Sunday 3 February 2013

Singing Fast

Mrs Parfitt, was always haughty and well to do, with an expression on her face as if she’d got a permanent bad smell under her nose. She was rather thin and very tall, which meant that she always looked down on people – quite literally. She was very proud of her achievements, and well she should. She was educated at the best private schools and was in a successful career when she married an equally successful local businessman.

Yet, despite her outer appearance of cold granite stone she had a heart of gold. She often contributed generously and secretly to any cause the Church was involved in and gave a lot of her time to singing at Mass on Sundays and on special occasions.

Miss Cartwright however was perhaps the exact opposite. She was youngish, short and … shall we say … well developed. She was always jovial and laughed a lot at the slightest thing. And when she laughed, her whole body would shake and wobble like an under-set jelly. She played the organ on Sundays and accompanied Mrs Parfitt’s singing as she led the choir.

Father Ignatius was in the Sacristy tidying up when he heard loud voices emanating from the church.

He went to investigate the cause of the commotion only to walk into a heated argument between the two ladies in question.

Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, was arranging flowers on the altar with another helper and did not take part in the discussion.

“What is going on here ladies?” asked the priest calmly yet firmly.

“It is quite pointless practicing any singing Father if one does not have the facility of a competent organist!” said Mrs Parfitt in her very posh upper class accent.

“Are you calling me incompetent?” retorted Miss Cartwright bright red in the face like an over-ripe tomato.

“Well … if you can’t keep up with my singing … what would you call that?”

“For your information, the organist plays according to the music sheet, and it is up to the singer to keep up with the music and not the other way round …”

“Ladies … please … let us remember where we are …” pleaded Father Ignatius, “you remind me of the cow, the chicken and the pig …”

“Who are you calling a pig?” asked Miss Cartwright turning even redder in the face and wobbling like a strawberry jelly.

“I am calling no one a pig … nor anything else,” said the priest gently, “let’s sit down ladies and discuss this sensibly …”

At this point Mrs Davenport stopped what she was doing and encouraged her helper to come and sit with her in the front pew next to the two battling women.

Father Ignatius stood by the lectern resting his arm on it and said:

“There was once a cow, a chicken and a pig on a farm discussing the benefits of a good English breakfast.

“The cow extolled the virtues of good fresh cold milk poured over cereals, or used to make hot porridge. And then she regaled about the benefits of pure wholesome butter spread on toast, compared to margarine with all its synthetic additives. All in all, she was well pleased with her contribution to the English breakfast.

“The chicken explained how versatile her contribution could be … poached eggs, scrambled, fried, soft boiled and so on and so forth …

“The pig looked down and said nothing.

“ ‘Have you nothing to say about bacon?’ asked the chicken.

“ ‘All I have to say’ replied the pig, ‘is that you two are involved in the English breakfast; whereas I am fully committed!’ ”

Father Ignatius stopped for a few seconds; then he continued.

“I think we need to ask ourselves how committed we are to God when we visit Him here in church.

“It is nice of course that there are so many people willing to help with flower arranging, cleaning, playing the organ, singing and all the other jobs which exist in a church like this. I certainly couldn’t cope without all your help, and I’m very grateful.

“But is that what coming to church is all about? Being involved in the various jobs and events?

“Or do we come here to be fully committed to God? To thank Him for what He has done for us; and to receive Him in our hearts in the Eucharist.”

He paused again for a few moments and then went on.

“Did the disciples and the early church leaders worry too much about singing and who is to play the organ, I wonder?”

At this point, Mrs Davenport asked innocently “did they have electric organs in those days Father?”

The priest ignored the question and continued gently, “the disciples at the time were totally committed to our Lord Jesus Christ and were determined to spread His message to the point of death. And indeed, many died in pursuit of that commitment.

“Even today … there are many Christians throughout the world who meet secretly in each others’ homes to pray because Christianity is persecuted in their countries. Many are attacked and have died for being Christian. Do you think they worry whether they have enough flowers or the right music sheets?

“So let us come to church to be fully committed to God and not be distracted by other matters such as music, flowers and so on. Nice enough as they are, they are not the reason why we are here.

“Let us in all humility ask God what He wants of us.

“Let us say ‘Here I am Lord, it is I Lord. I have heard you calling me. I will go and do what you ask me … if you lead me!’ ”

Father Ignatius stopped talking and slowly made his way back into the Sacristy.



  1. Thanks, Victor - this story gets at the heart of our faith. We so often get caught up in the "small" stuff and forget that at Mass we are receiving God Himself. Thinking about that is a quick cure for pettiness!

    Lol...Mrs. Davenport is a piece of work :)

    1. I agree Mary. It breaks my heart when I consider how much time is spent at Parish council Meetings debating not important issues. I used to design and manage the church's website for years. Someone thought he could do it better and wanted to take over. I just gave him the website with pleasure. It is just not that important.

      People forget that church is where God is - not where they manage various committees and make decisions. It makes me cry.

      God bless.

  2. Victor! Looove the enclosed tale of the pig's commitment to the full English breakfast (even as a vegetarian)! Nice piece of writing, as ever.
    Also, thank you for including Father Richard singing one of my favourite hymns! Always a pleasure to drop bt here - God bless Victor x

    1. Thank you Gigi for your continued suport and encouragement. Much appreciated.

      I have known Father Francis Maple for years and with his agreement I have put many of his songs on You Tube. Search for him by full name - Father Francis Maple.

      He has been singing in shopping centres and malls for years as well as in concerts and has raised over £1m for charity.

      God bless you Gigi.

  3. Well said, Victor. I heard a similar message in my heart during worship this morning when I was distracted by my own hurts and concerns instead of focusing on the love of my Savior. We sang a new song that said, "Who are you, the one I give my life to?" My heart was filled with such longing to really know Him, and to let go of everything else that really is so unimportant compared to knowing Him.

    1. That's right Sarah. We must learn to always focus on Him.

      God bless.

  4. Poor Father Ignatius...Did he not realize that sometimes asking ladies to 'sit down and discuss this sensibly' is a challenge in itself? I've sat in on a few of those meetings : )
    I agree..If we could only learn to keep the main thing-- the main thing.
    Lovely post.. +

    1. Thank you Caroline. I've been to many of those meetings you mention.

      God bless.

  5. AMEN - So be it.As a convert I would weep( silent tears) because I could not receive communion yet. One benefit of converting is that we are starving for his body and Blood

  6. Another crisis averted by Father Ignatius! Such truth here....working in the church it is so easy to get caught up on the daily 'junk' and lose sight of the big picture. Thanks for this gentle reminder, Victor.

  7. Thank you Andie for your continued support and encouragement.

    God bless.

  8. Always a point worth making Victor! We do need to be more committed to God in all we think, say and do.

    God bless

    1. Often I see people more committed to the ins and outs of church affairs than to God.

      God bless you Daily Grace.

  9. A parish, like any other organization, seems to have its share of power-mongers who want to control people. A rule in music is that the accompanist is always to follow the lead of the singer, hence this story was particularly funny to me because I've been both singer and organist and know well what can happen if one or the other is deficient in musicianship. So Father Ignatius did a great job of re-directing priorities here and Mrs. Davenport is hilarious as usual. I think she is my favorite character - besides you, of course.

    We do need to have various committees to get things done, but everybody needs to be on the same page - the salvation of souls is paramount. If our behavior gets in the way of that end, we need to stop and think about why we're doing what we're doing. My big deal is to ask the question: Can I walk away from this in peace? If not, I really ought to re-orient my thinking. Now I'm too old and decrepit to take on any parish responsibility, and being more of an introvert, I prefer to be quiet and as invisible as possible at church.

    1. Thank you Barbara for your kindness and support. I like Mrs Davenport too, her thinking is like mine sometimes.

      God bless you Barbara.



God bless you.