Friday 27 March 2015

Any Country folks out there?


Thursday 19 March 2015

Just a carpenter

On the left side of St Vincent church, right in front by the Altar, just by the Sacristy door, there’s a large statue of Our Lady. On the right side of the altar, hanging on the wall, there’s a picture of St Vincent, the Patron Saint of the church.

Mother Superior found in the Convent, in an old storeroom, a large statue of St Joseph and the baby Jesus. It was exactly the same size as the statue of Our Lady.

She suggested to Father Ignatius that the statue be restored and put on the right of the Altar, and for the picture of St Vincent to be moved elsewhere in the Church.

On the appointed day the beautifully restored statue of St Joseph was put in its rightful place on the right side of the church and Father Ignatius led a short prayer meeting for all involved. A few nuns from the convent were there, as well as the restorer and a few helpers, and Mrs Davenport the priests’ housekeeper.

After leading the prayers Father Ignatius said a few words.

“I’m so glad that Mother Superior suggested we put this statue here to honor St Joseph; and I thank her for her kindness and generosity in donating the statue which was found in the convent.

“I’d like us to think for a while about St Joseph as an individual.

“Here we have a man, often depicted in pictures and statues as being a little advanced in age, we don’t know really how old he was when he met Mary … but she always looks much younger doesn’t she?

“Anyway … here we have a man intending to marry the young lady he loves and no doubt start a family which he will look after by way of his job as a humble carpenter.

“When one day he finds out she is pregnant. I don’t know about you … but I’d feel really hurt and cheated if it happened to me. How could she? And I trusted her so?

“Aren’t these the thoughts that would cross your minds … Peter, Ken and Mark?”

He looked at the three young men in the little prayer group and they smiled coyly.

“And I’d bet if it happened to you you’d run a mile in the opposite direction … wouldn’t you?” he asked them.

They did not reply.

“Oh … but there’s more …” said the priest, “not only did Joseph’s girlfriend promise him that she did not cheat on him … no, wait for it. She tells him that she is carrying the Son of God. Yes … she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit and she’s carrying the Son of God.

“Now in those days it would have been a great scandal to have a baby if you’re not married. You would have been ostracized by your family for a start for bringing shame upon them.

“Chances are you would have been stoned to death too …

“But to say that you’re carrying the Son of God from a Virgin pregnancy would have been blasphemy of the highest order. Either that, or people would have thought you’d lost your mind … simply gone mad and left to suffer the consequences.

“Yet, despite all these risks to her good name and indeed to her safety Mary had the courage and the Faith to trust in God and say ‘Yes’ when the Angel visited her. We should always be grateful for her saying ‘Yes’.

“Can you imagine? An Angel appeared to her … if it was me I’d probably fall off my chair with fright at the sight of such a visitation.”

They all laughed.

“And can you imagine poor old Joseph? His head must have been really spinning in a daze … and without the benefit of a Guinness or two!

“First she tells him she’s pregnant, then she says it’s a Virgin birth and the baby is the Son of God.

“Over to you three young men … what would you do in such circumstances?”

He paused for a second or two and did not give them time to reply.

“But the Angel appeared to Joseph in a dream … we don’t know if it was the same Angel Gabriel, but never mind. And like Mary, Joseph too has great Faith and he believes what he is told. He stays with Mary and raises the young infant as any good father would. And for this too we should be always grateful.

“I am very pleased to have the statue of St Joseph and the baby Jesus here and that of Our Lady on the other side of the Altar over there. The Holy Family on either side of the Altar reminding us of Faith in God and parental responsibility.

“I would like now to read you a short prayer to St Joseph. This prayer is said to be over 1900 years old. It was found in the fiftieth year of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the 1500's it was sent by the Pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle. It is a novena to be prayed for nine consecutive mornings for anything you may desire. It has seldom been known to fail.

“O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power I may offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen.”

Monday 16 March 2015

Any Irish out there?



Saturday 14 March 2015


Father Ignatius read the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 4 Verses 1-11.

He waited a few moments for the congregation to sit down and then he continued:

“The devil appeared at the local supermarket one Saturday morning. He stood there by the main entrance looking menacingly and threatening. All the shoppers panicked. They escaped through every available emergency exits, jumped into their cars and drove off at speed.

“All except for one shopper. A small, short man, standing there by his shopping trolley holding a long shopping list in his hand.

“The devil advanced towards the small man and said angrily: ‘Do you know who I am?’

“ ‘Yes … I do’ replied the shopper.

“ ‘Aren’t you afraid of me like all the others?’ asked the devil.

“ ‘No … I’ve been married to your sister for 25 years!’ ”

Father Ignatius waited until the laughter died down, and then went on:

“The devil of course is no laughing matter. He exists alright, although his greatest trick is to convince us otherwise.

“If you were to ask people in the street what do they know about the devil, they would probably tell you about satanic worship, or satan possessing people, as they may have seen in the cinema. Some may mention a man with horns, a tail and pitchfork. But few would tell you of his existence and presence here and now.

“We Christians cannot possibly believe in God and not believe in the devil.

“Satan is amongst us every day of our lives and his task is simple; to lead us astray from the Lord.

“He doesn’t appear menacingly as he did in the supermarket in our opening story.

“No … he is more subtle than that. He is present in our most innocent and slightest temptation; when we least expect him.

“He is that extra bar of chocolate we indulge in, that extra bottle of beer or glass of wine, that cigarette or whatever other weakness we may have.

“He is that tiredness and sleepiness on Sunday morning which tells you it does not matter if you miss Mass this week.

“He is those extra minutes you take for lunch instead of being back at work on time; or the leaving early to go home.

“He is the odd flirtatious smile, which in time may lead you further on.

“And that’s how it starts my friends. A few minor indiscretions here and there which by themselves may mean nothing to you; but they’re the first stepping stones for the evil one.

“His subtleness and ingenuity are worthy of high praise indeed; for he tempts you when you least expect it.

“And the more devout you are the harder he works to get you off track. He will put doubts and worries in your mind where none existed before.

“Right now for instance, I suspect he is most annoyed to see so many of you here in church instead of somewhere else. Especially as the sun is shining and I’m sure you have so many more important things to do … or so he’ll tell you!

“I will not go on and give satan more publicity than he deserves. But let me say that if he had the audacity to tempt our Lord, as we have read in the Gospel, he will not shy away from tempting us.

“Like Jesus did, we must tell the devil: ‘Go away satan’. And pray again and again that the Lord may come to our aid and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Wednesday 11 March 2015

When I'm dead and gone

Father Ignatius was at the monthly Any Questions Meeting held at St Vincent Parish Hall, whereby parishioners and their guests asked any questions which he and Father Donald would attempt to answer and teach about the Catholic Faith.

The discussion centered about death and our achievements in life.

Father Ignatius said, “Imagine you are dead and resting in your open coffin. Your family and friends pass by to pay their last respects. What would you want them to say?”

Someone hesitantly said that she’d like people to say that she was a good wife and mother and that she always attended Mass on Sunday.

Another person added that he was a good doctor and did his best for his patients.

A third parishioner went on to say that she was a good teacher and cared for all the children in her care.

Father Ignatius noted that Theodore Luxton-Joyce, the eccentric millionaire and generous donor to the church, was scribbling away in his notepad and was somewhat un-interested. He’d only attended the Meeting to accompany his lovely wife Rose.

So the priest asked him, “How about you Theodore? What would you like people to say when they see you lying in your open coffin?”

“I’d like them to say ‘I’ve seen him move …’ ” came the swift reply as everyone laughed.

As the laughter died down Father Ignatius continued, “I’m sure they’ll say you had a great sense of humor too …

“But on a more serious note … how exactly will we be remembered?

“A parishioner once told me that it was hypocritical to always speak well of the dead. If a person had been nasty and bad in his life, the only difference is that he is now a dead nasty and bad person. And to pretend otherwise would be insincere.

“This is a little uncharitable perhaps; but that parishioner had a point.”

Father Ignatius stopped, as he often did, to punctuate the importance of what he had just said.

He then continued, “Now is the time to ensure that people will be honest when they speak about us.

“We do this by remembering Christ’s commandment to love one another. And to practice that commandment.

“The best gift we can offer each other is our presence. We all have a part to play in other people’s lives. Just think for a moment how many people rely on you … your spouse, your children, your elderly parents, your neighbors perhaps … if you’re a teacher or a doctor the children in your school rely on you, as well as your patients …

“I need not go on. But the point I’m making is that we should be generous with our time with these people. Our very presence on this earth can be a source of great joy and happiness to others.

“When Jesus was raised to Heaven, His disciples missed Him and were sad to see Him leave them. They were totally devastated and confused.

“Missing someone is a sure sign that their presence affected your life in a good way.

“So let us be remembered not for who we were but for what we have done; and how we made a real difference for the good in someone’s life.

“And even though we might not move in our open coffin, as Theodore hopes, at least our lives will have moved others".

Friday 6 March 2015

What kind of business is God in?

Let's imagine a shopkeeper or a tradesman; and every time he is approached by a customer or a client he does not serve them, he ignores them and drives them away.

How long do you think this person will remain in business? Pretty soon word would spread round about his attitude and very few people, if any, would bother to go to him for his merchandise.

Let's now consider a different situation. We pray to God for help, for advice, or for some worry or trouble on our mind. We pray and pray and ... nothing. No response. Nil. Our situation, or whatever we are praying for, is still the same if not worse.

We get discouraged, we doubt, and in some cases some of us probably cease to believe altogether.

It is easy of course to sing God's praises and wave our hands in the air saying Hallelluya or whatever when things are going well in our lives. Or type fancy slogans on our Blogs or social media urging others to type Amen if they agree.

But what happens when things go wrong, really wrong. And we pray and pray and don't seem to get an answer.

Is it OK then to get a little angry and impatient with our God and tell Him honestly what's on our mind?

I think Yes. It is OK to let God know our real feelings. He can take our anger. After all, He did take our anger when hanging there on the Cross. At least we're being honest with Him and our feelings.

But let's consider this further. Getting angry with God and turning our backs on Him is hardly going to work in the long run is it? He is hardly going to be frightened into submission and give us what we pray for. All that throwing our toys out of the pram will achieve is make the devil laugh in anticipation.

Let's ask the question: What kind of business is God in?

He is hardly in the business of losing His followers; His customers or clients if we consider the scenario of the shopkeeper.

God sometimes does not respond to our prayers quickly enough or as we wished because He knows our circumstances better than we know them ourselves. And sometimes what we ask for is not right for us, or those around us, or those for whom we are praying right now.

In His own time, and in His own way, He will respond according to His will.

Our best action when things go wrong in our lives is to continue to pray and to praise Him. Yes, praise Him. Through gritted teeth even.

We are not praising God because things have gone wrong, but because He is still in control and in charge of what is happening. We acknowledge His supreme will above ours.

By praising Him we somehow help open a channel with our Creator to come to our aid.

And the harder we pray, however difficult it is, the more our Faith grows and is strengthened. Because it proves we believe there's Someone out there listening. 

“Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps His promise, and He will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, He will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out”. 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Any Italians out there?



Monday 2 March 2015

About me - All revealed

A number of readers ask in the comments box whether all the things I write about here actually happen to me or not. Well ... what can I say. Truth is stranger than fiction and a number of my stories are based on an element of fact whereas others are the product of an ever awake imagination. I won't tell you which is which though but here's a selection.

Years ago I was mugged in London. A young man held a plastic knife at me and said "Your money or your life!" It took me a few minutes to decide what to do. I thought he said "Your money or your wife!" As she wasn't with me at the time I did not see how I could make a deal.

He said "Hurry up. I ain't got all day mate!"

I gave him the only two coins I had to save my life. A 50 pence piece and a 10 pence piece. He looked at them in disgust, took them and ran away.

When I went to the police they asked me for a description. I told them the 50 pence piece was dated 2002 and the other one 2004. They asked me for a description of the mugger. I told them I wanted my money back, not the mugger. They never found my coins.

Like most people, I like to save money. It takes a long time to earn it so why throw it away? I remember being asked some years back for a pet spider as a birthday present. I went to our local pet shop and they were asking for £70 for a large tame and harmless hairy spider. Can you imagine? £70? Anyway, I left the shop empty handed and got one cheaper off the web.

On the way home I passed the baker and went in. "I'd like to buy a wasp!" I said to the assistant behind the counter. He looked at me in amazement and said "We don't sell wasps!" I replied "You have one in your shop window!"

Another little known fact about me is that I am good at mathematics; especially statistics. For instance, did you know that statistically speaking , 6 out of 7 dwarfs are not Happy?

Unfortunately I have a troublesome neighbour. Always complaining about me, he is. The other night he came knocking on my door at 2:30am in the morning. Can you believe that? 2:30 in the morning! Luckily for him I was still up playing my bagpipes.

I was once lost on Mount Snowdon in Wales when mountaineering. It was getting rather dark and it started to rain. I thought at the time that this was the end of me. After hours of shivering in the cold rain and nearing death I heard voices shouting, “Victor … Victor … are you out there? It’s the Red Cross!” I had to shout back at the top of my voice so they could hear me, “I’ve already donated at the office!” Honestly, why do these people come out to collect money on mountains in such bad weather instead of rescuing lost people like myself?

On another occasion I had a similar experience with some friends on the same mountain in Wales. I was hesitant going up with them because of my last experience but they assured me it would be OK. Half way up it started to rain heavily and we all sheltered behind a big rock for about half-an-hour. I was freezing and wanted to go down again; but they wanted to continue up and were reluctant to let me go down alone.

Fortunately, minutes later it started clearing up and a German tourist couple, husband and wife, came down the mountain. It was agreed that I would follow them down to safety.

They marched ahead talking loudly to each other and I followed like a faithful dog a few paces behind. After a while they separated; the man going one way and the woman another. I had to decide quickly who to follow. The woman walked slower and would be easier for me to follow down the somewhat dangerous mountain. On the other hand, better follow the man just in case he got the wrong idea.

I followed him a while then he stopped against a tree to have a pee. When he heard me behind him he turned round and said a few things in his native language. I doubt he was complimentary judging by his tone of voice.

When I was involved in politics years ago, in an open debate with a live audience in a packed hall, the other politician accused me of lacking vision because I wore socks of different colour.

I explained that I was open-minded. He replied, “There’s no point in being so open-minded that your brains fall out!”

At a radio interview during the election campaign I was asked by a caller what I wanted for Christmas. I said “A pair of slippers”. The following day the newspapers said, “Victor wants a pair of slippers whilst his opponent wants to improve life for the community of this town”.

Needless to say I didn’t win the election. Even my Electoral Agent refused to vote for me.

The thing I hated in politics is calling on houses to deliver leaflets or to introduce myself as a candidate and ask whether they'd vote for me. One has to keep a cool head, look and be interested in the individual you're talking to, and above all, be honest - not tell fibs like some politicians do.

I knocked at a door and a young lady opened it and she was completely naked. She stood there totally nude smiling as she said, "What can I do for you?"

I was honest ... I said, "I forgot!" and ran away.

At a business lunch in a restaurant I surprised my guests by ordering the whole meal in French. It was an Italian restaurant. We had pizza. The waiter asked me whether I wanted mine cut into six or eight slices. I said, “Cut it in six … I’m not that hungry to eat eight!”

When I was young a group of us from work were at a Conference in a City up North. After the evening meal, my boss, a woman in her early thirties, went up to her room and asked me discretely to follow her a few minutes later. She gave me a duplicate plastic card to use in that contraption which opens the hotel room door. She said she wanted to discuss my annual appraisal report.

A few minutes later I entered her room and it was empty. I said loudly "Hello ... anyone here?"

Her voice replied from the bathroom, "I'm in the shower. Come in!"

I was astounded and frightened at this request which sounded more like a command. My boss had a reputation but I never quite believed it. I did not know what to do, especially since my future career at this firm depended so much on my boss and her appraisal of me. I hesitated for a while.

"Get a move on," she cried impatiently from the bathroom, "I'm not going to wait all night!" Those were her exact words; I still remember them clearly. She obviously meant business and my annual appraisal was at stake.

I was totally confused. I sought guidance from my Catechism but I could not find an answer in a hurry. They really should have a better index in those books.

I took off my jacket and put it on the back of the chair. Then I took off my shoes. I had a big hole in one of my socks!

Before I could go on any further she came out of the bathroom fully clothed and speaking on her cell-phone. Apparently you get a better reception in the shower than anywhere else in her hotel room.

"Why have you taken your shoes off?" she asked.

"I did not want to dirty the carpet!" I replied unconvincingly.

I wonder if she believed me.

Speaking of hotels ... I still travel a lot on business. The other day I stayed in a hotel and it was so noisy in the room next door I could not sleep. There was someone knocking on the wall and moaning loudly, "Is any one there? Is anyone there?"

He must have been a medium trying to contact some spirit, I guess. I knocked on his door and told him to be quiet because I needed to go to sleep.

He did not stop. He kept banging at my wall, "Is any one there? Is any one there?"

He must have eventually made contact with the spirit or ghost he was after because he stopped banging and moaning. 

The next morning, for some reason, there were medical type people in his room and they took him away in an ambulance. He was very inconsiderate making that noise at night.

Some years ago I stayed at a haunted castle in Scotland as a guest of an old family friend. During the night, whilst I was in bed I heard  a sound in the room. There by my bedside was a tall ghostly figure of a woman standing still. She looked a lot like Gloria Gaynor standing there silently. At first I was afraid ... then I was petrified!

And now I am imagining the look on your faces reading this!