Saturday, 28 November 2009
Logic it seems isn’t always what it is perceived to be and no matter how much you try to understand the other person’s logic you might end up failing. This could be either because of your inability to understand, or because the other person’s logic is faulty – as Father Ignatius can testify.
He was walking round town the other day and happened to enter a bookshop advertising “Reduced Prices throughout the Store !!!”.
He made his way to the “Religion” shelf to see what was on offer and eventually found a book about Jesus which he wished to purchase. It had a big red label on it saying: Reduced price - £9.99.
He thought of buying two copies, one for him and another for a parishioner who would benefit from reading it. He looked around on the shelf and found another identical book; but without the red label.
When he reached the cashier to pay for both items purchased she said: “£29.99 please.”
“Why?” said the priest, rather puzzled.
“This book is priced £20.00 and this one is £9.99” replied the robotic assistant.
“But they’re identical, and they’re reduced in price aren’t they?” enquired Father Ignatius.
“Only the one with the red label is on offer for £9.99; the other book is charged at the full price of £20.00” replied the cashier monotonously.
At this moment the manager happened to be passing by and overheard the conversation.
“May I help you Sir … Reverend … Father …” he mumbled when he noticed the priest’s white collar.
“Let me explain,” continued the manager, “every morning we go to check our stock of books and stick red labels on some of them. Those with the labels are reduced in price; whilst others are not.”
“I understand,” reasoned Father Ignatius, “but both these books are identical. Surely they should be priced the same?”
“Not so,” insisted the manager who obviously knew best. He was, after all, in charge of the shop, “not so at all … this book with the label we’ll sell at £9.99 whereas the other one we’ll sell at the full price of £20.00; regardless whether they are identical or not.”
Father Ignatius is a tenacious character when he feels it needs it; and he certainly likes a challenge of wits. So he tried one more time to make the man see sense:
“Tell me … it is possible, is it not, that when you stick these labels in the morning, that you stick the red labels on two identical books?”
“Oh yes … it happens frequently …”
“And when it happens, then you’d sell two copies of the same book at the reduced price?” said the priest sensing a minor but very important victory.
“Oh yes … in that case we would sell two or more copies of the same book at the reduced price, provided they had the red labels on them.”
Father Ignatius smiled broadly. “Game, set and match!” he thought to himself.
“But on this occasion unfortunately we stuck a label on only one book. So you’ll have to buy this one for £9.99 and this one for the full price of £20.00.”
The priest’s smile soon faded when the manager continued:
“May I suggest you buy the book with the label today, and come back tomorrow? It is possible that there will be another identical book with a label on it then. Although I can’t guarantee it … but if you come back every other day or so then perhaps you’ll find another copy of the book reduced in price then !!!”
Father Ignatius gave up. There’s no point in engaging in a battle of wits with an unarmed person.
He now had to make a quick decision and had three choices:
To leave the shop and not buy the books.
To buy both books for the asking price of £29.99 and effectively, tacitly, agree with the manager’s faulty logic.
To buy the cheaper of the two books and leave it at that. Which is what he did.
“It’s a shame” he thought to himself,” as he left the shop. I would have liked to give a copy of this book to Mark. He’s always a helpful parishioner when we need him … perhaps he can borrow my copy when I’ve read it …”
It seems that the angels may well have overheard his thoughts because a little further down the road he came across another bookshop.
“I wonder …” said Father Ignatius.
And sure enough, he found there an identical book selling even cheaper at £8.99. A saving of £1; which he put in the collection box at St Vincent Church.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Father Ignatius knelt at the front pew just by the statue of Our Lady and read the letter once again. Tomorrow was the day when he had to go to Court; there was no escaping that fact. He put the letter back in his pocket and took out his Rosary and started praying.
The following morning he offered Mass early and focused his private prayers on the day ahead. He said his goodbyes to Fr Donald and Mrs Davenport the housekeeper and explained that he did not know when he’d be back, or indeed whether he’d be back that evening.
He decided to walk to Court, about a mile away from St Vincent Church, which gave him plenty of time to pray another Rosary.
He showed the letter to an attendant at the door and he was led into a large room, dimly lit, and smelling of stale tobacco smoke. He was asked to stay there and await instructions.
In the following hour or so the room slowly filled as more people were brought in one at a time and left waiting, just like Father Ignatius.
They were advised not to talk with each other, and most obeyed and spent their waiting time reading books or smoking to the point that you could now see the smoke floating in mid-air around the dirty brown lampshades, and tobacco stained curtains.
Eventually an officious looking individual, tall, thin and with a tiny moustache came in and asked for their attention.
He explained the various procedures involved in being a member of the jury. He thanked them for their attendance and said that, depending on the case they were assigned to, it is possible that they would not be returning home that evening. In which case they would be taken to a hotel where they would stay the night, and every night, until the case was over.
Eventually, Father Ignatius and eleven other people were called by name and led into the Courtroom where they were asked to sit on the Jury’s benches.
It had already been explained to them by the officious Court clerk that before they are to be sworn in as members of the jury both the prosecution and defending lawyers had the right to object to certain individuals from sitting as jurors. They need not give any reasons for their objections.
And sure enough, as soon as the twelve were seated, both teams of lawyers got into separate huddles to talk in whispers. Eventually a lawyer from each team approached the judge who, after listening to them, passed a piece of paper to another Court official.
Father Ignatius heard his name called and he was asked to leave the Courtroom. A young pleasant lady then asked him to go home as he was no longer needed. She said with a smile, “Please don’t take it personally … it sometimes happens that a person is not accepted as a member of the jury … thank you so much for responding to our invitation … have a nice day!”
“Don’t take it personally …” the words rang in his head as Father Ignatius made his way back to the church. How could he not take it personally? Someone had taken objection to him. Why? Is it because of his age? Is it because they wanted a better balance on the jury between men and women? If so, why not pick on another man to leave? Why him? Why not someone else?
The questions buzzed round his head like a swarm of bees flitting over a bed of flowers searching for nectar. But his thoughts were far from sweet … more tinged with the bitterness of rejection.
As he arrived at St Vincent he concluded that perhaps he’d been rejected because the prosecution lawyers, seeing his clerical collar, surmised that he’d be overly lenient towards the defendant.
“That’s it …” he said to himself, “they think I’m too soft and too forgiving …” And that thought helped soothe his hurt feelings.
Weeks later he heard through a solicitor friend of his that he had been rejected by the defendant. Apparently, he had suffered at the hands of a priest years earlier and he felt he wouldn’t get a fair hearing from Father Ignatius.
Father Ignatius was deeply hurt on hearing this news. To think that an individual had been so profoundly scarred by a member of the clergy … someone meant to represent Our Lord and to portray His love and caring on earth!
That evening Father Ignatius offered a special Mass for that un-named defendant, a man he’d hardly seen for more than a few minutes in Court; yet a man who would haunt his conscience for the rest of his life.
Monday, 23 November 2009
It is said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. At least that was the opinion of the Bishop when he decided to invite a number of priests from his Diocese to a Teamwork Seminar led by a prominent firm of Management Consultants.
Father Ignatius sat at his desk and read the same letter for the fifth time. He had hoped it was addressed to someone else. Father Donald maybe, Mrs Davenport the housekeeper, or even Canis the dog sleeping happily in the corner.
But alas no … it was addressed to him alright.
Here was a command from the Bishop to attend a seminar run at a Monastery some miles away. For a summons indeed it was, despite the polite “You are invited” blurb in the opening paragraph.
You can’t easily decline an invitation like this, since by doing so it implies that you do not agree with the boss that you are indeed in need of Teamwork training – whatever that is.
So Father Ignatius decided to do the next best thing. He would appeal to a Higher Authority. For days he prayed that the seminar might be cancelled, or that some other urgent appointment may force him to pull out at the last minute, or anything, just anything might happen to avoid his attendance. But it seems that God agreed with the Bishop on this one and nothing happened to excuse Father Ignatius from attending the seminar.
Reluctantly, he drove to the Monastery that day and met there thirty or so other priests from the Diocese in need of the same improvement opportunities that the seminar might provide. He was pleased of course to meet some old friends and catch up on old news, and make the acquaintance of new priests he’d not met before.
As for the seminar … well … it was led by three young Management Consultants who used every cliché in the book to spout various platitudes and truisms one could not really disagree with. The course attendees were made to discuss their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. They were asked to identify positive and negative traits in themselves. And to undertake various banal exercises and debates leading to nowhere.
Father Ignatius is nothing but polite and co-operative so he took part in the various tasks without question. “No point being churlish about it,” he thought to himself.
At one stage the priests were divided into small groups of five and asked to consider a scenario where they were driving through the desert and their vehicle had broken down. They had to decide whether to stay with the vehicle in the hope of being rescued, or whether they should move on and attempt to find shelter from the unforgiving sun. They also had to decide which five items to take with them if they moved away from the vehicle.
Some priests wanted to take binoculars with them; others preferred the knife and map, whereas a couple insisted on taking the bottle of water, the umbrella and the blanket.
The young consultant managing the exercise noticed that Father Ignatius was rather quiet and asked him, “What would you take with you Father if you moved on?”
After a few moments of consideration Father Ignatius replied, “the door off the vehicle.”
Rather puzzled the consultant enquired, “the door … whatever for?”
“If it gets too hot, I can always open the window,” replied the priest.
A few days later whilst enjoying his breakfast Father Ignatius received a greetings card from Father Simon, a priest he had met at the seminar. It read:
“Dear Ignatius, I so much enjoyed meeting you at the seminar. Like you, I thought it unnecessary and hoped to be anywhere else but there. Yet your jovial attitude and constant cheerfulness kept me going. I shall never forget your joke about the car door.”
Father Ignatius realized that no matter how low you feel, or how superfluous you consider yourself to be, or reluctant to attend a gathering or event, you are always a welcome gift to someone else who may value your presence.
You don’t have to be a celebrity or a famous personality; just being yourself is in itself a gift to others. Whether you’re a spouse or a parent, a son or daughter, uncle or aunt or any other relative or friend; you are important to someone and they cherish your presence, your very being with them. The greatest present we can give others is our time, our attention, our love and our caring – it’s worth more than any material gift we buy them.
Give yourself to others. Just like Christ did. And still does.
Thursday, 19 November 2009
Father Ignatius approached the pulpit and in his clear crisp voice he started his Sunday sermon:
“Although Heaven is mentioned often in the Bible there’s one instance where we have a glimpse of a description. In today’s reading from John 14:2 Jesus says: ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.’
“Let’s think about this for a moment. Is Heaven a building somewhere in the sky, or wherever you perceive it to be, with many rooms as Jesus said? Or is it something or some place totally different?
“I suspect that Jesus used the description of a house because He wanted an example that his listeners could relate to. The people of His time were used to seeing palaces and mansions; so describing Heaven as a building is quite an apt description which they can come to terms with in their minds.
“Better than saying Heaven is a state of being where our souls float freely in the presence of God and His angels. Would Christ’s contemporaries understand that I wonder?
“So a large building it is; with many rooms of course.
“Presumably the multiplicity of rooms is to ensure that our Lord keeps all the denominations separately to avoid their incessant arguments and so give Him some peace and quiet in His Heavenly domain.” said Father Ignatius jokingly.
“Why is it” he asked, “that we seem to spend so much time as Christians arguing about the details that separate us rather than rejoice in the Divine facts which unite us?
“One God, one Son of God, the Lord Jesus, and one Holy Spirit sent to help us and to guide us back to our Creator.
“That’s our fundamental message of Christianity” Father Ignatius declared clearly.
After a short pause, he continued:
“People today have different interpretations of what Heaven must be like. Some believe it is a physical place with buildings and a big Pearly Gate. Others see it as a state of consciousness where our souls enjoy God’s presence. In reality, we really don’t know what it’s like but we believe it exists because our Lord told us so.
“Think about it for a moment or two. What do you think Heaven is like?”
He paused again to give his parishioners time to reflect.
“You know … … Someone asked me the other day whether there are animals in Heaven. She wanted to know whether her loved pet dog will be with her there.
“Well, I don’t know about that … Imagine animals in Heaven … I’d hate to come face to face with the Sunday roast admonishing me for what I had done to it !!!”
Father Ignatius waited for the laughter to die down then went on:
“Some time ago, I came across another description of Heaven.
“Imagine for a moment that when we die and meet God, He will sit us on His lap like a loving Father sits his little child.
“And then He will show us our life all over again, exactly as we have lived it. Just like a movie.
“There, sitting on God’s knee, we will see all the good and the bad we have done. We will be reminded of all the opportunities we missed when we could have helped others less fortunate than ourselves. We will re-live all the hurt we have caused to others by what we have done or said, whether intentionally or not.
“All our sins will be there on a big screen for us to see and remember once again. Even those secret sins which we kept hidden to ourselves; never confessed, and never forgiven and absolved.
“And as we see our life once again, there, on His lap, will be our own Heaven or our own hell.”
Father Ignatius stopped for a moment to allow the message to sink in. He then went on in a more soothing voice:
“Now imagine if it were really so … Imagine that one day you will be seeing your whole life once again as a movie … Imagine that this movie or video will be made available for every one else to see …
“Imagine also that you are a famous Film Director … what a marvelous opportunity you have right now, within your grasp, to make sure your own personal movie will have a happy ending !!!”
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Father Ignatius was busy in his office dealing with some paper work when Eric, a young man in his mid-twenties, came in.
“I’ve changed the oil Father and gave the engine a good run. It’s as good as new.”
Eric was a car mechanic at the local garage and every now and then he came over to the parochial house to maintain the priest’s car and undertake any minor jobs that needed doing.
“Thank you” replied Father Ignatius, “I’ll await the invoice from your boss in due course.”
“Oh I see you got that picture of Jesus …” said Eric pointing at the wall. “The boss has the same one in his office at work.”
“It’s very popular …” mumbled the priest hoping that the youngster would soon leave. He had plenty of paperwork to get on with and he could really not afford the time for a chat.
“Did He really look like that?” continued Eric.
“Jesus … did He look like that? This is the picture painted by that nun isn’t it? What’s her name?”
Father Ignatius put down the letter he was reading and turned to Eric. It was obvious that although he wished to get on with his work the Good Lord had other plans for him.
“Her name is Sister Faustina. Her real name at birth was Helena Kowalska.”
“Greek was she?” asked Eric making himself comfortable in the armchair near the window.
Father Ignatius took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes with his right hand, as if to summon every once of patience that the Good Lord might send him. “Why now, when I’m busy,” he prayed silently.
“No Eric,” he said with a smile, “she was Polish.”
“That’s right; I knew it was somewhere foreign. Near Jerusalem where Jesus came from …”
“Not quite near Jerusalem …”
“And she actually saw Jesus and painted Him. That’s what I have been told. Do you believe that?” interrupted the young man eagerly.
“I mean … she could have been lying. Can you prove that she actually saw Jesus and He looks like that picture?”
“Despite my age,” said the priest abruptly, “I can assure you I was not around when Sister Faustina was around. So I can’t actually prove what you ask for.” He then immediately regretted what he had said and continued in a more gentle voice.
“Look Eric, we are told that Sister Faustina back in 1931 had a Vision of our Lord. She saw Him dressed in white and standing very much as in the picture there. From His heart rays came out, one red and another pale, as you can see.
“The Lord spoke to her and asked her to paint an image according to the Vision she can see and to write ‘Jesus I trust in you.’
“And that’s how we came to have this picture."
“Oh …” said Eric.
“Now you and I have two choices to make,” continued the priest.
“We can believe this is all true. Or we can believe she was lying and nothing really happened.
“If indeed the story is true and we chose to ignore it we would have lost a great opportunity to venerate the image of Christ; as He has asked us to do when He spoke to Sister Faustina.
“And what a great pity, and tragedy that would be! To ignore a request made by our Lord Himself.”
“I see …” said Eric pensively.
“Our Faith has a number of mysteries Eric,” continued the priest in his gentle tone, “things that we are invited to believe without any proof and without any evidence. That’s why they call it Faith. To believe in something when your common sense tells you otherwise.”
There followed a few moments silence whilst Eric digested the information he’d just heard.
“Does Jesus appear and speak to people these days too?” he asked finally.
“I believe He does,” replied Father Ignatius, “He certainly spoke through the Holy Spirit to Father John Woolley. Here, you can borrow his book …”
Eric picked up the book handed by the priest and read the title, “I am with you.”
He then asked, “Jesus performed miracles when He was on earth … Does He do so now? Do miracles happen now Father?”
“Yes … they do. Miracles happen every day to a lot of people. The sad fact is that too many are not willing to believe that they happen.
“Christ is alive and is amongst us now as He ever was. He speaks to us and guides us through His Holy Spirit.
“But hearts have hardened Eric. Plenty are not willing to believe.
“They may consider themselves Christians or Catholics but they don’t know what to believe anymore. They just go through the motions by going to church and by claiming they’re Christians.
“Christianity is not just a label Eric. Or a brand name. It is real. Christ is real and is alive today as He ever was. It is not an event that happened two thousand years ago which we commemorate as a Remembrance every Sunday. Christ is alive and here today. He is here in the Eucharist; He is here in the Holy Spirit who abides in our very soul, if we let Him. If we invite Him …”
Eric hesitated for a while and then asked “I’d like to really believe in all these things Father. I don’t know how …”
“That’s a good start … wanting to believe. Opening your mind and heart to the Lord.
“Pray about it. Ask God to help you believe. If you like come and join us at the Bible classes we hold every now and then here at the Parish center.
“Ask for God’s help and leave the rest to Him.
“Say what you can read in that picture on the wall, ‘Jesus, I trust in you’ and mean it every time you say it.”
Note: I am with you. Author John A Woolley ISBN 09508840-7-3
Friday, 13 November 2009
Father Ignatius had finished his weekly shopping at the supermarket. He jumped into his car and drove to the gas filling station across the road.
It was one of those self-service stations where drivers were expected to fill up their cars by themselves at the pump. The priest got out of the driving seat and began his purchase when he was approached by a young lady in her early twenties pushing a baby in a pram.
“Are you a priest?” she asked.
He was wearing his white collar at the time so he nodded and replied “Yes, I am. How can I help you?”
“It’s an emergency you see …” she said, “I have to go to the toilet quickly. Can you look after my baby for a few minutes please?”
“Well I …” he hesitated.
“I can’t wait …” she cried and ran across the street towards the supermarket, narrowly avoiding a car by inches. Within seconds she was out of sight behind some bushes and trees in the supermarket’s car park.
The priest looked down at the pram at a child who was about to start crying. He leaned down to the child and that was the signal for it to howl loudly.
“There … there … little one,” said Father Ignatius trying to soothe the child by shaking the pram gently. But the more he tried the more the baby cried louder.
By now other cars had queued behind him to get their gas. One or two impatient drivers tooted their car horns. Another opened his car window and let out a profanity only to realize who he was speaking to and then apologized profusely.
The priest looked at his watch and towards the supermarket. The young lady was nowhere to be seen. He ushered the drivers to use another pump.
He waited and waited but the mother never arrived. The baby continued to cry louder and louder. So he decided to pick it up and it was soon obvious what the problem was.
The baby smelled to high heaven having answered the call of nature.
“What do I do now?” thought the priest. “Changing diapers is not something they taught us when I trained for the priesthood.”
He decided to lock his car and made his way, baby held tightly in his arms for fear of dropping it, towards the small shop where you pay for your gas purchases.
It was quite a sight when he entered the shop with a howling smelling baby.
A young dude said: “Hey man … I thought you folks are meant to be celibate. What have you done?”
One or two others laughed as the priest approached the shop counter.
“Your baby stinks …” said the young cashier.
“I know …” replied Father Ignatius gritting his teeth. “Can you please call the police?”
“Because I asked you to ... Hand me your phone … This is an emergency.” replied the priest losing for a brief moment his usual calmness and serenity.
About fourty minutes or so later the police arrived.
Obviously they did not consider the situation an emergency as the priest had described. By then the baby had stopped crying as he slept in the priest’s arms. All the time Father Ignatius mind was focused on the large tub of ice cream melting gently in his car. “Funny how your mind wanders at moments like this,” he thought to himself.
The police officers took their time taking the details of the situation. They recorded his name and address and asked him to describe the young mother. He couldn’t remember much of the brief encounter but helped as best as possible under the circumstances.
Eventually, over an hour and a half since he’d first met the young mother, the police officers decided to take the baby away with them, as well as the pram which by now had been soaked by the rain pouring outside.
Father Ignatius drove back to St Vincent Church and spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning ice cream from the back seat of the car.
That evening the priest sat down by the fireside to reflect on his afternoon adventures when the door bell rang.
It was the police. They advised him that they had found the mother and re-united her with her child. She wanted to see him at the hospital.
“At the hospital?” asked the priest.
“Yes sir. Apparently on her way back from the supermarket to collect her child from you she slipped on something and was concussed. An ambulance was called and she was taken to hospital. When she woke up she told us what happened and we re-united her with her baby.”
The priest visited the mother at the hospital that same evening and met her husband as well as other members of her family.
The mother’s wish was for Father Ignatius to baptize their baby.
The young family is now members of his congregation.
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
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 than 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.”
“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.
Monday, 9 November 2009
Father Ignatius put the phone down and settled in the armchair near the fireplace. It was a cold winter evening so he warmed his hands by the fire then picked up his cup of cocoa and took a sip or two. There was nothing to capture his interest on television, so after watching the usual dismal news he switched it off and turned his thoughts to the phone call.
It had been some months since he last spoke to his great friend Monsignor Thomas. They had trained together for the priesthood in Rome many years ago, and he hadn’t seen the Monsignor for some time now. As usual, Monsignor Thomas ended the telephone conversation by saying: “Dominus vobiscum” and Father Ignatius replied “Et cum spiritu tuo”.
The Latin words reverberated in his mind. It’s such a long time that he celebrated Mass in Latin he thought.
“Yet there was a time when all Masses were said in Latin,” thought the priest as he put down his cup of cocoa.
His mind wandered to his youth, as a young priest, and how different life was back then. In those days sermons were different too, he thought. “There was more meat to them,” he mumbled to himself.
“We were not afraid to say things the way they were; and still are now. We warned our flock of the dangers of sin, and an eternity in hell. We told them what was right and what was wrong …”
He remembered a particular sermon where he spoke against trying to contact spirits and visiting so-called mediums.
Now sermons seem to have been toned down for fear of up-setting the congregation.
“We have to be politically correct” he said to himself.
He realised that things change over the years, and change is sometimes inevitable. But it isn’t always for the better, he argued with himself.
“Back then,” he thought, “people used to fast for twelve hours before taking Holy Communion. They used to genuflect at the Altar rail and take the Host on the tongue. None of this queuing up the center aisle and holding the Host in your hand business as we do now.”
His sighed quietly as he recalled other changes which befell the Catholic Church over the years. People used to kneel as they entered the church or took their place in the pews. Women had their heads covered; either with a hat or a scarf.
He brought to mind an incident last summer when a young lady attempted to enter the church for Sunday Mass dressed in a bikini top and short pants. He happened to be at the entrance of the church and he stopped her.
“You must let me in,” she protested, “I have a perfect right!”
“Madam,” Father Ignatius replied in his stern voice, “you have a perfect left too, but you’re not coming in dressed like that!”
He smiled at the way he handled the situation and was awakened from his reveries by Father Donald entering the room.
“What’s on TV?” asked Father Donald in his broad Scottish accent.
“Only dust …” replied Ignatius still smiling.
“I like it,” said Father Donald laughing, “I’ll tell the housekeeper in the morning. I’m sure she’ll appreciate your joke!”
Saturday, 7 November 2009
Father Ignatius was in his office awaiting the arrival of James in order to prepare the annual financial accounts for St Vincent Church.
When James finally arrived, over an hour late, the pot of coffee prepared by Father Ignatius had already gone cold, and half the biscuits had been eaten by the impatient priest.
He said nothing as he noticed right away that James was very upset about something. His eyes were red as if he’d been crying, his hands were shaking and he was unusually silent compared to his normal jovial outgoing personality.
James sat in the large armchair next to the large window overlooking the town.
“Do we have to do this today?” he asked.
“No …” replied the priest, “the accounts can wait for another time.”
James hesitated at first then mumbled, “She left me Father …”
“Who … what do you mean?”
“Sophie … she left … we broke up. We had a row and she said we’re through … she prefers to be with another man at her work.”
The priest said nothing but silently prayed for a few seconds or so.
“I told her she was getting rather too interested with that guy at work. She said what if she was. We argued about it and she said she does not want to be with me again …
“I love her Father … more than I’ve loved anyone before … we were to get married … and now she’s gone …”
The priest poured a glass of water and gave it to James.
“Why do bad things happen to me? I’m a good person. Why does God allow this to happen to me? Why can’t He make her love me just as I love her? I’d do anything for her … I love her so … why doesn’t God make her love me?”
“I’m sure you don’t mean that,” said the priest calmly.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m sure you don’t want God to make her love you. If for instance He were to do as you wish, would you really want that love?”
James looked puzzled as the priest continued.
“Love should be freely given and not forced in any way. You say you love her, and seeing the two of you together, I believe you do. You gave her your love and in doing so you became vulnerable, as we all do, when we give of ourselves to others. Your love was freely given. And if you love her as much as you say, you should allow her the freedom to return that love …”
“You mean let her go? Even though she’s making a mistake by being with that man?” asked James.
“I don’t know about letting her go … but she should decide for herself what to do.
“Let me tell you something …
“God would have saved Himself a lot of bother if He created a race of robots all pre-programmed to obey His commandments and do His will.
“But He loved us so much that He gave us the gift of choice. He set us free to either love Him back in return or to turn our back on Him.
“And as you know, many turn their backs on Him and choose to mock Him, not believe in Him and go the other way. His heart must hurt to breaking point when He sees this happening; but He allows it to happen because He loves us.
“He wants our love for Him to be freely given, without any pressure whatsoever. Christ the shepherd is forever seeking these lost sheep and encouraging them to return to the fold. His work is always hampered by the devil and his alternative agenda.
“The greatest gift we can give our Lord is to use our Free Will to love Him back. Use our Free Will to freely submit to His will.”
James said nothing, but seemed much calmer now.
“I don’t know whether the two of you are meant to be together …” continued Father Ignatius, “but give it time. Let her go freely … keep in touch every now and then. If you get the chance, apologise for your jealousy … seek her forgiveness for not trusting her enough … but leave her free to decide James.”
The accounts were never completed on that sad winter morning; but James left the priest’s office a little more composed and certainly calmer than before.
About thirteen months later Father Ignatius married James and Sophie at St Vincent Church. He is now due to baptize their first born son next week.
Sunday, 1 November 2009
The priest’s house was built next door to St Vincent Church high on a hill overlooking the old town. Father Ignatius stood by the window in his office and from his vantage point he looked down pensively at the old buildings hugging close together and sharing in common poverty.
Ever since June, Helen and Tim, three children from the local Catholic school, had said they’d seen Jesus in the park, news of the vision spread fast around town. In a place where nothing much happens except loss of jobs and business closures, such a story united people in holding differing opinions about the event.
Some readily believed, seeking hope amidst hopelessness. Whereas others, already consumed by bitterness and despair, could only rejoice in the twisted belief that the story may yet prove to be false.
Father Ignatius faced a personal dilemma.
“Could it be …” he asked himself as he looked down the street, “that our Lord would visit such a poor place. Just like He did in Bethlehem all those years ago?”
He had known the three children and their parents for years. They were good children, well raised by their parents. The girls sang in the choir, whilst young Tim served as an altar boy.
"Not the kind of children who would lie about something like this," he thought to himself. "Not about something so important."
“If they saw Jesus …” and the thought froze in his mind for a moment or two.
“Or could they be mistaken perhaps … but then, the details of the vision are so precise and unwavering. No matter how often you ask the children … they always say exactly the same thing.”
He turned back into his office and looked at the picture of Jesus of The Divine Mercy hanging on the wall.
He thought of Blessed Faustina.
“Did they doubt you too?” he asked under his breath, “you were only sixteen when you saw the vision of Christ.”
The above is a short summary of my book VISIONS. You can learn what happens next HERE.