shouted “They’re right above your head … you’d better move away quick!”

He looked up at the dark cloud getting nearer and ran away knocking the poor lady so hard that she fell flat on her back sending her legs flying right up in the air.

He then slipped and fell right on his face in the wet grass and mud. He got on all fours and ran towards me like a dog; followed by the young lady doing the same.

They stood up beside me cleaning themselves from the wet mud which covered them from head to toes.

“They’re wasps all right!” he said with authority, as he looked at the poor creatures buzzing around their destroyed nest.

“What do we do now?” I asked.

“Oh … I’ll spray some powder to stop them returning to the nest!” he replied.

He got some powder which he sprayed like a white cloud everywhere; no doubt including his lungs.

I paid him, somewhat reluctantly I must admit, and they left never to be seen again.

As for the wasps; I suppose they built a new nest somewhere else.

Sunday 15 July 2012

Dandelions nettles and daisies

Three years ago I had reason to visit an allotment.

What is that? I hear some of you ask.

It’s a system peculiar to Great Britain whereby the Local Government Authorities (Local Councils) rent a small piece of land to anyone on which to grow their own fruits and vegetables.

The piece of land is called an “allotment” and these are usually situated in the middle of towns and cities all over the UK. The land has been earmarked for such use and (hopefully) will never be built upon.

The practice, I understand, started in the Second World War when food was scarce and to encourage people to “dig for Britain” and grow their own food.

Anyway … at this allotment I met an old man whom I’ve never met before. I don’t know why, but usually complete strangers feel at ease to talk to me and tell me their life stories. So I listened.

He said he’d had that allotment for about ten years or so. His piece of land was about 20 metres by 10 metres or so. On it he had gooseberries, black currants, red currants, rhubarb, a small vine, a fig tree, spinach, cabbage, parsnips, runner beans, marrows, courgettes, and a variety of herbs and other vegetables too numerous to remember.

He complained that since he injured his hand in an accident cutting the tendons he found it difficult to grip and uproot the weeds in his allotment. But his children and grand-children helped him toil the land.

In conversation he let slip that he was 82 years old.

I silently prayed for him and wished I was as fit as him if I ever were to be his age.

He then added: Never, ever give up. No matter how hard it is, how difficult it is, or how tired you are: don’t give up. If you do give up, the weeds will soon take over your allotment and all your hard work will go to waste. And you have to start all over again.

I left him with those words ringing in my ears. A complete stranger with a message which can be adapted to our Christian walk.

Never, ever give up. Or the weeds (sin) will soon take over your life and all your hard work will go to waste.

That night I said a prayer for that old gentleman with a salutary message.

A few days later it was another beautiful, warm and sunny day. I spent sometime in the garden pruning the bushes.

Half an hour after I started a friend came to visit. I must explain that I’ve left a corner of the garden to grow freely. My friend looked at it and said: “these are all weeds … they must come out …”

I pointed at the little yellow and blue flowers and said they looked pretty; and they attracted butterflies and other insects.

My friend said: “They’re weeds. You’ve dandelions there, and nettles and …” naming a variety of plants I hadn’t even heard of.

What is a weed I thought, isn’t it a plant that you don’t want? There are people who make nettle tea – you can buy it at the health shop. I suppose to them a nettle is not a weed but a livelihood. I also read somewhere that dandelions are used in medicine.

Then I thought … I hope God is more selective when He comes to judge us and to choose whom from His creations are worthy to enter Heaven.

Will He say disparagingly: “You’re a weed” – or will He welcome us in His Kingdom?

Saturday 14 July 2012

GPS Lady

There I was driving on the highway and listening … no, obeying, every word that the GPS Satellite Navigation System lady is telling me.

Turn left, go right, keep straight ahead … and so on.

To be honest, she was doing pretty good and was not reading the map upside down as happens when I have a certain person next to me guiding the way. Not once did the GPS lady say “you should have taken the left turn we just passed” half a mile after we passed it. And she never told me to watch out for that cyclist, and I’m too near the parked cars, or that I was going too fast in a built-up area.

I was very impressed with the soft spoken GPS lady, especially since she never shouted that I don’t listen and where did I ever learn to drive.

But she did something very strange.

She suddenly said, “I’m going for a comfort break”.

“Hein?” I thought.

Then there was a lot of chatting in the background. A number of female voices talking about all sort of things. They talked about knitting patterns and the price of wool, then they talked about cooking and the best way to make pizza dough, and after that they started gossiping about various TV programs and celebrities.

It was obvious that the GPS lady had abandoned me and left her microphone on; and I was listening to her colleagues chatting amongst themselves in between calls and giving directions to their vehicle drivers.

I continued driving since you’re not allowed to stop on the highway and I prayed and hoped as every mile went by that she’d soon return from her comfort break and direct me to my destination.

I slowed down a little to give her time to get ready, wash her hands, that sort of thing, and return to me.

As the miles went by on my dashboard meter there was no sign of my GPS lady and plenty of signs of my nervous tension reaching new heights.

Then I saw that the highway was splitting into two some miles ahead. I read the notices above the highway saying that to the left you go somewhere or other, and to the right you go somewhere or other totally different.

But which way is my way? I knew where I wanted to reach my destination but did not know how to get there. If I took either of the two roads ahead I could well end up miles from where I wanted to go. I had a pressing meeting to attend and I could not afford to get there late.

I decided to get off the highway and stop at the safest place possible. I got out of the car and searched for an old map book I knew I had. If modern technology gave up on me I’ll get back to the old and tested technology.

A few minutes later a police car drew up and stopped behind me. Two huge policemen in high visibility jackets came out and approached me.

“What seems to be the problem Sir?” asked one of them, “has your car broken down?”

“No … the car’s OK,” I replied hesitantly, “It’s my GPS lady …”

“GPS lady? You mean the announcer on your system. What’s the matter with her?”

“She’s gone for a comfort break!”

“What?” asked the incredulous policeman.

“The GPS lady directing me to my destination said she needed the toilet about half an hour ago and she hasn’t come back!”

Try as I might I could not convince the two policemen what had happened. They suspected I’d been drinking and asked that I take a breathalyzer test there and then to check the level of alcohol in my system, followed by urine and blood tests at the police station.

I protested and they threatened to arrest me. I took the breathalyzer test which of course was negative. I was as sober as a judge who’d lost his GPS lady.

Then it occurred to me to tell them that she left her microphone open and I could hear her colleagues chatting about cooking and knitting.

They approached the vehicle and opened the door. Mercifully, her colleagues were still chatting away. This time they were talking about ballroom dancing.

“Sir,” said the second policeman in a stern face which he could hardly keep straight, “this is Women’s World on the radio. You must have inadvertently turned off the GPS system!”

They let me off with a warning to be more careful, and went away to write their report.

My GPS lady guided me to my destination, albeit somewhat late.

Thursday 12 July 2012

The Deal

There are times that whatever Father Ignatius says or advises is sure to be misinterpreted or misunderstood. Yet, his duty as a priest and guide to his flock is to teach them, as best he can, about God our Creator and His unrelenting love for us.

One day he entered the church from the Sacristy and saw an elderly lady kneeling in the middle aisle right at the back of the church. He said nothing and proceeded to the Altar where he took away the candlesticks back to the Sacristy for Mrs Davenport to clean.

A few moments later he re-entered the church to find the same old lady still on her knees but a few paces further forward towards the Altar. He approached her gently. He hadn’t seen her before in church.

“Welcome to our church” he said in his soothing kind voice, “you’re new here … I haven’t seen you visiting us before …”

“I can’t get up Father …” she said looking up at him from her kneeling position.

“Are you in pain?” he asked, “Do you wish me to help you up?

“Oh no Father … I’m able to get up … but I can’t … I don’t want to upset God.”

“I’m sure God will not be upset if you have a rest for a while …” said Father Ignatius comforting her, “here … sit down for a while … and tell me all about it.”

He held out his hand and the elderly lady got up with some difficulty and sat down on the nearest pew. He sat down beside her and asked, “Why did you think God would be upset?”

“Well Father …” she hesitated, “my son is fifty years old, and he’s just lost his job … he has a wife and three children to look after … he won’t find another job at his age … not in the current situation. So I said to God that I’d pray the whole Rosary on my knees … walking one step at a time … from the back of the church to His altar. Then I’d do the Stations of the Cross on my knees … so that He would help my son get a job.”

Father Ignatius was touched by the love of this elderly mother for her son. He smiled gently and said “It’s good of you to pray for your son … it shows how much you love him and his family …

“But God does not want you to walk all around the church on your knees.”

“I’d do anything Father …” she said, “tell me what to do … and I’ll do it no matter how much it hurts me …”

“God does not want you to be hurt …” replied the priest gently, “God loves us and He listens to our prayers as long as they’re honest and come from the heart …

“He does not want us to beg like dogs … He does not want to humiliate us and make us lose our dignity …"

He stopped for a while and then continued.

“Humiliation and loss of dignity is the work of humans. See how we humiliated Jesus when we stripped Him of His clothes, we spat on Him, beat Him and mocked Him; and eventually killed Him most cruelly by nailing Him to the Cross.

“The Stations of the Cross are a reminder of how we humiliated Him and took His dignity away. And we still do so today when we hurt and hate one another instead of loving each other as He commanded.

“God does not want you to walk around in pain on your knees … He listens to your prayers no matter how or where they are said. Even sitting at home just say to Him in your own words how you care for your son and his family … ask God to help them. I’m sure He’ll listen and … in His own way and time … He will respond.”

“But I promised to do the Stations of the Cross on my knees …” she protested.

“Hey … trust me …I’m a priest …” Father Ignatius said with a smile, “I’ll pray to God for you and your family … Believe me, you don’t need to go down walking on your knees. Just sit here for a while and say a little prayer.”

“I’ll do that Father …” she said as the priest got up to go back to the Sacristy, “although I might stay on my knees for fifteen minutes to show God I’m willing …”

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Sins and Consequences

Father Ignatius often attended the questions and answers sessions organized by one of the parishioners to encourage members of the congregation to learn more about their Faith.

At one of these sessions the conversation turned to sin and the consequences of sin.

Father Ignatius explained:

“Jesus recognized our sinful nature when the Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. Of course, she had sinned. But what Jesus had to say about the situation was more significant than the sin she had committed.

"Jesus knew full well that according to the law of the time she had to be stoned to death. The law is the law and who is He to disobey it and encourage others to do so?

"Jesus was of course no stranger to challenges like these from His enemies. They wanted an opportunity to trap Him into disobeying the law and a reason to arrest Him. On a different occasion He was challenged into healing a sick man on the Sabbath and disobey the law. But Jesus saw beyond the law. His love and compassion for the man was reason enough to heal him there and then, even if it meant disobeying the law. Jesus asked whether any of them would leave their wounded animal to suffer on the Sabbath because the law did not allow them to work.
"Christ's enemies lived by the law written by their ancestors. An un-bendable un-shakeable law to be obeyed at all costs.

"But He believed in love, compassion and mercy. He was love. He came into this world because of love to redeem us and reconcile us with God our loving Creator.

"No doubt, seeing this sinful woman at His feet, Jesus remembered His mother who years previously would have been accused of a similar sin. Here was a young woman, un-married and pregnant and deserving punishment from society. What is worse, she claims that her pregnancy is Divine and she is carrying the Son of God. Blasphemy at the very least and deserving punishment according to the law.

"The law is the law ..." repeated Father Ignatius.

Then he continued in his gentle voice.

"So what is Jesus to do? Did He pick up a stone to obey the law?
"He challenged her accusers to throw the first stone if they had not sinned themselves in one way or another.

“In doing so, He pointed the finger at us to remind us that we too are sinners, in need of confession, forgiveness and redemption from our sins. There’s a veiled hint there of what He will go through for us. His arrest, false trial, torture and Crucifixion just to redeem our sins. All done because of love for us ... not love for the law.

“And when all the accusers left the scene, Christ forgave the woman and told her to sin no more.

“Sadly, in this world, forgiveness is rarely given without a price to pay. There’s often the demand for a punishment, retribution and revenge."And there's also the hidden price of sin. For every sin there is a victim who suffers the consequences."

Father Ignatius stopped again to allow his words to sink in.

“Christ never said that sin does not have any consequences. Whilst we may seek and obtain God's forgiveness the consequences of our sins are very real for others to bear and suffer.”

At this point someone asked why when someone sins God allows others to suffer the consequences; for instance when infidelity results in divorce and suffering for the innocent spouse and children. Surely consequences should befall the sinner not other victims.

The priest cleaned his glasses from imaginary dirt; a trick which he had perfected to gain him more thinking time.

“I’m not going to second-guess God and His reasonings,” he replied. “As I said just now, most often our sins have consequences not only to us but also onto others. Perhaps we should bear that in mind when we decide to sin.

“A few years ago a young lady came to see me with a problem. About a year after marrying another Catholic she discovered that he had been married before and had been divorced. He had kept that secret from her.

“She quite rightly felt totally betrayed and could no longer live with him. Yet at the same time she knew that Christ taught against divorce; and said that anyone who divorces and marries again commits adultery.

“In any case, she felt that by forgiving her husband, if that were at all possible, and remaining with him, she would be guilty of helping him commit adultery against his previous wife.

“What was she to do? She could hardly be expected to remain married to him. A catch-22 if ever there was one.

"And let us not forget the law ..." smiled Father Ignatius.

"The law is the law ..." he continued, "the law is clear about divorce and adultery. The Church is very clear about that!"

“Gosh,” said a parishioner, “what did you do?”

“Well, I passed the problem to the boss” chuckled Father Ignatius.

“Two bosses actually. First I asked God to help in prayer.

"Then I discussed the matter with the bishop. Eventually, after a lot of consideration on the part of the Church, we allowed an annulment of the marriage. We saw our way around the law ... annulments are a means for the Church to deal with very real human situations.”

“So, you ignored Christ’s teaching and divorced them all the same,” challenged a questioner.

“I can see what you’re saying; but we priests are humans just like you, and there are times when we have to consider the realities of life and try to resolve a dilemma as best we can.

"Not unlike Solomon, we are often called upon to walk a very thin line between the teachings of God's law and Church law and the very human situations you bring to us to help resolve.

“The wages of sin may well be death; but they’re also a cause of major headache to us priests everywhere, as well as having serious consequences to the innocent victims left in sin's wake! So think on before you sin.” concluded Father Ignatius with a laugh.

Saturday 7 July 2012

The Fear of God

Father Ignatius waited until the congregation sat down and then he started his sermon.

“We often read in the Bible about people fearing God, and the fear of God. And that’s an issue which I would like to address today.

“What is meant by the fear of God?

“Do we fear that unless we obey Him and do as He commands He’ll send thunder and lightning from heaven and destroy us and our cities? Like in Sodom and Gomorrah?

“Or perhaps He would allow illness and terrible things to happen to us because we failed Him in some way or other?”

The priest stopped for a few seconds to gauge the mood of the congregation; and then continued.

“There are, of course, many kinds of fear. If a tiger were to suddenly enter this church we would all fear for our lives and we’d run out from every available exit. Most of us would even forget to genuflect as we rushed out of the building.”

The congregation laughed.

“But that is not the fear I speak of …

“If we believe that our God is a loving, caring fatherly God, whose only wish is that some day we all join Him in Heaven; then what is there to fear?

“Our fear is not, and should not be, a fear borne of the possibility of punishment and retribution. A fear that, unless we do as He says, we’ll end up in hell and eternal damnation.

“That is not the fear that God wishes for us. After all, He gave us the choice to love Him or not.

“Sadly, many do not either love Him or fear Him. And they seem to be thriving all right! He has not punished them or turned them into pillars of salt! In His loving nature, He has allowed them the luxury to choose as they wish.

“So … what fear is there for us then, who proclaim to believe in Him and to love Him?

“It is the fear of hurting Him.

“I repeat … the fear of hurting Him. Just as when we have a loving father or mother who do the utmost for us; and they set their standards and values to teach us how to grow up as decent, kind human beings. We, their children, follow their rules, through gritted teeth perhaps, just because we love them and do not want to hurt them.

“That’s the kind of fear we owe our God, our Creator and our loving Father in Heaven. The fear of hurting Him. The fear of disappointing Him by our behavior. A fear borne out of respect for Him; a fear nurtured by true love given to Him freely just as He has loved us.

“Not a fear of what He might do to us. But a fear of hurting someone who loves us.

“Remember … even the devil fears God. But he fears Him in a different way. He fears Him because he knows Him very well. The devil certainly knows God better than any of us does; because he has met Him face to face.

“And yet, having been close to God and experienced His love, the devil chose to disobey and strike out independently on his own. He thought he could do better than love and follow his Creator.

“And God’s loving nature let him go. He did not punish him and destroy him once and for all. He just allowed him to walk away free out of Paradise.

“It is that very act of rebellion by the devil which resulted in death for all of us. We were not destined to die, but to share Paradise for eternity with God. But the devil in his destructive, impudent rebellious nature has upset what was meant to be and his sin resulted in us undergoing death.

“God our Creator favors life. He created life.  In order to redeem us and save us from death, He loved us so much that He sent us His only Son, Jesus, so that we may have life, and have it to the full.

“All we have to do to receive this eternal life is to accept Jesus as God’s only Son, our Savior, and to fear the possibility of ever hurting Him again by our behavior.

“God will never send us to hell. It is we who choose to go there by our way of life; and by choosing the devil instead.”

Thursday 5 July 2012

At the doctor’s

I went to see the doctor today. He was checking whether my sense of humour was still intact.

Ours is a big medical practice with several doctors and nurses. It has a large waiting room with a speaker system which plays soft music and every so often it calls patients to their appointed doctor.

“Would Mr Herbert Pixon please go to Dr Smythe’s room please?” said the speaker as a weedy tall middle-aged man got up and left the waiting room.

Now Dr Smythe may well be the best doctor in the world, but he is certainly not that good at technical matters; because he inadvertently left the microphone open in his room, and this is what we all heard.

“Do sit down Mr Pixon. What seems to be the problem?”

A lady in the waiting room suddenly got up to advise the receptionist that the mike was switched on.

“It is rather very embarrassing!” interrupted Mr Pixon.

The lady sat down again to the relief of everyone in the waiting room.

“There’s no need for embarrassment,” soothed the doctor, “we’re here to help and I’m sure whatever is the matter, we’ve dealt with it before.”

 “Well … I’ve met this young lady …” Pixon hesitated.
An elderly lady in the waiting room reading her book suddenly took off her spectacles and started listening with the rest of us.

“I met her on an Internet website …” continued the hapless man, “she came to my apartment yesterday evening … for a romantic encounter …”

A man in the waiting room started tapping his hearing-aid violently to make sure it works all right.

“I understand,” said the doctor, “you want to discuss precautions …”

“Well … not just that,” muttered Pixon, “it’s that something actually happened … I feel awful about it!”

At this point the receptionist entered the waiting room. Everyone pretended they were reading a book or newspaper and not paying attention to the loudspeaker on the wall. She looked at us suspiciously for a moment or two, and then she stood on a chair and increased the volume on the speaker, and sat down with us to listen.

“The young lady arrived at 7:35 …” said Pixon, “this put me off a little because she was five minutes late.

“I took off her coat and she was wearing a nice pink blouse and a short blue skirt.

“I offered her a cup of nettles tea. She took one sip and said she didn’t like it. I offered her dandelion tea and she turned it down too. She wanted a gin and tonic but I didn’t have any tonic. And I didn’t have any gin either …”

“I understand,” interrupted the doctor gently, “what exactly happened which made you come to see me?”

“I’m getting to that …” answered Pixon, “we sat down for something to eat. We had tofu and nettles salad for starters, and quinoa with broad beans for our main. She didn’t like either and asked for some meat; but I didn’t have any. She just nibbled at a multi-grain bread roll.

“I got up to put some romantic music on. Insect sounds of the forest. Have you got that record?”

“Mr Pixon, please get to the point,” suggested the doctor, “I have other patients to see …”

“Don’t rush me!” said an upset Pixon, “you’re like my mother. She always says Herbert get to the point.

“Well the point is that when I put the music on, the young lady started running her finger through my quinoa. She had her own plate full, but she ran her finger provocatively in an enticing and beguiling manner through my quinoa moving it around in circles all over the plate. I had difficulty eating from around her fingers because I did not wish to stab her accidentally with my fork.

“Wherever I ate, she followed my fork with her finger.

“I didn’t know what to say … I asked her ‘Would you like some of my quinoa?’ and she said rather abruptly ‘No … I’ve dropped my contact lens in your plate!”

The whole waiting room chuckled and then realized that this was not appropriate in case they missed part of the conversation.

The doctor encouraged Pixon once again, rather sternly but politely, to get to the point.

“After the meal I showed her my organ pedal collection,” continued Herbert whilst the waiting room filled up with more patients and nurses.

“I don’t actually play the organ, but I collect the pedals from old ones which have been decommissioned. I have some that date back to Napoleonic times. And some from the reign of Queen Victoria, King George, and even as far back as Henry the Eighth. And of course there are pedals from modern electronic organs too …

“I brought all the pedals which I keep in separate boxes, all properly labeled. Both the boxes as well as the pedals so that each pedal goes back in its proper box. I write carefully in my best hand-writing which organ the pedal appertained to, the date of manufacture of the organ, as well as the date of decommissioning, the price I paid for the pedal when I acquired it, although mostly I got them for free, and the date and place of such acquirement.

“I have six hundred and seventy two pedals. Some are wooden and some are brass or other metallic substance such as cast iron or steel.

“I took each pedal out of the box carefully and explained their history to the young lady.

“I had reached number two hundred and ten when it happened … the embarrassing thing I came to see you about doctor … I noticed the young lady had fallen asleep. She had her face in her plate full of quinoa and she was snoring loudly.

“Doctor … are you OK? Doctor … why is your head down on the desk? Are you feeling a little tired? Have you not been listening to me?” 

Monday 2 July 2012

Chocolate Sin

Father Ignatius was at the supermarket pushing his trolley slowly from one aisle to the next and reading his shopping list as he went along. He rarely visited the confectionery counters but this time he made a special detour to buy a box of chocolates for Mrs Davenport, his housekeeper, whose birthday was the following day.

Just as he entered the aisle he saw one of his parishioners there standing a few feet away. He was a successful local business man and a regular in church every Sunday and at confession every Saturday morning.

The priest was about to greet him when what he saw next made him suddenly stop in his tracks and freeze on the spot.

The business man took a chocolate bar from the shelf and put it in his pocket. He then moved away nonchalantly as if nothing happened.

Father Ignatius faced a sudden dilemma. Should he confront the man and tell him what he did is wrong. This may well cause a scene at the store as the man may well deny any wrongdoing.

Or should he inform a member of staff about what he had just witnessed and leave the matter to them.

Or should he just do nothing. Look the other way. Condone stealing through his lack of actions.

As the man casually walked out of the store Father Ignatius decided to let matters rest. He walked up the aisle and bought an identical chocolate bar as the man had just stolen.

Two days later Father Ignatius was hearing confessions as he normally does on Saturday mornings.

He sat at his confessional, which was one of those old fashioned wooden cubicles where he sat in the middle, and on either side people would kneel and speak to him through a small aperture covered by a thick curtain so that he would not see who is kneeling there.

He often smiled to himself at the intricacies of these old contraptions.

“What is the point of all this secrecy” he asked himself, “when I can usually tell who is on the other side of the curtain by their voice?”

Father Ignatius had a good memory for faces and voices and more often than not he knew who was confessing their sins to him. He had his regulars turning up Saturday after Saturday seeking absolution and listening to his wise words before leaving with a much lighter heart to pray their penance.

“Even their sins are always the same …” smiled Father Ignatius to himself as he waited for his first parishioner to kneel by his side, “sometimes I could recite their sins for them … but then, they’d think I can read minds …” he chuckled silently.

“Well at least they’re a good lot generally … not terrible sinners most of them …”

About half-an-hour later the business man he saw at the store came for his usual Saturday confession. Father Ignatius listened attentively to him and noted that he had not mentioned the incident at the store.

After the man had finished talking Father Ignatius whispered quietly through the heavy curtain, “for your penance I want you to take this …”

And he handed him the chocolate bar he’d bought from the store through the heavy curtain dividing both men.

The man took the chocolate bar and mumbled quietly, “I don’t understand.”

“It is your favorite chocolate is it not?” asked the priest.

“Er … yes it is.”

“Two days ago I saw you pocket a similar bar in the supermarket … am I right?”

“Yes … Father …” mumbled the man after a short pause.

“You see my son,” continued Father Ignatius, “I wasn’t the only one who saw you steal that chocolate bar … God saw it too … I spoke to Him about it … and He asked me to buy you a similar chocolate bar …”

The man said nothing, feeling both ashamed and totally repentant in his heart.

“For your penance I want you to enjoy this chocolate bar,” continued the priest quietly, “but I also want you to promise that you will never steal anything ever again … is that a deal?”

“Yes Father,” mumbled the man behind the curtain.

“And remember … next time you do something wrong, I may not be there to witness it … and God alone may be the one seeing your wrongdoing …”

“Yes Father!” repeated the repentant man as the priest absolved his sins and sent him in peace to fulfill his penance.

Sunday 1 July 2012

Undress to Impress

Why do people wear T-Shirts with silly slogans?

I saw someone at the supermarket with a shirt saying “Undress to Impress”.

Now, it’s somewhat dubious whether it is in good taste for a woman, however pretty, to wear such a slogan.

But this was a middle aged man, and so ugly that the only thing he’d impress would be the dead mackerel in the frozen food compartment.