Wednesday 29 May 2013

The graceful lady

For the last three Sundays Father Ignatius noticed a new member of his congregation attending Mass and always sitting in the same place on the left of the Altar.

She was an elegantly dressed lady in her mid to late fifties. She took part in silent prayer throughout Mass and never came forward for Communion. At the end of Mass she got out of church without speaking with anyone and drove away in a nice new car. Not the sort of car you see often in St Vincent Church whose parishioners are mostly either out of work or earning a pittance in a job in the poorest town in the country.

Father Ignatius liked to wait in the car park after Mass and greet his parishioners as they came out of church. Yet he never managed to speak to this mysterious lady who always left just before the final hymn ended, and so avoided contact with him or any other parishioner.

This week however the repetitive saga would have a different outturn because Father Donald was offering Mass; so our resourceful priest decided to wait in the car park a few minutes before Mass ended and so have the opportunity to greet his mysterious new visitor.

As the elegant woman came out of church early Father Ignatius greeted her with a smile.

“Hello, I’m Father Ignatius … I don’t think we’ve met …” he said.

“Yes Father … how remiss of me …” she replied in a refined English accent, “perhaps we can meet somewhere and I’ll introduce myself …”

Father Ignatius was taken aback. He certainly did not expect such a response.

“Ehm … we can go in the Parish House” he mumbled.

“Excellent … lead on and I’ll follow” she smiled.

Minutes later they were both in the large lounge room downstairs in the Parish House. She sat on the armchair near the warm fireplace; the very chair the priest often used when watching TV or listening to his beloved classical music. He sat on the settee opposite her.

“I haven’t been attending your church for long, “she started.

“You’re very welcome here …” he encouraged her.

“The truth is … I haven’t been to church for almost thirty years,” she continued, “ but my husband died a month ago and I thought I’d come back …”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear it …” the priest sympathized.

“Sorry that I’ve come back to church or that my husband died?” she asked teasingly, and before the priest had time to reply she smiled and went on “oh … don’t worry Father, actually I’m glad he’s dead … I’ve cursed him often enough …”

Father Ignatius knew to say nothing and let her continue.

“We married some thirty two years ago to be precise and he left me for another woman after two years of marriage. We had a young son aged one year at the time. My husband moved to another part of the country to start a new life with his new lover and I haven’t seen him since.

“He provided generously for the up-bringing of our son. He was fairly wealthy and made arrangements for moneys to be regularly credited to my bank, yet he never made contact nor visited our son since the day he left.

“My son is grown-up now and married with two children of his own. And my husband and I never divorced.

“He went to live with his girl friend, and had two other children with her although he never married her. And last month he died in a car accident.

“I heard from his solicitors that he left money for our son and for me.

“And I cursed him once again … I never forgave him for the pain he’s caused me and that’s why I’ve not been to church ever since the day our marriage broke down!”

“Well, as I said, you’re very welcome here …” Father Ignatius replied encouragingly once again.

“I know it’s wrong not to forgive Father …” she continued as calmly as before, “but I just can’t. And that’s why I haven’t been to church for a long while.

“I don’t even know why I’m back in church now … for the past three weeks at least. Perhaps I’m hoping that God will give me a ‘get out of jail free’ card,” she smiled. “You know what I mean … He’d forgive my hatred for my husband yet let me continue to hate him.”

“I doesn’t work like that …” Father Ignatius said gently.

“Yes I know Father. You’d have thought that after all these years I would have moved on … but I haven’t …” she continued lighting a cigarette.

“That’s because the hurt caused to you all those years ago has not healed. For various reasons the pain has not been given time to subside and fade away. Memories perhaps remained too vividly alive and so fuelled your anger and made the pain worse,” he explained as quietly and gently as before.

“Anyway … that’s my story,” she smiled stubbing out her just lit cigarette in the ashtray, “I may or may not continue to come to church … but it’s been nice meeting you Father. You’re a very gentle and caring person, and I appreciate your kindness.”

“Let me ask you something …” Father Ignatius asked just as she was about to get up, “if your husband was alive today, and he was here right now, full of genuine remorse for the hurt he has caused you all these years. If he asked you to forgive him, knowing full well that there’s nothing he can do to turn back the clock and put things right. If he genuinely and truly asked you for forgiveness; would you find it in your heart to forgive him?”

“What an interesting question …” she replied, “yes … on reflection I think I would forgive him.”

“It’s too late for him to ask your forgiveness,” said the priest, “but it’s not too late for you to forgive him.

“For your own peace of mind … and for your own sake and salvation, you must forgive him once and for all. The memories and hurt may well linger on, but with true forgiveness will come healing and in time reconciliation with Our Lord.”

“I’ll try …” she said showing emotion for the first time.

“That’s all God is asking of you. And I’ll be here to help you if you need me …” he replied.

And that’s how a wounded soul finally managed to find peace and healing. She continued to attend Mass on Sundays and had several discussions with Father Ignatius and Father Donald over a period of time to make her way back to God.

Yesterday, she went to Confession and had Communion for the first time in over thirty years.

Sunday 26 May 2013

Trinity? What Trinity?

For centuries people have been trying to comprehend the mystery of the Holy Trinity as if it is a puzzle which we are meant to resolve and when we do we get a prize.

God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit ... (no title) ... three in one. What is that supposed to mean?

We accept (those of us who believe) that God exists and is up there somewhere, in Heaven , above the clouds or wherever. He has always existed and has created us as well as everything else in the Universe and beyond. OK ... we can understand and believe that.

Then there is Jesus. Born as a baby of a Virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit, and came to earth as a human. OK ... so He is the Son of God.

But wait a minute ... in the Credo it says I believe "in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and born of the Father before all ages. God of God, light of light, true God of true God. Begotten not made, consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made."

Jesus was begotten, not made by God just like He made us and everything else. "Before all ages" - this means that Jesus has always existed. He did not just begin to exist when He was born on earth. When He was born on earth is when He appeared to us in human form. But before that, He has always existed with God, because He is God.

Consubstantial to the Father. From Latin consubstantialem, of one essence or substance. This word was used by the Council of Nicaea (325) when they wrote the Credo to express the Divinity of Christ. The Trinity is not a hierarchy. It isn't God at the top, then Jesus, and then the Holy Spirit. All three are equal and one; and have always been so.

Confusing? I suppose it is. But there's more.

We are then told about the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of God - His soul perhaps. He doesn't have a title as such. God is God, the Creator, Our Father in Heaven. Jesus is His only Son, our Saviour. But the Holy Spirit ... no title!

It was St Hilary of Poitiers, a Bishop in the 3rd Century AD, who first described the Holy Spirit as ‘the gift’. He is the gift given to us by God after Jesus ascended into Heaven. He is the very Spirit of God Himself. His very soul come back to us on earth to dwell within us and to help us in our Christian life. That’s why He is sometimes referred to as the Helper, the Counselor, God’s own Being living within us.

And that is the Holy Trinity which we believe in and perhaps don't understand.

But let's be honest, there are many men in this world who do not understand their wives; so what hope have we really got of understanding the Holy Trinity?

When we get to meet St Peter we will not sit an exam to check how much we have learnt and what we understand.

God will instead look into our hearts ... our Faith ... and our actions.

God does not ask us to understand Him ... He asks us to trust Him and love Him.

Friday 24 May 2013

Secrets to a Happy Marriage

I was reading a book the other day about the secrets to a successful, long-lasting and happy marriage.

It’s amazing that after centuries of people coming together in matrimony there are still, apparently, secrets that we do not know about on how to make our marriages happy and successful.

I read with some trepidation and curiosity in order to discover what else I have to learn on the subject.

It seems that the first steps in choosing a partner for life are the most important ones. Marriage is not to be entered into too lightly and one must be careful with whom we pledge to spend the rest of our lives – come sunshine, rain or snow. It is imperative at the outset to decide who will clear the path when the snow is feet deep and blocking your way out.

Love, mutual respect, patience and understanding are obviously very important in a marriage. But just as essential is the fact that one of the spouses should be slightly deaf – preferably the husband.

The choice of spouse is vital not only for reasons of compatibility, shared interests, hopes, values and aspirations. It seems that the occupation and profession of one’s partner plays a major role in the longevity and success of the union.

Statistics prove beyond doubt that archaeologists make the best marriage partners. The older you get the more interested they are in you.

It is of course inevitable that in any marriage arguments will occur sometimes out of the blue and on the most absurd and un-important subjects. The trick is not so much on how to win an argument; if this was at all possible, but to avoid getting into one in the first place.

It’s not a question of capitulating and giving way in the first instance, but choosing which argument is important enough to defend as a matter of principle and which is not worth losing privileges for.

The question of principles is worth dwelling on for a moment or two. Don’t just have one unbreakable principle which you will uphold at the cost of your marriage, happiness, and future livelihood. Be generous. Have plenty of principles; and if one doesn’t work out for you choose another one. No one who is anyone has ever succeeded by having just one principle.

The book also has a chapter about mutual interests and doing things together as a couple which both marriage partners can enjoy.

Now, doing heavy work together like changing the engine oil in the car, tuning the engine, changing the tires and other mechanical tasks may be ideal for certain couples; but personally I’d rather sit back and admire her handiwork and praise her every now and then. Besides, I hate it when the engine oil and dirt gets under my fingernails. It’s a devil of a job to clean when I’m at the manicurist.

In a chapter specifically for men, the book states that women like to be re-assured frequently that they are loved and cherished. Frequently the words “I love you” are not heard as often after the honeymoon, or are used as a pretext to wanting something, like watching the football on TV.

The book suggests that the husband writes down the words “I love you” on a piece of paper which the wife can refer to as often as needed in future. Laminating the piece of paper will ensure its durability, especially if it is the size of a credit card so it can be easily carried in one’s purse or handbag. Drawing a heart, or a flower, (before laminating), will also ensure a successful purpose.

So there you have it … a few secrets to a long, happy and successful marriage. Now where’s my dinner?

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Rescue Drive

For a few days Father Ignatius had been thinking over his conversation with Father Donald about the dream he had.

In the dream, St Peter asked Father Ignatius directly, ‘Have you done a good job of looking after Our Lord’s lambs and sheep?’

“What a challenge!” thought Father Ignatius, “St Peter himself asking me if I was a good priest!”

Jack lived a few yards down the road from St Vincent Church, just the other side of the Convent.

One Friday evening he was waiting outside the Fish and Chips Shop just opposite the church when Father Ignatius joined the queue.

“How are you keeping Jack?” he asked, “you look really miserable right now … just like a mile of bad road, I should say!”

“Hello Father …” mumbled Jack under his breath, “it’s a long story!”

“You’d better tell me about it … let’s move away from this queue …”

The two men left the queue and walked a few paces away from the shop.

“It’s this friend of mine …” Jack said hesitantly, “he’s over seventy years old, lives in Brintown, and he’s not too well. I think he’s dying. I spoke to the lady friend he lives with and she said the doctor is not holding much hope. I’ll go and see him tomorrow as I’m not working this weekend … I hope I get there in time …”

“I’ll pray for him Jack. I notice you said lady friend … is he not married then?”

“Oh … that’s another long story Father.” said Jack, “Many years ago, when he was thirty or so, he met this lady and fell in love with her. She was divorced and his priest would not marry them. In fact he argued the matter with the priest and the priest excommunicated him.

“I think he probably excommunicated her as well … I don’t know.

“Anyway, they’ve lived together ever since … that’s about forty years. I don’t know if they ever got married in the Civil Court.

“But the man kept faithful to the ban imposed on him. He didn’t move to another church and take Communion there, even though they moved town several times. In fact I believe he never set foot in another church ever since that day!”

“We’d better go and see them then …” said the priest.

“What now … it’s five o’clock. It will take us two hours to get to Brintown!”

“The sooner we start the better,” replied Father Ignatius, “you go to my office and phone them from there. I’ll get the car ready!”

Moments later Father Ignatius was driving up the highway as fast as the speed limit allowed.

They arrived just after 7:30 that evening. Father Ignatius went to see the old man in his bedroom whilst Jack stayed with the old lady in the front room.

They could hear talk, and sometimes laughter from the bedroom. The priest stayed there for a while. He heard the old man’s Confession and gave him Holy Communion. Then they chatted away about the past … the old man had spent some time in Italy, not far from where Father Ignatius studied for the priesthood, so they talked about Italy and all the places they visited whilst there.

Eventually the priest came out and asked Jack to go and stay with the old man.

He heard the old lady’s Confession and gave her Holy Communion.

Father Ignatius and Jack set off back home at about 10:45 that evening. In the car, on the way to St Vincent, Jack said, “Thank you Father … being with you is like being with Jesus!”

“Don’t ever say that,” replied the priest, “no one can possibly be like Jesus!”

The old man died three days later.

The old lady also died a few months after that.

(Based on a true story).

Saturday 18 May 2013

Angry Vengeful God?

Imagine you've died and gone to Heaven.

Joy of joys !!! At last, you've made it. God has seen it fit for you to deserve Heaven. An eternity with Him. You are so glad, more than you've ever been your entire life.

You look around and meet old friends and relatives who have made it here too. You greet them with a tear in your eye - a tear of joy as well as a little sadness when you remember how you missed them and cried when they were gone!

You renew old acquaintances as well as make new ones as you meet the Saints you've read so much about but had never met.

Then you realise someone is missing. 

A relative, or friend, whom you'd expected to see here is missing. You ask St Peter and he confirms your suspicion. That person is not here.

Is he in transit? In the Purification Center we call Purgatory, perhaps?

No ... he is ... in the other place.

Your joy turns to sadness, confusion, despair even. How can it be? You so expected to be with that person in Heaven for eternity.

What do you do?

Seek an explanation from God? Perhaps there's been a mistake! Ask Him to re-consider. Plead with Him even? Beg that this person is brought up to Heaven?

Has that person's absence tarnished your joy of being in Heaven? Changed your view of God's justice and mercy?

How can you possibly be here in Heaven for ever, knowing full well that a dear loved one is in the other place and will never join you?

On the Cross Jesus forgave those who dared to inflict so much suffering and death to the Son of God. What more heinous sin could your relative or friend have committed to deserve an eternity in hell?

Your human sense of justice; and your understanding and perspective of forgiveness and mercy would like things to be different and, no matter what that person has done in life, you wish him here with you in Heaven.

But God does not work like that. His perspective is not a human perspective. He decided otherwise.

In Luke 16:19-31 we read that the rich man in "the other place" pleaded that his brothers may not join him there. But his pleadings were met with the response that each person makes his or her own decisions in life, and by their actions they choose whether to go to Heaven or not.

No one goes to hell by mistake. We choose to go there. And many, by their actions, are sleep-walking their way to hell.

The time for action and prayers is now.

And yet ... what if we're one day in Heaven and our loved one is not there? What then?

Monday 13 May 2013

Much Ado About Nothing

I have an Australian friend called Mel who told me once “We humans always over-complicate things. Life is made for Fosters and surfing! Simple as that.”

I agreed with the former sentiment as I sipped my amber nectar but I doubt you’ll ever find me out at sea standing on an old wooden board that came from a kitchen door.

I asked him on one occasion whether he was named after the Australian city of Melbourne.

“Nah mate,” he replied, “… Sydney. My name is Sydney. But there was another fella in my class at school named Sydney. There was also one called Ade … we called him Adelaide for short. Then they called me Mel.”

“After the city?” I repeated, raising an eyebrow.

“Nah … just Mel. Pure and simple. Just Mel.”

It makes sense I suppose; which by some circuitous route brings us to Shakespeare.

I had to attend a Shakespeare recital the other evening. Not a play as such, but some tedious professor of sorts standing on a stage and spouting for ages about the old bard. The audience consisted mainly of female Shakespeare enthusiasts accompanied by their bored husbands who had been dragged there under duress or some other enticement – like watching the football on TV!

Anyway, this tedious man went on explaining how and why Shakespeare started writing and became famous.

Personally, I don’t hold with the theory that Shakespeare wrote all these plays and sonnets. I think it was Francis Bacon. And I base my theory on the fact that I fancied a bacon sandwich at the time instead of listening to this tedious professor.

He went on to explain what Shakespeare meant when he said certain things in his plays, and what do various characters represent.

I mean … what does it matter? Why not just enjoy the plays instead of guessing what the author had in mind when he wrote it? He was probably just writing to earn a living, very much as authors, playwrights and film-makers do these days.

At one point the tedious professor asked his audience why Cleopatra in the play of that name put an asp to her bosoms.

I leant sideways and whispered “I didn’t know she put a donkey to her breast. Why did she do this?”

I got one of those stares that meant “I’ll sort you out later!”

The evening went on thus without even a break for a pint or three. I tried my best not to nod off and was rewarded at the end with tea and biscuits.

What a let down … not a Fosters in sight!

Which brings me back again to Mel. He was right … we humans tend to over-complicate things instead of making life pure and simple.

Love one another. As I have loved you.” John 13:34

Saturday 11 May 2013

Stabbed Angel

Being a priest is not really a sedentary job where you work just one day a week and you have plenty of time for leisure and watching TV. Far from it. Sometimes you come face to face with real danger as Father Ignatius can testify.

It was a wet autumn evening with leaves covering the ground, and when they start rotting away and become slimy and slippery; a cold autumn evening with a freezing wind that blows right through you; the kind of evening when you’d much rather be at home by the fireside with a hot cup of chocolate in your hands. Yes ... not the sort of evening to be out and about.

You guessed it ... the phone rang and Father Ignatius was called out as a matter of urgency.

One of his elderly parishioners was very ill and not expected to see the night through. Father Ignatius jumped in his car and drove to one of the less salubrious parts of town where Mrs Bartholomew lived alone with a cat as a pet. As he arrived at her house in a darkly lit street the doctor was just leaving; and a kind neighbour had agreed to stay with her until Mrs Bartholomew’s son and daughter-in-law arrived from another town not so far away.

Father Ignatius stayed with the elderly lady to comfort her and to pray with her until her family arrived at about half-past eleven at night.

As he left the house he said yet another silent prayer for her and made his way, in the drizzling rain, towards his car. He was just a few feet away from the vehicle when suddenly, out of the dark, a young man jumped out from an alleyway brandishing a big knife.

The priest was startled and was fortunate enough to recover his balance on the slippery ground by leaning back on his car.

The young man, hardly visible in the semi-darkness, pointed the knife at Father Ignatius and said, “your wallet mister … and be quick about it …”

The priest could see the long blade shining in the little light that was available from a nearby shop window. Before he could say or do anything the young man lunged forward with the knife aimed at the priest’s chest. Father Ignatius moved sideways as a reflex and felt the knife slide down his side. Somehow, it got caught in his coat pocket pulling forward the youth who slipped badly hitting his head against the car door as he fell to the ground.

The youngster screamed in agony as the blade cut into him.

Father Ignatius stooped down to help him. He had the presence of mind to throw the knife a distance away and told the lad to stay still whilst he fetched some help from the “24/7” shop.

Moments later both an ambulance and the police were on the scene and the youth was taken away.

The following day Father Ignatius called at the police station as advised by the officers. He learnt that the youngster, only 15 years old, was un-employed, and living rough. This was hardly unusual in this desolate town where commerce and industry had long given up hope and departed.

He was asked to make a statement and to help press charges against his would-be assailant, but Father Ignatius had other things in mind. He knew the chief-of-police and somehow managed to get the youngster put in his care without pressing charges for the attempted mugging. It was after all a first-time offence and the police had no previous records of the lad. Three weeks later the priest found him a job with a local farmer.

But the story does not end there.

On the night of the attack Father Ignatius returned home very late into the night. Father Donald and Mrs Davenport the housekeeper were up and worried out of their minds. They did not know where the priest had been.

After getting cleaned up and nursing a nice cup of chocolate in his hands he re-told them that night’s events. Father Donald insisted that in future he’d be the one to go out late at night if necessary. In his early thirties, and half of Ignatius’ age, he thought he should be the one out there, leaving “the old man” at home.

Father Ignatius smiled and said nothing. Then after a pause he confided:

“Tonight, I’ve learnt two things I never realised before. When the situation first started and I thought I was about to die, I discovered that, in reality, I was not afraid of death. We all claim as Christians not to be afraid of death; and when it nearly happened to me, I found out I really wasn't scared at all. I seemed ready for it, but I was more concerned as to whether it would be painful.

“Secondly, I think my Guardian Angel helped me tonight. When the knife came at me at speed, I saw a white shape come between me and the young boy. It was all over in a flash. One second I saw the shape and the next the boy was on the ground in agonizing pain. I'm certain that knife was stopped into going in my chest.”

Unfortunately, in a town where nothing much of interest happens, the story of the attack found its way in the newspapers.

For days afterwards, every time Father Ignatius went to St Andrew’s Catholic School the young boys made karate movements with their hands when they saw him, and called him Father Kung-Fu.

Thursday 9 May 2013

The Air That I Breathe

As I got out of my London taxi and made my way to the big apartment block, a luxurious car drew by, and the uniformed man at the entrance of the apartment block came out on the sidewalk and opened the door.

Out came a bejeweled woman carrying a small poodle in her hands and a small man carrying her handbag. They were both in their late fifties or early sixties, I would guess. She was somewhat large and what could euphemistically be described as rotund; whilst he was somewhat diminutive in stature and obviously submissive to her demands.

I let them go through into the building first; out of politeness of course. As I followed them in, the other security type person checked my credentials before letting me in. What a cheek!!! Just because I was wearing my red tartan trousers, green jacket and cowboy hat with large feather; there’s no need to suspiciously ask why I was there.

Anyway, moments later we were waiting by the elevator doors and we were joined by a pretty young lady also obviously well to do.

“Hello Stephanie!” said the rotund woman.

“Good morning Mrs Flabbergast,” replied the young lady, “how is Bijou this morning?”

“Bijou?” I thought, that’s a stupid name for one’s husband.

“Oh he’s all well again,” replied the rotund woman, “Mr Flabbergast and I have just been to the vet for his injections!”

“Why did her husband go to the vet for his injections?” I thought, “maybe he’s caught something from the dog!”

The elevator arrived and we all got in.

“We’re going to the penthouse, young man” said the rotund woman to me looking down her nose.

I smiled and pressed the buttons as the young lady said “17th floor for me please!”

The elevator went up smoothly for a minute or so and then stopped with a jolt.

“Perhaps you didn’t press the buttons properly!” accused the rotund woman.

I mean … what an insult … There’s only one way to press an elevator button, and I did just that. I pressed 17, Penthouse and 21, the floor I was destined to. And now here I was stuck in an elevator with high society looking down on me.

The diminutive man said “They’ll soon let us out dear … these elevators automatically inform the engineers when something is wrong!”

“Oh do be quiet Gilbert …” she responded, “Bijou is getting upset!”

“There’s an opening in the ceiling” the young lady pointed out, “if you lift that flap there you can go through, and there’s a lever that opens the doors. I’ve seen it done in the movies!”

I looked up and said nothing.

“You don’t expect me to get up there?” said the young high society, “not in my mini skirt, I won’t!”

“Gilbert suffers from vertigo” said Mrs Flabbergast, “and I certainly will not climb up there in this new dress. So it’s down to you young man!”

“Or up to you …” said Gilbert with a smile pointing upwards.

“I am not going up there.” I said authoritatively. “I may press the wrong lever and things would get worse. I’m sure the engineers will soon let us out. Let’s be patient for a while.”

We remained patient for about five minutes or so. Silently looking at each other nervously and smiling politely. And then it happened …

Someone … (cue in dramatic music) had cowardly broken wind!

It was one of those silent wind breakers that turns the air a darker shade of grey as it slowly suffocates your every breath and presses your eardrums outwards.

I don’t know about you … but I think breaking wind in an elevator is totally wrong on so many levels.

They all looked at me accusingly. I resented that. I knew it wasn’t me but how could I prove it? If I objected it would have been taken as admission of guilt. I said nothing and looked at my watch, pretending not to notice their accusations or the distinct lack of air in this suspended cage.

“Would you like some chocolates?” said Mrs Flabbergast trying to deflect the silent conversation to another subject.

She opened her handbag and brought out a packet of chocolate drops which she handed round to the young miss and her husband. Neither took any.

I took a couple, out of politeness of course, and to show there were no hard-feelings regarding the false un-spoken accusations.

She pulled a couple of drops out of the bag and gave them to Bijou.

“Chocolates can be harmful to dogs,” said the young lady with a smile.

“Oh … they’re not chocolates!” replied Mrs Flabbergast, “They’re specially formulated chocolate substitutes for dogs. The vet just gave them to us!”

Before I could say anything the elevator smoothly moved upwards and took us to our destinations.

Lately I’ve often had this urge to scratch my ears violently with my feet. Very embarrassing … especially when on a bus!

Tuesday 7 May 2013


Father Ignatius approached the pulpit and said, “Hands up all those who have been to Lourdes!”

Quite a few hands went up.

“Keep your hands up,” he said, “now hands up those who went to Fatima, Knock or any other Holy Shrine!”

A few more hands went up.

“OK …” continued the priest, “hands down. Now hands up again anyone who has had a miracle happen to them at any of these places!”

No hands went up.

The priest waited a few seconds and then continued.

“Just as I thought! No one considers that a miracle has happened to them. Which of course begs the question; Do miracles happen these days?

“The truth is that miracles do happen these days; but people are not willing to believe in them.

“Perhaps they expect spectacular miracles to happen … Raising of the dead. Walking on water, changing water into wine … now that was a good one!

“Anything less than that and our Faith has not been stimulated enough to even consider it as a miracle, let alone believe it has happened.”

He stopped once again, as he usually did in his sermons, to allow the challenge to sink into the parishioners’ minds.

“I’d like us to consider for a while what is a miracle and who actually performs it when it happens.

“Spectacular miracles, as you would wish them to be, like healings from incurable illnesses and diseases do happen at Lourdes and elsewhere even today. There is plenty of documented evidence if you wish to research it.

“Many people have been healed suddenly with no explanation from medical or scientific sources. They remain unexplained and are accepted as miracles performed at the many Shrines visited by the sick person.

“Miracles happen elsewhere too … not just at these Shrines. Miracles can happen in churches, hospitals or even at your homes … if it is the will of God that they should happen.

“This then leads to the second question. Who performs these miracles?

“Is it Our Lady, the Mother of God at Lourdes or her other Shrines? Is it the particular Saint you happen to be praying to for help? Or is it God?

“And when we pray to individuals before they become Saints for a particular favor, or miracle even … like Padre Pio, Pere Charbel, and so on before they were made Saints by the Vatican … who performed the miracles do you think? Was it the particular person prayed to or was it God?

“Isn’t it after all the performance of miracles, or the answers to prayers, one of the tests which our Church considers as a requirement to Sainthood?”

He paused yet again.

“There are those who say that only God or Jesus can perform miracles; and to pray to Saints, or even people who have not even yet been considered as Saints, is wrong.

“Let me read you something from Acts of the Apostles … you can look it up yourselves at Acts 3.

“You’ll remember that as Peter and John went into the Temple to pray they met a man at The Beautiful Gate, as it was called, who had been lame all his life.

“The beggar expected money from the two apostles. Peter turned to him and said, ‘I don’t have silver or gold. But what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth get up and walk!’ And of course the man was healed.

“Later on in Acts 5 Verse 12 we read that many miracles were performed by the apostles. Sick people lay in the streets so that Peter’s shadow would fall upon them and heal them. And indeed many were healed.

“The important thing to note here is that Peter said ‘in the name of Jesus Christ get up and walk.’

“So yes … the apostles whilst they walked this earth, and now they are in Heaven, can and do perform miracles; they have not lost their ability to perform miracles, in the name of Jesus, just because they’re in Heaven.

“And so does Our Lady perform miracles in the name of her Son Jesus. As do Padre Pio, Pere Charbel and many other Saints. But they do so in the name of Jesus. It is very important to remember that.”

Father Ignatius stopped once again having pressed his point home.

“And now we move on to our last question,” he said, “for today at least!

“What role does our Faith has to play in the performance of miracles?

“Jesus said time and again to the sick, ‘Your Faith has healed you. Your Faith has saved you.’

“He did not say, ‘Wait … let me click my fingers and hey presto you’ll be healed … Because I’m great at miracles!’ ”

The congregation laughed. The priest continued.

“He made a point of saying that the people’s Faith played a great part in their healing and in their salvation.

“The sick did not stay at home and think ‘Oh well … if Jesus wants to heal me, He’ll do so in good time … I don’t need to go and see Him!’

“They went out to seek Him. They believed in this man who was different. A holy man, a teacher, a healer, the Son of God.

“They had heard about Him, and now He’s in their town or village they went out to find Him … in hope, in desperation perhaps, and even in Faith … as small as a mustard seed! But that little Faith, however tiny it was, is what saved and healed them.

“The blind man shouted at the top of his voice to attract Christ’s attention and to be healed.

“The old lady pushed her way through the crowds in order to get close enough to just touch His cloak and be healed.

“The Roman soldier believed in Jesus so much that he thought just one word from Him would bring healing.

“That’s what I mean by true Faith … it plays a great part in the performance of miracles.

“It need not be our Faith that saves us … the Faith of others, on our behalf can and does bring miracles and healing to us.

“The Roman soldier was asking for healing for his servant, not for himself. His Faith helped heal his servant.

“The men who broke the roof off a house and lowered the man in his sick bed down to Jesus showed Faith on behalf of their friend … and their Faith was rewarded.

“All the people who lay in the streets hoping that Peter’s shadow may fall upon them showed great Faith too.

“As indeed do all those who visit Lourdes, Fatima, Knock and all the Holy Shrines.

“Let me conclude by saying that miracles do indeed happen today. Both great and small. They are performed by Saints and those yet to be Saints through the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ

“Faith plays a great part in the performance of miracles.

“And before you ask … we do not have to go to the Holy Shrines for our prayers to be heard, or for our miracles to happen. All we need is to trust in God and be willing to accept His will in His time and in His way.

“We need a little Faith … not much, just a mustard seed’s worth!”

Sunday 5 May 2013

The Holy Trinity

“Father, I really have difficulty in understanding the Holy Trinity,” said a parishioner to Father Ignatius.

“I really can’t understand why we sometimes have difficulties in just accepting the mysteries of our Faith,” replied the priest, “after all, God is not really that complicated is He?”

“It’s the three in one that I don’t understand. When we get to Heaven will we meet all three of them God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Or will we see just one?”

“When I get to Heaven and find out, I’ll phone you to let you know,” replied the priest with a chuckle.

There was silence for a moment or two as James continued to fix the priest’s car. Fr Ignatius stood there as an assistant handing different tools when asked.

“You obviously know how St Patrick used a shamrock to explain the Trinity,” asked Father Ignatius eventually.

“Yes … but it doesn’t really answer my question does it?”

“Everywhere around us we see in nature things made of many parts,” said the priest, “look at that tree over there. It is made up of a trunk, roots which you cannot see, branches and leaves, and sometimes it has fruits too. You don’t have difficulty accepting that all these parts make up one tree do you?”

“No Father,” said James, “I understand that they can be together as one tree, or separate … the tree, the leaves and the fruit. Is that how the Trinity works?”

“I don’t know. I just accept it and believe it,” said Father Ignatius.

“But let’s continue along this path for a moment.

“We believe in God. Whoever we perceive Him to be. Some imagine Him as a bearded old man living in Heaven somewhere; others see Him as a Spirit or a Supernatural Being perhaps … we each have a mental description of God.

“I prefer to see Him as Jesus told us about Him; a loving caring Father, Creator of everything.

“Are you OK this far?”

James nodded and put down the wrench he was using to fix the car. He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand and listened.

“In times of old God spoke to His people on earth through the prophets," continued Father Ignatius, “He guided them and gave them Commandments on how to live … I’m sure you read all about it in the Old Testament … But people did not always listen to the prophets as you well know James. They killed some of them and ignored quite a few.

“God could of course have sent punishments from above … floods, famines, pestilence and so on. And indeed He did for a while.

“He could of course have come down as a Superman type character … now that may have worked don’t you think?

“He could have frightened everyone of them into total and perfect submission. But that is hardly the behavior we’d expect from a loving caring Father is it? What is the point of enforcing His will on all of us and make us love Him under duress?”

James smiled.

“So God decided to come to earth as a human being. As one of us. A human we could see, talk to, listen to and witness His power of love through His miracles,” said Father Ignatius gently.

“He came as a vulnerable little baby. And for a while He was vulnerable indeed when Herod tried to destroy Him. He grew up amongst us and throughout His life it was love and only love which motivated His every action.

“Jesus was, and is, God made incarnate.

“Whatever image we may have in our mind about God being a Spirit or whatever … in Jesus we see God Himself made human just like us.

“Are you OK with my explanation so far?”

James agreed as he kept working on the car engine.

“And this is where some people get a little confused …” continued the priest.

“When Jesus was set to return to Heaven after the Resurrection, you can imagine the disciples were totally distraught.

“They'd lost all confidence, even though they witnessed the Resurrection and saw the victory.

“Their leader, their God was leaving now. What are they to do without Him? How can they carry on without His guidance? How can they build His church and preach about Him? What a responsibility without His loving, guiding hand!

“So God, Jesus, promised to return.

“And He did return, as the Holy Spirit. He returned in Spirit form, not in physical form. You remember the story of the Pentecost don’t you?

“He lived within them and they were enlightened. They spoke in different languages and taught throughout all lands.

“He lived there, just within their soul, not in human form, but as a Spirit. A Holy Ghost if you prefer.

“And the Good News is that God, Jesus, this very Holy Spirit never left. He is still here right now. He lives within some people as He did within the disciples. It doesn't mean that every Christian has the Holy Spirit within him. But some do. I have seen it.”

The priest paused for a while.

“What saddens me,” he continued, “is that these days it is so much easier for people to believe that the devil can possess people and live within them, as you see in the movies, but they cannot believe or even understand that God can, and does, live within us.”

“That’s true,” said James, “many people believe in ghosts and evil spirits.”

“Unlike the devil, God does not possess people. He dwells within us but only if we ask Him and invite Him,” Father Ignatius continued.

“That’s because God is love. He would not do anything against our will. He invites us to love Him back without any coercion whatsoever. We choose freely whether to love Him back or not. Whether to invite Him in our hearts or not.

“So when we say people have the Holy Spirit within them, we mean they have God, and Jesus Christ, guiding their very soul in every aspect of their lives; in what they do, in what they say, and when to do or say it. They serve as an example to the rest of us; and they help and lead us towards our Heavenly home.”

At this point, James, who was listening intently whilst working, dropped something accidentally on the floor.

Father Ignatius got down on his hands and knees to search under the car and picked up a bolt and nut with a washer ring on it.

The priest looked at his hand for a few seconds and then said:

“Hey … look at this James. A bolt and nut with a disc attached in the middle.”

James stopped working and looked at what the priest was holding.

“The three together are one item,” said Father Ignatius, “they work together to serve their purpose … a Trinity you might say.

“Let’s separate them.

“This bolt here represents God, Our Almighty Father.

“The nut represents Jesus, made human and come to visit us on earth.

“And this disc or washer is the Holy Spirit. You can see when we put them together again that the disc is held securely on the bolt by the nut.

“It’s the same with the Holy Trinity I suppose.

“We cannot get to see or be with the Holy Spirit, until we have accepted Jesus first. Take this nut off the bolt, and now you have the disc. Accept Jesus in your life, and the Holy Spirit will descend upon you.”

James smiled broadly.

“I’ll keep this as a souvenir to remind me of this valuable lesson,” he said.

“I suggest you use it to fix the car, and get yourself another set …” replied the priest jokingly.

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Book lovers never go to bath alone

Hi there!

Do you enjoy the humourous stories posted here? And the Father Ignatius stories?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have all the stories together so you can read them any time without searching for them on this Blog?

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Thank you and God bless.