Tuesday, 30 July 2013

No confessions here

It was Saturday morning and Father Ignatius had just got out of the confessional when Benjamin hurried into the church and asked the priest “Father, would you hear my confession please?”

“Do I have to?” asked the priest.

“Hein?” muttered Benjamin, “I am sorry I am late Father …”

“It’s got nothing to do with your lateness,” answered the priest, then, looking around to see that the church was empty he sat down on one of the pews and invited Benjamin to do the same.

“The thing is,” continued Father Ignatius, “I know exactly what you are going to confess. Week in week out you come here and it is the same old sins.

“Let me guess. You’ve lost your temper with your wife … again. You’ve been impatient with your children and scolded them unnecessarily. And you gave the finger to drivers who cut you off on the road. Am I right?”

“Well …” Benjamin hesitated, “I gave the finger to only one driver. So it’s an improvement I think …”

“That is not the point,” continued the priest with a smile to show that he was not being over critical, “what I am trying to say Benjamin, is that when we come to confession we should be sorry for our sins and for hurting Our Lord, and we should resolve not to repeat our sins.

“If we come back every week with the same sins it means that we were not serious at the previous confession …”

“Or that we’re weak …” interrupted Benjamin.

“Yes …” agreed the priest, “and you’re not alone in this Benjamin. You’d be surprised how often people come confessing the same sins over and again … Sometimes I can guess the sins once I recognise the voice of the person kneeling at the confessional.

“Let me explain … do you remember when the people brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery and they wanted to stone her? When Jesus said let those with no sin throw the first stone, and when every one of them had left, He said to the woman ‘go and sin no more.’

“He did not mean do not sin any more sins ever throughout your entire life. Jesus knew that she, being human, being weak as you’ve just pointed out, will inevitably sin. We are all susceptible to sin.

“What Jesus meant is do not sin this particular sin any more because it will get you in deep trouble with the authorities and with God Himself.

“And that’s what I am saying to you. And to everyone who comes to the confessional for that matter. At the very least we should all make a serious effort not to repeat the sins we have just confessed and resolved not to sin again.”

“I understand …” mumbled Benjamin.

“And in saying so” smiled the priest, “I am not encouraging you to go out there and sin some novel new sins just to entertain me and to bring variety to the confessional!”

Benjamin laughed.

“Seriously though …” continued Father Ignatius, “we’re all sinners … even me as a priest would you believe. And in seeking God’s forgiveness we should at least try our hardest not to offend Him again.

“Now go in peace, you are absolved. That is unless you have some new serious sins which you want to confess!”

Benjamin went away feeling much lighter than when he came in and having learnt a real lesson at this most unusual confession.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The sayings of Aunt Gertrude

My Australian Aunt Gertrude is a no-nonsense lady who says it as it is and it doesn’t matter who she upsets in the process.

Make no mistake; she is a sweet and gentle old lady with a heart of gold which she hides very well in case you would think kindly of her. Having faced hard-times in Australia and survived many difficulties and heart-aches she has built a granite-like fa├žade which perhaps is often misunderstood by those who don’t know her well.

Since she’s been holidaying with us I can truly say that I have aged at least a hundred years; especially when having to put up with her grating Australian accent which sounds like a duck-billed platypus being run over by a lawn mower. Not to mention her various meaningless catch phrases uttered to all and sundry with no rhyme or reason … or even sense.

My favorite is “When you’re in the bush with no dunny the trees are further apart!” I’m not sure what it means but I think it’s when things are bad they seem worse than they are.

If ever the world runs out of wisdom I’m sure we can all turn to Aunt Gertrude to replenish our waning stocks once again.

Whilst watching the news the other day about a seemingly irresolvable world problem Auntie suggested that the best way forward is to “put them fellas in a room with a large dose of laxative and don’t let them out until they solve it!”

Yep … that should do it according to Gertrude.

If only all problems could be solved with a dose of laxative.

On another occasion whilst watching a politician on TV she said “I wouldn’t vote for him. He has a face that even his mother would disown any credit for!”

We laughed of course but said that the man isn’t really that bad looking. She replied “The difference between a kangaroo and a wallaby is in the eyes of the beholder!”

On another occasion, whilst watching a singer on TV, Auntie said “She sings like a kookaburra with its tail on fire!”

But her worst insult was delivered to the cashier at the supermarket who, whilst pricing our goods, picked up some loose courgettes, put them on the scales, and asked “Are these cucumbers!”

Without batting an eyelid, Auntie replied “Do you need a University Degree in Ignorance for this job?”

I don’t know what was funnier, her reply or the grating Australian accent it was delivered in. Anyway … the cashier didn’t understand because he replied that they need no qualifications for a cashier’s job; and she could pick up an Application Form from Customer Services Desk.

Perhaps he understood her all right!!!

Good old Auntie Gertrude. She spreads chaos and mayhem wherever she goes; but we like her. Just about!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Meeting Jesus

It was a very hot summer’s day. The sun was bright and not a cloud in the sky.

Father Ignatius was in the Sacristy preparing for Sunday Mass. He asked one of the Altar servers to open all the windows in church to cool it down a little and he resolved to keep his sermon particularly short to spare his congregation, the very young and the elderly especially, from staying indoors for too long.

The previous Sunday a teenager had fainted during Mass because of the heat, and the considerate priest did not want a repeat performance this Sunday.

Father Ignatius had also devised his own make-shift idea to cool down the church a little by inventing his “Ignatius Air-Conditioning” system, as he called it.

The previous night he had asked Mrs Davenport, the housekeeper, to place four large bottles of water in the freezer. By the morning, they were frozen solid and as hard as rocks.

The ingenious priest then brought two electric fans on pedestals and stood them on either side of the Altar facing the congregation.

In front of each fan, a few inches away, he placed two bottles of solid ice and switched the fans on. The warm air whizzing past the bottles cooled down a few degrees by the time it reached the congregation.

He was well pleased with his invention that he left the Sacristy for a moment to check it was working all right, when he heard a commotion at the back of the church, in the area they called the welcoming lounge.

“That’s not very welcoming …” he thought as he walked to the back of the church to investigate.

There were two young ladies there wearing very low cut T shirts and equally minute shorts. One of the ushers, an elderly gentleman who always wore a three piece suit and tie to come to church, no matter the weather, had taken it upon himself to object to the girls attire and refused to let them enter the church.

“But it’s very hot …” pleaded one of them, “what’s wrong with what we’re wearing?”

“You’re not coming in like that …” replied the overheated usher getting redder in the face by the minute.

They all stopped talking as the priest approached them.

“Welcome ladies …” said Father Ignatius with a smile, “it’s good to see you here … you’re new here aren’t you?”

They nodded.

“It’s always nice to see new people coming to church … now what’s the problem?” he asked looking at the usher and the girls in turn.

“He doesn’t want to let us in dressed like this …” said one of the young girls.

“Hmmm…” said Father Ignatius, “if you were to meet Jesus in person, would you dress like this?”

“No … perhaps not …” they mumbled in unison.

“What makes you think He is not in church today?” continued the priest gently.

“Maybe we’ll come again next week …” said one of the girls as they left.


Sunday, 21 July 2013

Events my friends, events!

There are times in life when a series of events follow each other and somehow combine to make one’s life more difficult than it is. These are times to have Faith, patience, perseverance, and most of all the absence of one’s Aunt Gertrude.

A few days back we heard that our Uncle Herbert from Dundee was not well. So we decided to drive up to Scotland as a family, with Aunt Gertrude from Australia, and stay with him for a few days until he is better. The old man lives alone, and for some unknown reason he got to like Aunt Gertrude. So we decided a visit would do him the world of good.

Unfortunately, the day before we were due to set off I fell off a ladder whilst cutting a tree in the garden. Not much damage done but I twisted my ankle badly and could not drive.

So it was decided that I’d stay home and the family with Auntie would travel by train. But she refused. She said the journey was too long for her and she’d rather not go.

This is a woman who came a thousand plus miles from Australia and yet is refusing to travel a few hundred miles to Scotland.

I tried to encourage her to no avail. I would have gladly paid for a one-way ticket to anywhere in the world to avoid being in the house alone with her but I could not shift her. The last time I was alone with her she fed me cat food!

On the day in question they all left and I was alone with Aunt Gertrude who decided to make me better. She prepared chicken soup which apparently is good for invalids.

I told her it was mid-summer and that I hated chicken soup, and besides a twisted ankle does not make one an invalid. She said it contained pearl barley which is good for you!

After I was fed the soup she suggested we pray together for me to get better.

What? I had no intention of praying with her. But she insisted.

She started with the Rosary and then a number of readings from the Bible followed by other prayers and pleadings to the Lord for my health and that of the whole family, including their safe travel there and back, and not forgetting Uncle Herbert.

To be fair, not once during the prayers did she say “cobber” or “fair dinkum” or “no worries” or any of her other Australian sayings; which no doubt pleased the Good Lord no end.

Then, to make conversation, she said she’d been to that posh department store in London on her last visit and bought something unusual to send back to a friend of hers in Adelaide.

“Oh yes …” I said feigning some interest.

“It’s a Santa Claus costume” she said, “I bought it for a friend who has been asked to be Santa at the local church fete!”

“But … it’s the middle of summer!” I mumbled with a smile.

“I know, cobber … I’ll be posting it to him on Monday … I’d like you to try it first to check the size is right. My friend is about the same size as you and well rotund round the waist too …”

She has a nice way of flattering people, I thought. Before I could say anything she’d been to her room and returned with the red costume. I tried the heavy coat on, and put on the white beard too, to humour her. As I stood up so she could check the costume for length I accidentally stood on a stupid plastic toy which had been left on the floor.

I heard it crack underneath me and felt the pain of my twisted ankle shoot up my leg. I let out a cry as I collapsed back on the sofa.

“Dear Lord … are you OK cobber!” she cried in a panic, “don’t move fella …” she continued as I nodded that I was OK.

She went out of the room and left me alone to recover slowly from the shooting pains. About ten or so minutes later I heard voices from the front door. Two ambulance men entered the room …

Apparently, when she heard the loud crack under my foot she thought I’d broken a bone and phoned for an ambulance.

The two paramedics checked me out and said I was OK. I tried to explain why I was wearing a Santa costume and one of them said: “Don’t worry sir. We’ve been to a number of call-out situations and have seen many sights. We’ve learnt to be discreet and never ask questions!”

What exactly did he mean by that?

I am so angry at the mad woman that I am still fuming days afterwards. The rest of the family think it is all very funny.

Auntie Gertrude said “Lighten up cobber … if you’d lost some weight round your waist you would have seen the toy on the ground!”

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Nun on the run

It was Friday evening and Father Ignatius was alone in the Parish House listening to his favorite classical music. He sat in his armchair by the fire, eyes closed, and with his hand slowly moving his index finger in the air as if holding a baton and conducting an orchestra. Just as the music reached his favorite piece of Verdi’s Aida … The Triumphal March … just then, the front doorbell rang and interrupted his grand moment of triumph.

He jumped off his chair, switched off the record player and said sotto voce, “OK … hold it there all of you … we’ll return to this piece presently …”

He opened the door to be confronted by Sister Martha.

“I’m not interrupting anything?” she asked.

“Oh … only Giuseppe Verdi …” he replied.

“Yes … I’ve heard him through the open window … he’s getting better under your leadership … mind if I come in?”

He moved aside and let her in.

“Would you like tea or coffee …” she said as she made her way towards the kitchen.

“Tea please,” replied the priest as he walked back to the living room.

Sister Martha was in her late sixties yet she was as youthful and energetic as anyone half her age. She lived at the Convent nearby with a dozen other nuns, and she taught at the local Catholic schools. She often called in on the priests at St Vincent for a chat and a cup of tea on her way home, especially on Fridays when she stayed a little late at the school.

Moments later she entered the living room carrying a tray of tea and ginger biscuits; the priest’s favorite, as she knew very well.

“Ah … I didn’t know we had ginger biscuits,” said Father Ignatius, “I didn’t find them earlier on when I looked …”

“Mrs Davenport has shown me where she hides them …” said Sister Martha pouring two cups of tea, “she told me if you’d find them you’ll finish the whole packet …”

A few minutes of silence later as they slowly sipped their tea Sister Martha was first to break the quiet.

“Ignatius … have you heard about Sister Cecilia?” she asked.

“No … I can’t say I have …” he replied, “what’s the problem …”

“I am not breaking any confidences Ignatius … she asked me to speak to you … she’s already spoken to Mother Superior today …”

“Sounds ominous …” said the priest putting his cup down.

“Well … she works at the hospital as you know … she’s a nursing assistant there … well, not to put too fine a point on it … she’s fallen in love with a young doctor there …

“She told me she doesn’t know how it happened …” continued Sister Martha, “they got attracted to each other and she feels she can no longer continue her vocation …”

“You say she spoke to Mother Superior?” asked Father Ignatius.

“Yes … today. She told her she’d been thinking about this for about a month or so … she wishes it didn’t happen but it has … she wants to leave the convent and pursue a new life with him …

“She told me that Mother Superior was very understanding and suggested that she leaves the Convent for another one down South to give her time to think …

“But Sister Cecilia doesn’t think it will help … she wants to leave her vocation altogether.”

“I see …” said the priest calmly, “and you say Cecilia asked you to speak to me …”

“Yes … she wanted your advice …”

Father Ignatius smiled weakly.

“The poor soul …” he mumbled, “what advice can I give her Martha?” he asked rhetorically.

“When we decide to take up our vocation to serve the Lord,” he continued, “we do so after a lot of soul-searching, a lot of prayers, and a lot of training. It takes years as you know Martha … this is perhaps deliberate to give us a chance to think seriously on what we’re doing and the commitment we’re undertaking …

“Yet … despite all that … it does sometimes happen as in this case, that individuals can no longer continue their vocations and wish to leave. It happened some years ago to a priest I knew well … he has left the church and is now married with a family of his own …”

“It’s terrible …” Sister Martha said quietly.

“I suppose it is …” he replied, “as a Church we frown when people break their marital vows and divorce or separate … and I suspect this is no different …

“When a priest or nun break their vows and no longer wish to continue their vocations … it is perhaps the same as couples seeking divorce …

“Yet Martha … whilst I understand what people like Cecilia or that priest I spoke of are going through … I cannot condemn them …”

The nun looked up at him with a frown.

“I cannot condemn them, Martha …” he repeated, “I agree that it is wrong to break the vows they made freely … but at the same time … who am I to stand in the way of true and genuine love … if that is what’s happened in this case. I know it was exactly what happened in the case of that priest … I knew him very well.

“He fell in love with a teacher … he shouldn’t have … but he did … He wanted to leave the Church … just like Cecilia … He confessed to me … it was heart breaking … he told me he could not go on serving as a priest.”

“What did you do?” asked Sister Martha.

“I forgave him of course …” replied Father Ignatius, “how could I possibly withhold absolution … He was repentant and he knew that he could no longer serve as a priest … even if he gave up his lover and was moved to another Parish … He knew that he would not be a good priest and that deep in his heart he’d be a fraud … He’d be serving against his will and would be cheating the Church as well as God Himself …

“Yes …” said Father Ignatius thinking back to that event in the distant past, “I forgave him and absolved him …

“When we forgive someone else, we touch his very soul with the merciful love of Jesus Christ our Lord. How could I stand in the way of such love?

“Eventually … the bishop let him go … and as I said, he’s now married with a family.”

“What do you want me to say to Cecilia?” asked Sister Martha.

“Tell her that I’ll be praying for her …” he replied, “tell her to think about what Mother Superior advised … and that I’ll be always available if she wishes to have a talk with me … How old is she?” he asked.

“Thirty … last month!”

“She’s young and no doubt very frightened …” said Father Ignatius calmly, “I believe that whatever we do … our role is not to condemn but to forgive … She is doing what she feels is right for her life …

“Our Lord forgave many sins when He walked this earth … who am I to stand in the way of true repentance?”

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The armchair

I may have mentioned that Uncle Herbert from Dundee is very generous and always brings us many gifts when he visits.

He was with us recently to meet Aunt Gertrude from Australia who is staying with us for a (long) while.

After he left to his native Scotland he proved once again that his generosity knows no bounds. I wish it did really …

Being generous is one thing but then it can also go too far and it takes over someone else’s life. I don’t mean to be critical … Yes I do actually; otherwise I wouldn’t be telling you this.

Let me explain.

The other day a large van drew outside our house and they delivered a large box.

"Struth cobber ..." said Auntie Gertrude, "what in a nest of kookaburras is that?"

We weren’t expecting anything apart from a book which I had ordered from the Internet. But this box was far too big for a book ... 

We got the box into the house, Auntie and I, and we opened it to discover that it contained a huge armchair.

Not a normal type of armchair mind you … no, this was an inflatable armchair. And not the kind you inflate with air … it would take ages and strong lungs to inflate something this size. No, this armchair had to be filled with water. It’s like a water bed but armchair shaped. And it’s in the most hideous blue plastic colour.

With the gift was a short note from Uncle Herbert saying “I saw this in the shop and thought of you.”


Why would an oversized fluorescent blue inflatable armchair lead a kind, albeit somewhat demented old man, to think of me? Do I look fat and wobbly maybe? I never even wear blue, so what led him to buy it for

Anyway … one has to be kind I suppose, and as Uncle Herbert is visiting again next week, (he seems to like Aunt Gertrude - don't know why), we decided to inflate the armchair with gallons and gallons of water.

"No worries cobber!" laughed Auntie Gertrude, "I'll fix the hose from the garden to the water and we'll soon have this thing floating like a surf board on an Australian wave!"

It must have emptied three local lakes to fill it.

It was placed in front of the TV where our dear Uncle often sits. It wobbles and moves as you sit in it and it makes you sea-sick, especially when the blue plastic reflects the light from the TV set.

Aunt Gertrude tried it a few times and she liked it. She's thinking of buying one for herself to take back to Adelaide.

So there was I yesterday sitting uncomfortably in this huge blue lagoon moving from side to side when I eventually fell asleep. There was nothing good on TV except the dust accumulated by the static.

As I lay there sleeping, dreaming of being on a Pirate’s Ship with Captain Blue Beard no doubt, suddenly my dream turned into Titanic.

Apparently the other day Auntie Gertrude was knitting on the inflatable armchair and had inadvertently lost one of the knitting needles. As I sat on the chair I somehow pushed the needle into the plastic fabric which burst with a slow but steady discharge of water everywhere.

There were gallons of water flooding the living room as I slowly sank down to the ground trapped in the infernal armchair as it folded itself with me in it ...

... and then I shot up violently like a rocket as the water made contact with an electric appliance in the living room.

Auntie Gertrude who was in the room at the time and witnessed the whole event laughed loudly as she said "I always knew your big bottom was too heavy for that chair, cobber!"

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The lost Aunt Gertrude

We were all out “shopping” at the mall. Actually, “shopping” is a euphemism for walking around from shop to shop looking at their windows, going inside and buying nothing at all, or on a rare occasion buying something totally unnecessary just because it makes one feel better.

Personally, I’ve never understood the female’s need for window shopping. We males tend to be more direct. We know what we want; we go to the shop and buy it. What could be simpler than that?

But on this occasion we had Aunt Gertrude with us. She’s been staying with us for a (long) while whilst holidaying from Australia, and it was decided to show her the new shopping center which opened not so long ago in a nearby city.

As usual, I decided to sit on one of the benches specifically placed in the mall for bored husbands who’d rather read a newspaper in peace. They all went from shop to shop and agreed to return in about an hour or so. Can you imagine that? A whole hour of peace without Aunt Gertrude’s grating Australian accent hurting my ears!

When they returned proudly showing all the nonsense they had bought … I mean, who needs yet another cardigan … Aunt Gertrude asked us to wait for about fifteen minutes as she wanted to visit the “dunny” just down the corridor.

We waited … and waited … and waited … We sent out a search party to the ladies to see if she was there. She wasn’t. We split up and went in different directions searching different shops. She wasn’t in any of them either. We widened the search and agreed to keep in contact by cell-phones. She was no where to be found.

As my heart started to gladden at the thought that perhaps she had gone back to Australia I heard her screeching accent from the doorway of my favorite fast-food outlet.

She was standing there with a vagrant in dirty torn clothing and she was arguing with the fast-food store manager. As I approached them she shouted loud enough to be heard back in Adelaide. “Look here cobber … if this place is bad enough for them beatniks to eat in, it is bad enough for him also!”

I asked her what was going on. She replied “This reptile cum manager does not want to let us in!”

The manager recognized me as one of his regulars and let me deal with the matter. Apparently, the poor beggar had asked Auntie for a few pence for a cup of tea, and she decided to treat him to a full meal instead. But the manager would not allow him in dressed like this.

I explained to the manager that she was an eccentric family member visiting from Australia and I did not see why I should be the only one to suffer her unusual antics. He agreed to let us in on this occasion. So I phoned the rest of the family and we enjoyed a great meal.

Guess who paid? Me!!!

Why is Auntie’s generosity always costing me dear? To be fair, she did buy me a stupid cardigan.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Father Ignatius' sin

The following Sunday at Mass Father Ignatius was determined to make a stand. He approached the lectern confidently and said:

“As many of you know by now we had an incident here at last Sunday’s Mass. Two youngsters came up front for Communion and instead of placing the Host in their mouth when I put it in their hands, they ran away. In their hurry to escape one of them dropped the Host on the floor. The other Host was also retrieved by Father Donald who had followed the youth out in the park.

“What happened here last Sunday is a sacrilege.

“The Host as you know is not just a wafer, or a biscuit. It is the Body of Christ.

“And I allowed the Body of Christ to be desecrated by handing it out in peoples’ hands. For this grave sin of thoughtlessness I have begged Him for forgiveness.

“I am personally responsible for what happened last Sunday to the Body of Christ and I know that I will be answerable to Him personally one day for my sin."

The priest paused for a while.

“I have decided that from today, Communion will no longer be given in the hand in this church. Not as long as I am here.

“From now on, I would like you please to come forward and genuflect side by side here by the Altar rail. I will then give Communion on the tongue as we used to do previously.

“I’ve discussed this with Father Donald and he agrees and he will be following the same practice too.

“I have also discussed this matter with the Bishop who said that although the decision is ours to make in this parish; he will not be advising other parishes to change their practice.

“If anyone has a problem with this change please have a word with me afterwards or with Father Donald.”

Father Ignatius stopped for few moments to let the message sink in, then continued:

“I think you ought to know that we have identified one of the youngsters who ran away with the Host last Sunday.

“He is a Catholic boy who has in the past attended Mass here and was educated in our local Catholic school.”

The congregation gasped almost in unison. The priest waited for the noise to die down and then went on:

“I also feel responsible for that fact in itself.

“The fact that one of our own children could carry out such a deed proves that we have failed him somehow.

“It is obvious that we failed to teach him, and possibly other children, the true meaning of the Eucharist. As your priest I am guilty of that grave omission.

“I fail to understand how a child who took First Communion in this very church and was educated by us, amongst our own, did not understand the reality of Communion.

“I have discussed this at some length with Mother Superior at St Joseph School and the Headmaster at St Andrew’s. Both will take action to remedy the situation.

“But most of all I would like to plead with you parents. You are the first point of contact with your children, and rightly so. You promised at their Baptism that you will bring them up in the Faith. Please remember this and use every opportunity to teach your young ones the reality that is Christ and His Divinity.

“Teach them by example. Teach them by words. Teach them by praying together daily as a family, and by reading passages from the Bible.

“Father Donald and I are here to help you if you wish.

“The Lord God has given you the gift of children. Your gift to Him is to bring them up in the Faith.”

Friday, 12 July 2013

On the tongue

Father Ignatius considered himself a “traditionalist priest”, as he liked to call himself.

Sure enough, he accepted that changes happen in life generally as well as in the Catholic Church, and that he had to accept them; but it didn’t mean that he agreed with the changes that came his way from “earthly above” – a term he used to describe the church’s hierarchy, as opposed to “Heavenly above” when he referred to the Almighty.

One particular new development which the priest didn’t like was handing the Host during Communion to people in their hands. He preferred the traditional placing of the Host on the tongue, and for people to genuflect by the altar rail to receive Communion. But change he did, and he gave way to new procedures as an obedient priest must.

This Sunday, however, his concerns were put to the test.

As he gave out Communion to the queue of parishioners walking up the center aisle he noticed two youngsters, both aged about eighteen or so, coming towards him. He had not seen them in church before and assumed they were visitors to town. As they came to him in turn, they both held out their hands and he placed the Host in it.

A sixth sense perhaps prompted him to keep an eye on them as they moved away. And he noticed that neither placed the Host in their mouths but walked away slowly.

“Would you please stop” he said sternly, at which point they both hurried and then ran away. Unfortunately in doing so one of them dropped the Host on the floor.

The priest went to recover the fallen Host and shouted “Stop those two …” but unfortunately they escaped through a side door followed by two parishioners.

By the time they came out the parishioners found the car park totally empty … there was no one in sight.

“Which way did they go?” asked one.

“They were too quick … didn’t see them …” replied the other; and after a few moments’ conversation they went back into the church.

That would have been the end of it … but God had other plans.

At that very moment Father Donald was coming out of the parochial house and making his way to the church. He had seen the youngsters running and overheard the conversation of their pursuers. Rather than continue his way towards the church to find out what had happened he had the presence of mind to follow the youngsters at a distance.

They made their way into the park opposite the church and eventually sat down on one of the benches. Father Donald approached quietly and hid behind a tree.

“Have you got it then?” he heard one of them ask.

“Yeh … here it is” replied the second youth, “where’s yours?”

“I dropped it in church.”

“Idiot …”

“Sorry … let me see it … it looks like a piece of thin paper or card … why do they call it a Host?”

At this point Father Donald realized what had happened and knew he had to act quickly. He approached the bench from behind and grabbed both individuals simultaneously from the back of their shirts. He was really strong and knew how to take care of himself. A skill he had learnt in his native Glasgow where he fought many a street fight in his youth.

He asked them to turn round slowly and face him, kneeling on the bench whilst doing so.

Perhaps because of his broad Glaswegian accent, or perhaps because of his stature and the fact that they were taken by surprise, both youngsters obliged and turned round slowly. Neither made an attempt to escape or pull back. They knelt on the bench facing him whilst his strong hands held them tight by the back of the neck.

“Now then …” he said calmly, “which one of you has the Host?”

“I have Mister …” replied one of them.

“OK … I’ll let you on my right go. Please walk away slowly and stand by that tree.” said the priest releasing the youngster without the Host, who obediently walked way towards the tree.

“As for you young man, please place the Host in my hand,” continued Father Donald holding out his hand and retrieving the stolen Host.

After releasing the second teenager the priest stood there and asked them “Do you realize the seriousness of what you have done?”

They shook their heads “No …” said one of them.

It was certainly not the time for a discussion on Christianity or the reality that is the Eucharist. The priest had to say something to end this encounter.

“In the name of God whom you do not know I forgive you and so does He. I pray for you that you may yet get to know Him.”

He turned back towards the church and never saw the two of them again.

NOTE: Fr Ignatius and Fr Donald are characters from the book "Visions" by the same author. See details on the right of this Blog.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Aunt Gertrude's obsession

Aunt Gertrude from Australia’s stay with us for a while is certainly causing me strain. It’s not just her accent of course … although Lord knows I’m fed up of hearing her say “Fair Dinkum, mate?” whatever that means.

It’s not her throwaway facts about Australia every now and then either. “Did you know a koala bear is actually not a bear.” She would say. “It is actually a gray furry marsupial which resembles a bear and feeds almost exclusively on eucalyptus leaves.”

“Interesting …” I would reply hiding my total lack of interest.

“And the kangaroo cannot actually pass wind …” she would go on. Not that I cared to know that fact in the first place. Apparently, its gut does not have the necessary bacteria to create the gaseous emission which we all suffer from occasionally. And that’s probably why it keeps hopping around instead of walking or running like everyone else.

No … what really gets to me about Aunt Gertrude is her total and absolute obsession in saving money. She definitely is the ultimate housekeeper. She was widowed three times and every time she kept the house.

Whenever we go out shopping she insists on haggling and trying to get the price down. In the weekend market near us the price of fruits and vegetables is clearly displayed on each market stall; yet she insists on asking the stall-holder “Are you sure mate?” in her Australian accent. When they confirm the price she replies “You’re kidding me? Right! In Adelaide it’s at least half that price!”

Last Sunday we took her to a nice tea shop we often frequent in a small village near us and enjoyed tea with scones and potted cream and jam.

You know those little packets of butter they normally have on the table? And the small plastic containers with various jams, and the small sachets of sugar? Well, she insisted on putting all the unused ones in her bag as we left.

“We’ve paid for them cobber!” she said with a smile as I protested, “I can have them for breakfast!”

I don’t know whether to be embarrassed or insulted. After all, we have plenty of butter, sugar and jam at home.

The other day the phone rang once and then stopped. A minute later it rang once again and stopped.

“That’s for me,” she said, “may I use your phone?”

She picked up the phone and dialed out and spoke for about half-an-hour.

Apparently she had worked out that it is cheaper to phone from our home to Australia rather than the other way round. She had worked it out to the nearest penny including working out the daily exchange rate between the two currencies.

So she agreed with her friend back home that her friend would phone twice and put the receiver down as a signal for Auntie to ring Australia.

I don’t mind the ruse, but not once did she actually offer to pay me for the calls; so she effectively phoned for free.

The other day I caught her bending down in the garden and saying to the bush “Give it to me … give it to me …”

I thought her Australian mind had gone walkabout in the outback.

She was actually talking to the cat who had just caught a pigeon. Eventually she retrieved the pigeon and brought it to the kitchen and prepared it to bake in a pie. Apparently back home she often makes pies with all sorts of road-kills to save money.

No one would eat the pie when it was finally baked and we convinced her to share our turkey roast instead and give the pie to the cat.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Aunt Gertrude’s Toilet Roll Holder

Having an Australian Aunt staying with us has proved quite a challenge in the entertainment stakes. We’ve tried as best we can to think of English things to do and experience – things which she would not have back home.

We took her to a village tea-shop and sampled scones with clotted cream and jam, we visited garden centers and flower shows (I hate them, but needs must), and we’ve gone for walks in the woods and enjoyed picnics by the river.

“This is not like the bush” she said in her distinctive loud accent which can be heard for miles around, “back home our picnics consist of a bonfire by the billabong with a good chunk of meat roasting; not triangular cucumber sandwiches and tea. I should have brought the amber nectar!” Other picnickers looked in our direction and smiled coyly. 

Whilst I agree with her last sentiment, I hasten to explain that we are trying to re-create English type things to do … not an Australian barbie in the outback.

A friend of ours is a member of an operatic society and they put on their version of The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan at the local village hall. So we decide to go and support her, and also as a night out for Aunt Gertrude.

When we arrived at the venue Auntie said “It isn’t the Sydney Opera House, is it cobber?”

“No it isn’t Auntie,” I replied through gritted teeth, “it is a small village hall with a maximum capacity of 100 people; and a production by a small amateur troupe!”

Surprisingly, she enjoyed the amateur production.

The next day we took her to a car boot sale. This is a British tradition whereby people fill the boot of their cars with unwanted knickknacks and go to an open field where they sell their goods to other people. A bit like a yard sale or a garage sale but in cars.

I stayed in my car listening to the radio whilst they went out bargain hunting. After an hour they returned and Auntie was excited having bought a genuine “Shakespeare toilet roll holder”. It was made of brass, looked old and cost her £5.

“Look at this dunny roll paper holder …” she said with glee, “belonged to the great bard himself too, sport!”

I explained as politely as possible that the modern commercial toilet paper with perforations originated in the 19th century, with a patent for roll-based dispensers being made in 1883. So it’s unlikely it belonged to Shakespeare.

“But it has his initials on it, cobber!” she insisted.

The letters WS were rather scratched and damaged and looked more like WC rather that the poet’s initials. I said nothing so as not to deflate her bubble. She said she’ll put it proudly in her toilet back home.

That evening, to celebrate, she suggested we go out to somewhere expensive. Never mind the cost; she will pay. So we went to the local garage and filled the car tank with fuel.

I then took the family to a Greek restaurant; which we all enjoyed.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Are you invited at Jesus' wedding?

In Matthew Chapter 22:1-14 Jesus tells a parable about a king preparing a wedding feast for his son. He invites many guests who do not turn up, so eventually, he invites all the people his servants can find in the streets until the wedding hall is full of guests.

In this story, the King is God. And His Son getting married is Jesus; marrying His Church here on earth - this means everyone, you and I included.

We are all invited to God's Kingdom, but many don't answer the call.

At the end of this parable there's an intriguing bit. The king enters the hall and sees a man not wearing wedding clothes. He is angry with him and gets him tied up and thrown out into the street.

Now this seems rather harsh treatment for someone not wearing the right clothes. Until we stop and understand Jewish tradition.

Jesus was talking to the Jews who understood very well that there are special clothes to wear at weddings. Almost every family had such special clothes in case they were invited to a wedding; even the poor would either have such clothes or borrow some. No one would dare go to a wedding without special clothes. Even more important, traditionaly the host of the wedding also provided special garments for those who did not have any, so they can borrow them for the occasion. So it was more offensive to the king for this guest to wear no garment.

This guest in the parable just did not bother; he showed disrespect to the king and his son; and was thus thrown out.

But how about us? What are our special clothes for our entry into God's Kingdom in Heaven?

Our wedding clothes are our good deeds here on earth. Whatever we do for anyone in need, however small, constitutes our wedding clothes.

It is just not enough to spend a lifetime on our knees praying, or going to church, if our deeds are far from what is expected of us as followers of Christ.

Jesus said, "Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter the Kingdom of God, but only those who do what my Father wants them to do". Matthew 7:21.

In other words ... action not words.