Thursday 27 June 2013


Father Ignatius looked out of the window and heard the electrically-motorized milk van driving down the hill as it slowly approached the Parish House. The distinctive whirring of the battery operated motor, and the clinking of the glass milk bottles rattling against each other in their crates as the vehicle started and stopped every few yards, enhanced the musical dawn chorus as the sun woke up gently from its sleep.

Clink … clink … clink … sang the milk bottles as the birds chirped merrily amongst the trees greeting a new day. Clackety clack ... clackety clack ... clackety clack ... responded an old steam train in the distance as it danced past slowly on the metal rails.

The priest came down the stairs from his office and opened the front door just as Len, the milkman, put down two pints of milk on the doorstep and collected the empty bottles left there the previous night by Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper.

“Hello Len …” he said, “please do come in … I have a list somewhere of other items which Mrs Davenport asked for. I believe she wants an extra pint of milk, some cream, butter and cheese. Come sit in the kitchen whilst I find her list!”

The milkman sat down by the warm stove in the kitchen whilst the priest searched for the list prepared by his housekeeper.

“That’s an odd poster you have here …” said the milkman pointing at the wall, “To have Faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see … What does that mean exactly?”

“Well … it means what it says I suppose. To have Faith is to be sure that things will turn out exactly as you hope they will. To believe in something without seeing it …” replied Father Ignatius, “It’s from the Bible, Hebrews Chapter 11.”

“Yeh … I guessed that much. It’s still odd though” mumbled the milkman.

“What’s odd about it?”

“Well …” Len hesitated a little, “I’m not a religious man Father, a bit above my head all this religious stuff … but it is a little difficult to believe in something blind like … without proof … without seeing it with your eyes!”

“I agree … it is more than a little difficult. Very difficult I would say. That’s why they call it Faith." replied Father Ignatius handing Len the list.

“I believe in God … I haven’t seen Him of course … but I believe He exists. And in more ways than one I have proved it to myself, or He helped in proving it to me, that He exists all right.

“Now I can never prove His existence to you …”

“I would agree with that,” laughed Len.

“I could not prove it to you …” continued the priest gently, “but God could prove His existence to you … if only you’d be willing to take the first step … to dare to believe without any proof.”

“I can’t see myself doing that Father!” said Len reading the list prepared by Mrs Davenport.

“God asks us to trust Him … and He’ll do the rest” said Father Ignatius, “let me tell you a story … have you got a few minutes?”

The milkman nodded.

“There once was a very famous tight-rope walker. You know the kind …

“He’d walked across many rivers and ravines and canyons on a rope stretched between two points; and every time he attracted great crowds who came to see him. He was always successful, of course, and kept his balance despite the weather, the high winds and other difficulties which made his act both dangerous and exciting.

“And over the years he became very rich just by walking on a rope!

“One day he decided to retire. And for his last performance he decided to cross the Niagara Falls on a tight rope.

“Well … on the day in question the whole world and his uncle was there to witness the event.”

The milkman smiled.

“Before performing his walk the tight-rope walker picked up the microphone and thanked his audience for their support over the years.

“He then asked them … ‘Do you think I’ll be successful crossing the Niagara Falls?’

“The audience cheered enthusiastically and said ‘Yes …’ in unison. After all they’d witnessed his many walks over the years.

“So the tight-rope walker continued, ‘this time however it will be a bit different … I’ll walk across on this rope but I will also push a wheelbarrow in front of me … do you think I’ll be able to do this successfully across to the other side?’

“The audience shouted again ‘Yes …’ with one voice.

“OK, said the man … ‘I need a volunteer to sit in the wheelbarrow … who will come across with me?’

“Not surprisingly … nobody volunteered … the crowd remained silent. They had seen him perform his walks many times over the years … but not one of them had the courage to go across with him.”

The milkman looked at Father Ignatius rather puzzled.

“You see Len,” continued the priest, “they did not have Faith in him, even though they had seen him walk on a rope many times.

“And that’s what God asks of us … to have Faith, even without seeing for ourselves.

“To dare to trust Him without any proof. To dare to sit in the wheelbarrow and be carried by Him.

“A little difficult you think? I say it is … it is very difficult to trust and to believe without any proof whatsoever.

“It’s very difficult indeed to have Faith … but the rewards are really worth it!

“So it’s up to you … whether you want to sit in God’s wheelbarrow or not.”

As Len went to his milk van to fetch the items on Mrs Davenport’s list, Father Ignatius brought a small booklet of St Matthew’s Gospel from his office.

“Here Len …” said the priest, “have a read of this … I hope it sets you thinking. And when you finish it … I have another booklet for you if you wish!”


Friday 21 June 2013

And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson.

And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson
Jesus loves you more than you will know

Old Mrs Robinson felt a little faint in church today and passed out for a minute or so. She was helped to the sacristy where she sat down surrounded by concerned parishioners.

“I’ll get her a glass of water” said one.

“No … give her brandy!” said Tom.

“Perhaps a warm cup of tea with plenty of sugar” suggested someone else.

“I think she should have a brandy” repeated Tom.

“Maybe we should call for an ambulance” interrupted another parishioner.

“A brandy will sort her out” insisted Tom.

“Perhaps she should be lying down for a bit of a rest.” someone suggested.

“I have some smelling salts” said another.

“Brandy is better” said Tom.

“Will you all shut up and listen to Tom” said Mrs Robinson in exasperation.

The world is full of people crying out in need of something or other. And there’s always plenty of philosophers, scientists, economists, and experts on all sort of things expounding their theories and advising everyone on what should be done.

What they don’t realize is that what the world really needs is a bit more love.

“Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)

Thursday 13 June 2013

Forgotten in Purgatory

Father Ignatius was in the back garden pruning the rose bushes whilst one of his parishioners was cleaning the pond and checking that the goldfish were in good health.

It was more to start a conversation than anything else when the parishioner asked: “Father … is it a sin to fear death?”

“That’s a strange question …” replied the priest, “what brought that on?”

“Well … it’s not so much death that I’m concerned about,” said the man, hesitating a little, “it’s what comes afterwards.”

“You’re concerned about Heaven?”

“No Father …” continued the man standing up from the pond and drying his hands on an old towel, “Purgatory … that’s the real problem.

“The Church tells us that our souls will go to Purgatory until they’re made clean of all sins.”

“Yes … that’s right …” said Father Ignatius stopping what he was doing for a moment.

“The way I see it …” said the man placing the old towel on one side, “we all have some sin or other on our conscience at any one time. So whenever we die not one of us will escape Purgatory. No matter how much I try … the chances are that I’ll die having committed some sin or other … and I’ll spend time in Purgatory.

“I don’t even know how long I’ll be there … it could be years … and I don’t like it.

“I’m not even sure what’s in Purgatory … is there a fire like in hell … only not as hot?”

Father Ignatius laughed.

“What’s so funny Father? What is in Purgatory anyway? It’s never quite explained in Catholic teaching; all I remember from my Catechism days is that it’s a place where we’re spiritually cleansed … sounds more like a car-wash to me!”

Father Ignatius smiled again. He stopped pruning the roses and sat down on a nearby chair.

“Jesus certainly told us about Heaven and hell … and He certainly described hell as a fiery place … but He never mentioned Purgatory,” said the priest cautiously.

“So it’s a Catholic invention then?” retorted the parishioner, “because I know that other Christian churches don’t teach about Purgatory or believe in it.”

Father Ignatius took off his glasses and cleaned imaginary specks of dust to gain some thinking time.

“You accept, do you not …” he asked eventually, “that after you’ve confessed your sins you should do a penance?”

“Yes … sure.”

“Well …” continued the priest, “those who die with sins on their soul, venial sins that is … have to go to Purgatory as a penance until they are spiritually cleansed. That’s what the Church teaches …

“The Catholic Church bases its teaching from Scripture. In Revelation Chapter 21 Verse 27 it says ‘Nothing unclean shall enter Heaven.’ So, strictly speaking, if we die with venial sins on our conscience we’re not spiritually cleaned … and that’s why we go to Purgatory.

“The belief in the existence of Purgatory goes back to the early Christians; and other Christian denominations, though not all, do also believe in such a place where souls go before they are ready to enter Heaven.

“As you know … we Catholics also believe that if we pray for the souls in Purgatory, or offer Mass for them, it shortens their stay there …”

“That’s exactly what I’m scared about Father …” interrupted the man somewhat agitated, “I have no family whatsoever … when I’m dead and gone I’ll be forgotten there in Purgatory for years on end … it’s just not fair!

“Having accepted that I’ll die with venial sins I’ll then spend time in Purgatory with no one praying for me or offering Mass for me … I just can’t escape the fact that I’ll end up in Purgatory … totally forgotten.”

Father Ignatius sympathized with the man and his fear of the after-life and what was in store for him there. He had to tread a thin line indeed between the teachings of his Church and the realities of life as he faced them right here and right now.

One of his parishioners believed so much in Catholic doctrine that it frightened him to death, almost literally so.

“Hey … don’t be scared …” he said gently, “let’s consider this a bit more …

“As I’ve explained, the belief in Purgatory and the need to purify our souls before we enter Heaven goes back to the early Church.

“Over the years … you can rest assured that many wise heads have pondered and argued about this time and again. And it is still a matter of contention between various denominations today … As you rightly say, some Christian denominations don’t believe in the existence of Purgatory as we Catholics do.

“Now … you wouldn’t expect me as a Catholic priest to tell you that Purgatory doesn’t exist … it’s all a Catholic invention … as you put it … would you?”

The man shook his head. “No Father!”

“Good … as a priest I can tell you what the Church teaches about Purgatory.

“But I can also tell you this … and I believe it because Jesus taught us so …” continued Father Ignatius gently.

“God our Creator loves us very much … so much so that He sent Jesus to die for us …

“Those who love God and believe in Jesus as His Son will certainly go to Heaven … as Jesus promised us so many times …

“God is a loving, forgiving Father whose wish is for us to be united with Him in Heaven.

“I don’t believe that He is so callous and uncaring that He’ll leave you forgotten in Purgatory for years on end … He loves you too much to forget about you.

“He knows your soul as well as He knows mine and everyone else’s. When we die He knows how pure we are; and He’ll decide when and how we will go to meet Him in Heaven.

“If there is such a place as Purgatory, or a means through which we have to be cleansed spiritually before we enter Heaven, God will make sure that this happens to us as is fitting and appropriate to our individual circumstances.

“So don’t fret so much about going to Purgatory but concentrate more on being at Peace with God. Trust Him to do the right thing.

“By all means, pray for those who died before you … put in a good word for them with our Lord …

“But most of all Trust Him to guide you and welcome you to Heaven rather than worry about how you’ll get there.”

The man nodded silently and continued cleaning the pond. Meanwhile, Father Ignatius prayed silently that the Church’s teachings serve to up-lift those put in its care rather than frighten them as in this case.

Saturday 8 June 2013

Theodore Luxton-Joyce speaks his mind

Father Ignatius and Father Donald welcomed a visiting Franciscan priest, Father Randolph, to the Parish for the weekend to lead the Marriage Renewal Seminar.

The Seminar was held on the grounds of the Parish Gardens providing plenty of time for the participants to spend time together re-assessing their married life, in preparation for a Renewal of Vows Ceremony to be held after Mass on Saturday evening.

The two Parish priests were pleased that they managed to get twenty married couples to attend the weekend event and looked forward to a successful Seminar for all involved.

The same cannot be said however for Theodore Luxton-Joyce, the eccentric friend of Father Ignatius and very generous benefactor of St Vincent Church.

Theodore preferred to be well away from “organized love-ins”, as he called the Seminar and would not have attended for one moment had he the choice. But his lovely wife, Rose, convinced him otherwise and he, being an old romantic, albeit he hid it well, acquiesced to her request.

After lunch on Saturday the group met at the Church Hall and was addressed by Father Randolph.

He spoke about the necessity of working at a marriage to make it successful, and explained how very often couples tend to drift apart because of the pressures of modern living and having to work hard just to keep body and soul together. He went on to stress the importance of “being aware of the other person in your life”, the importance of “listening” to their feelings, and “showing love” by saying something nice every now and then, by holding hands, giving a hug every so often and not taking one’s spouse for granted.

“Love doesn’t end after the honeymoon” declared Father Randolph, “it’s a precious flower which needs nurturing and feeding every day if it is to flourish for a lifetime!”

At this point Father Randolph noted Theodore Luxton-Joyce raising his eyebrows and looking in the distance out of the window, no doubt wishing he was anywhere else but here.

“What do you think Theodore?” asked the visiting priest, “Do you think it’s important to tell your wife, Rose, that you love her?”

“Every day?” asked Theodore.

The Group laughed and Fathers Ignatius and Donald, sitting at the top table, looked at each other silently.

“Yes … every day … why not?” continued the Franciscan priest after the laughter died down.

“I don’t see the point …” replied Theodore, “Rose knows that I love her very much … (then looking at his wife) … you do know that don’t you?

“What’s the point of all this adolescent childish talk … it goes without saying that I love her … what?

“I wouldn’t have given up a weekend of good fishing and come here, if I didn’t love her … don’t you think old boy?”

The Group laughed again.

“Fifteen – love …” Father Donald whispered quietly to Father Ignatius.

But Father Randolph was not to be beaten so easily.

“No … it does not go without saying …” he responded quietly, “it is important to tell your wife, or husband, that you love them. That they are not taken for granted. It is important to say it … and say it often. It’s important to be nice and to compliment one’s spouse every now and then.

“Very often I’ve seen couples drift apart yet deep down they do really love each other. They just don’t bother, or don’t have time, to say it. With time, they forget what first attracted them to each other. And every time we forget … love dies a little!

“Let me challenge you Theodore if I may …”

“Fifteen all …” Father Donald whispered softly under his breath. “A good return from the visiting priest!” Father Ignatius sat quietly and said nothing.

“I want you to answer quickly without thinking,” Father Randolph challenged Theodore. “Are you ready? Without thinking … what first attracted you to your wife Rose?”

“She makes a decent steak and kidney pie … what?” declared Theodore.

The Group broke down into hysterics.

“Thirty – fifteen to your eccentric friend!” Father Donald said to his colleague Father Ignatius.

Father Randolph was astute enough to continue with his talk rather than get into a pointless debate with Theodore. Minutes later he asked the Group whether anyone had personal knowledge or experience of marriages breaking down after a long period together. He called them “mature divorces”.

Theodore raised his hand.

“I bet you regret inviting him …” Father Donald whispered to Father Ignatius.

“Years ago … when I was in the military, one of my people got divorced after twenty years of marriage …” said Theodore.

“I asked him why … and he said his wife was violent what? Apparently she threw things at him in an argument … Anything … Cups … saucers … cutlery … crockery … anything that came to hand.

“Turns out she threw things at him throughout the marriage … twenty years of it.

“I asked him why he took so long to decide to leave her.

“He said her aim was getting better … what?”

The Group burst into laughter to the embarrassment of Rose, whilst Father Randolph tactfully decided to call a short tea break.

“Game … set … and match!” declared Father Donald as he got up from his seat.

The rest of the weekend proceeded without further difficulties for Father Randolph, albeit Theodore was the most popular member of the Group.

As they drove back home he asked his wife, “You don’t think it necessary to say ‘I love you’ every day … do you?”

“It’s nice to hear it every now and then…” she said, “It’s reassuring you know. Women like reassurance!”

“Tell you what old girl …” he replied, “I’ll write it down big on a piece of paper. You can read it as often as you want when you need reassurance … what?” he chortled heartily.

She smiled; knowing full well that he was the world’s biggest romantic, yet his up-bringing did not allow him to show it.

More stories about Theodore Luxton-Joyce in the book of the same name. Download yours FREE - check the tab at the top left of this Blog.